From almost the moment John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, weâ€™ve heard the media are out to get her. Because, you know, the media hate average people. How dare they expect the anointed one (Republican model) to make a case for herself or to prove she has the base of knowledge necessary to be a heartbeat away from the President. How disrespectful.
As the legions of professional and amateur spindoctors gear-up for tonightâ€™s vice-presidential debate, weâ€™re getting some pre-battle spin. For instance, Iâ€™ve read Palin is a victim of that disreputable Katie Couric who asked â€œgotchaâ€ questions. Never mind that those questions were so softball that an average college student could have answered them without breaking a sweat.
Iâ€™m also reading a lot about debate moderator Gwen Ifill, who may have a conflict of interest. Turns out, Ifill is publishing a book about the ascendance of a new generation of black politicians. The book covers Obama and even uses the senatorâ€™s name in the subtitle. The argument is: if Obama wins, Ifillâ€™s book will sell more copies. Therefore, she canâ€™t be trusted to moderate a debate.
This is a great bit of pre-spin because 1) the situation is a little fishy and 2) it doesnâ€™t require anyone to make absurd claims about Palinâ€™s performance to date. It just creates the room necessary to excuse a bad performance because we all knew in advance that the moderator was out to get her. It doesnâ€™t even matter that Ifill has an exemplary record as a journalist and moderated the 2004 vice-presidential debate without once seeming biased (at least in my mind).
By tarring Ifill with the â€œbiasedâ€ label before sheâ€™s even asked her first question, Republicans are making the debate seem â€œfixedâ€ before the results are even in. If Palin fails, itâ€™s Ifillâ€™s fault. If she succeeds, she not only proved her mettle but she overcame a huge disadvantage. See how wonderful she is?
Ifill probably should have let someone else do the debate tonight, if only to avoid the appearance of bias. But I trust her to be fair. This pre-debate spin is just an attempt to salvage Palinâ€™s reputation before she irrevocably ruins it with a bad debate performance. Maybe sheâ€™ll surprise us and turn in a brilliant show. But when being asked to list a few Supreme Court cases or being asked your position on the Bush Doctrine qualifies as a â€œgotchaâ€ question, I canâ€™t expect her to impress me tonight. And neither can her supporters â€“ thatâ€™s why theyâ€™re doing everything they can to delegitimize the debate before it even happens.