Blood Libels and Rain Puddles

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 13 2011 9:26 AM

Blood Libels and Rain Puddles

So: Whose brilliant idea was it for Sarah Palin to release a video statement responding to the Tucson shootings the same day that President Obama and other political leaders would descend on the city for a memorial service? If the Palin video had been released Tuesday, there would have been a brief news cycle takeover, but we all know how the Feiler Faster Thesis works. A one-day separation would have meant less direct comparison. This is the reason people release statements to get into the print deadlines and cable/nightly news deadlines.

NBC News captures the mood and asks the right question:


Is this what happens when you live in a bubble? Is this what happens when you don't have advisers you trust that live outside her bubble? Palin's speech struck as a natural response only if she spent the last three days reading every nasty email and Tweet she received, and didn't extract herself from the story.

Well, yes? We know that Palin spends a lot of time online, and on her iPad, and we know that she got a huge surge in death threats varying in their seriousness. As my colleague John Dickerson points out, mentions "Palin" on Twitter, on Saturday, spiked along with mentions of "Giffords." Palin is a private citizen; it is harder to create distance from the threats than it is for, say, President Obama, who has a huge security apparatus ready to thwart them. Her response was perfectly understandable.

It was also incredibly small -- like, Alice after she chugs the "Drink Me" bottle small. On Wednesday morning I noticed a number of conservatives, mostly on Twitter, praising Palin's tone and scope, as if it was matched to the moment. It was not matched to the moment. A speechwriter right out of school could tell you that the proper response to tragedy is a tribute to the lives of the fallen. Palin acknowledged the fallen, but did not talk about their now well-reported lives. It was a callow mess.

How much does the video debacle matter for Palin in 2012? A cynic might say her chances at the White House went from 0.0 to 0.0. Maybe the video itself won't be remembered. But the fumble that produced the video will be remembered. With four days to craft a response, Palin missed the moment, and who wants a leader who acts like that?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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