Sarah Palin isn't even finished her speech and already the "blame the media" meme has been pushed explicitly to the forefront — this woman who has spent less than a week in the media spotlight, who has thus far made herself completely unavailable for interviews, has blasted the media with both barrels, deriding them for daring to cover her and the revelations that continue to emerge about this untested, unknown and unvetted candidate.
I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I've learned quickly, these past few days, that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.
Really? Care to qualify that with any examples? Because I haven't seen you submit to any interviews, sit for a grilling on "Meet The Press" (oh, to have Russert here right now!), or open yourself up willingly to the scrutiny of the fourth estate, whose importance as a check on the political process is so critical that it was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution by the founders.
I don't think the press has any problem with mavericks — hell, John McCain has gotten by on that one with the help of his 'base' for eight years now. And I don't think that the press requires any candidate to be party of the "Washington elite" or the "permanent political establishment" — otherwise a certain former community organizer (new dirty word!) wouldn't have had a hope in hell of those glowing magazine covers. But it's not unreasonable to expect that a candidate for the second-highest office in the land make herself available to the media — the representative of the people, at least in terms of asking the hard questions that a governor might, say, hire a lawyer to consult with before answering. Just by way of example.
So the McCain campaign was so miffed by Campbell Brown's tough questioning of their surrogate — a trained, smooth, competent, TV-ready surrogate well-versed in talking points — who still couldn't muster up proof of Palin's leadership mettle in the Alaska National Guard — that they pulled McCain from an interview? So they're accusing the press of being "on a mission to destroy" Sarah Palin? That's crazy. No one has had time yet to form an opinion — let alone enough information. And a campaign with nothing to fear would have no problem throwing open the doors and saying, come on in, we've got nothing to hide...and we know that because we actually, you know, checked. You need a whole lot less bluster when the facts are on your side.
There's no reason for Sarah Palin — or the McCain campaign — to be so shocked that the media might want to actually know something about a VP nominee. My God, how many weeks of speculation and discussions about vetting did we endure between the end of the primaries and this point? Palin was a wild-card candidate, so far better known for her penchant for moose-burgers, aerial wolf hunting, and — yes — her pregnant and unmarried 17 year old daughter than she is for her actual qualifications that being a heartbeat away from the presidency. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the media's desire to even that score. That is its job, plain and simple — and if it doesn't always thrill the guy on the Straight Talk Express, well, so be it.
So — here's a little newsflash for Sarah Palin, to paraphrase her speech: The media isn't writing about you to seek your good opinion — they're writing about you to serve the people of this country. Americans expect the media to investigate their candidates for office for the right reasons, not just to get the right access. If you really want to serve the people — as opposed to just your party, or yourself — then you'll do well to remember that.
Update: Quoting Joe Klein from earlier today:
There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized. But I hope my colleagues stand strong in this case: it is important for the public to know that Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is "a task from God." The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive, but unprofessional in the extreme.