In light of Sarah Palin's upcoming job as a regular contributor to Fox News, I thought she might need some tips on now becoming a member of the Punditocracy:
- The Pundit Express. Even if a plane is faster or cheaper, always take the Acela between New York and Washington. All the pundits do. Free Wi-Fi, and Fox will pick up the tab for your drinks in the Cafe Car. A quick walk down the aisle and you'll hear all the scuttlebutt you'll need to talk authoritatively about what "people outside the Beltway are really saying."
- The Green Room. Everyone in Washington knows this is where the real wheeling-dealing goes on. This is where you'll confer with Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott and Roger Ailes to really plot your next political move. Eat the M&Ms, but don't drink the coffee. If there's breaking news, you don't want to sit in a holding pattern on set while your bladder explodes (see James Carville, March 23, 2007, CNN).
- Your New Best Friend. You can tell the makeup artist anything. They're all bound by confidentiality clauses with the networks. They may not be as good as the Emmy-winning makeup artists from "So You Think You Can Dance" that you had on the campaign, but they're like Catholic priests and cheap Russian prostitutes: they may smell of cheap perfume, but they know how to keep a secret.
- The Hot Mic. Keep in mind that once they put a wireless mic on you in the green room, be very careful what you say. A sound guy somewhere will record every word you say even if the camera's off. Of course, you can also make this work to your advantage by insulting someone under your breath and then claiming ignorance later (see Jesse Jackson).
- The Nod/Smile. When the host is introducing you, you should nod and smile in obsequious agreement. It makes you look very smart and humble. (see Gloria Borger)
- Know your Pundit Catchphrases. "To the extent that..." "I would argue..." "What I think you're really saying is..." "That's an excellent question and I'm glad you brought that up..." and "Bob, if you're finished whining like a little girl with a broken hockey stick, I believe it's my turn to talk..."
- The Split Screen Looks. When an opposing pundit is speaking, be aware you'll still be on camera. Learn to roll your eyes in disdainful condescension, but don't wink. Winking is for candidates, not pundits. Other good facial tics include the smirk, the nose scrunch and even a yawn for dramatic effect. When in doubt, look down and pretend you're Twittering something more important on your Blackberry.
- Plugging the Book. No matter how much Fox is paying you, all those kids of yours are still going to need new shoes. Make sure Fox has a JPEG of your book cover on stand-by whenever you're on. It's in their interest, too: Remember, Harper Collins is also owned by Rupert Murdoch.
- Product Placement. You can now get free clothes by telling designers you'll wear them on TV (and without all those pesky FEC disclosures that got you into trouble before). Your question won't be "what" to wear, it'll be "who" to wear. Everyday is the Oscars when you're a pundit! It'll be hard to get Fox to get a head/shoulder pundit shot of you in those free ASICS running shoes you wore on the cover of Newsweek, but you could pull a Madeleine Albright and bedazzle a different designer brooch each time you're on...and get paid for it!
- The Quinnipiac Card. If you need to add proof to your opinion, just say "data from the latest Quinnipiac poll backs me up on this." Seasoned pundits know that Quinnipiac doesn't really exist, but thankfully the public hasn't caught on yet.
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