Palin's Attempts To Duck Press Scrutiny Will Backfire

10/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sarah Palin was in New York City yesterday in tandem with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Hoping to bolster her credentials for the upcoming Presidential contest, Palin met with a laundry list of world leaders.

From the New York Times:

Ms. Palin -- who scheduled a series of meetings with world leaders who were in town for the United Nations General Assembly -- sat down first with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who told her of the need for more troops in his country and bonded with her over his baby son, Mirwais. She was then whisked to the Colombian Mission to talk free trade and renewable energy with President Alvaro Uribe. She capped off her day meeting with the eminence grise of Republican foreign policy, former Secretary of State Henry A Kissinger, who spoke with her about Georgia, Russia and NATO.

The real question is "what did she learn?" It is a timely one. Prior to yesterday, she had no real foreign policy experience to speak of, according to almost everyone who's an authority on the subject--including John McCain, who avoided a question about Palin's experience on last Sunday's "60 Minutes." The McCain machine is apparently so scared of addressing the issue, or allowing Palin to address it, that they actually attempted to play a no holds barred game of chicken yesterday with the national press by refusing access to reporters covering her trip.

In protest, CNN pulled the ultimate press chess move. CNN withdrew its entire crew until the McCainiacs relented and allowed some minimal coverage of her meetings. Even with that brilliant step, though, they didn't really win the game, because Palin's handlers did so only momentarily, allowing a whopping 29 seconds of access.

This protectionist baloney by the McCain-Palin camp, combined with exactly zero press conferences since Palin was named as McCain's running mate; erupted in Primetime on CNN with Campbell Brown used her airtime to sarcastically call on the campaign to "Free Sarah Palin!" Decrying the alleged "sexism" tongue-in-cheek, Brown crossed into the area of commentary a la Olbermann and hit the bullseye with a barrage of verbal darts over the attempt by the campaign to squelch The Fourth Estate's purpose by refusing access to her.

McCain himself felt the heat too, with an unnamed reporter asking McCain "Is this the No Talk Express?" McCain just sneered and walked away, as a press aide called out "Okay Pool, back in the vans." The YouTube video of the encounter made it clear that the press vets were not happy with that action.

Now every political operative worth their salt knows one rule with regards to the press. Don't mess with the press, because you will be eaten alive, and so will your candidate. When it came to treatment of reporters, columnists, photographers, videographers, sound technicians, and anyone else who garnered a credential and traveled in the Pool; I knew on the first day of my own political career that good treatment got you fair coverage. Bad treatment, bad coverage...or worse, no coverage.

Campbell Brown, in her own TV pundit way, actually hit the nail on the head in her interpretation of the situation though. The McCain campaign has been treating Palin as if she is some sort of princess, and locked her in the high tower with only her lovely brown beauty queen hair and Japanese uber cool eyeglasses visible. As for her absolutely meaningless lesson in limo diplomacy, the McCainiacs screwed whatever positive effect they could have given to Palin, by not allowing the press to do their jobs.

Visible on camera only for seconds, and the rest of the time behind closed doors or behind a heavily armored limo in her motorcade; they did her no favors by keeping people from seeing what she could do. They wouldn't even let her ask real questions or get real answers, a move that will surely come back to bite McCain-Palin as we move into debate season.

The simple facts are, Sarah "Rapunzel" Palin is learning, you can't "cram" to be a world leader. Press scrutiny, real-world questions, and exposure to real people are all critical parts of the job. Palin was seen and not heard in depth or on the record; so she's still that little girl from Wasilla without any real credentials in the eyes of the voting public. When it comes to debate time, we shall see how she will stack up against foreign policy veteran Joe Biden, who's not the prettiest guy in the room; but at least he can step in to do the job without any prep.