"Oh, I just think I'm gonna barf...."
-- Marge Gunderson (Francis McDormand), from Fargo
I open today with that Fargo quote for many reasons. The first of which, it's funny. As a matter of fact, it's so funny I think I'll make it the title of this piece, as well. The second of which, I think Fargo DVDs are going to be selling like hotcakes after Sarah Palin's speech tonight. Because, thirdly, this would be the perfect quote for Palin to use. Sarah Palin (I really hope Republican speechwriters aren't reading this) has a very similar accent to Margie in Fargo, and references are inevitably going to be made... so she could get out in front of it, and indeed turn such references to her advantage.
Of course, if Sarah Palin did use this quote, it would be to illustrate her feelings towards the media. And there isn't a doubt in my mind that the Republican crowd would eat it up like Minnesota pasties.
But the main reason I'd like to remind everyone of this quote is because of why Margie had a rising gorge in the first place -- she was pregnant. It was morning sickness. And -- most importantly -- she was still doing her job. That's an image that Republicans seem to be trying to reinforce, as evidenced by the fact that Bristol Palin's fiancé is going to be present tonight. And it's a tough image to counteract. Put into thematic words: "Pregnancy is just a part of life, real women tough their way through it." Which, as I said, is going to be part of the Palin story one way or another anyway.
However, I believe the McCain campaign is walking a fine line. Not with such imagery, but with the way they've been treating the media. And I'm not talking about gratuitous media-bashing at the Republican convention (which is so traditional an exercise I'm actually surprised they don't devote an entire night to it). What I'm talking about is access.
Access is the coin of the realm in media types who cover campaigns. "Journalists" are careful not to write stories too nastily, because they fear losing access to the candidate as a result. And access is their bread and butter.
But McCain, ever since his campaign was taken over by the Karl Rove gnomes, has been shutting the media out with more and more ferocity. First, they kicked the media off the bus. No more hours-long chatty sessions with McCain on the "Straight Talk Express." Then, they limited McCain interviews. Now, they are keeping Sarah Palin under lock and key, so she gets a chance to learn some world geography before she has to answer questions.
Unfortunately, nature abhors a vacuum -- and while there's nothing at all "natural" about the campaign press corps, they also abhor an information vacuum. Which they've been filling since the Palin announcement with glee.
Now, in one of those Machiavellian moves you would expect from Karl Rove neophytes, the McCain campaign is now playing the "victim" card, and saying the press is just being mean to Sarah. But they still are keeping her away from the cameras, at least until after her speech.
Well, when you are a journalist and you've got no access to lose, then there is nothing to stop you from reporting whatever you wish. And since these "journalists" are actually pack animals (think wolves or sharks), when everyone is in a feeding frenzy, then the campaign is backed into a corner because they can't cut off all access to everyone.
This is where we may see the rare double-reverse-twist Machiavellian move from the media. Today's talking point from the McCain campaign is "you're being unfair, why don't you talk about Palin's record and the issues?" This could backfire on them, as it may prod the media into moving beyond the pregnant-daughter salaciousness, and actually do their jobs and inspect Sarah Palin's record for the rest of America to see. "OK -- you want to talk record and issues, let's talk record and issues...."
As I've written already this week (in an article that is already out-of-date), there is a lot of gold to mine in Palin's Alaskan experience. Solid issues and decisions that Sarah Palin has or has made which are far outside what the mainstream would find acceptible.
This already started last night. So far, the media has picked up on the "Bridge To Nowhere" story being a complete fabrication (Palin was for it before she was against it, and SHE TOOK THE MONEY ANYWAY!), and on the fact that Palin actually loved earmarks (when she was the one cashing the checks instead of worrying about who was writing them). To be fair to her, this is par for the course in Alaskan politics -- but doesn't really fit the "reformer/maverick" box the McCain people are trying to fit her in. The Troopergate story is just waiting to explode as well. Anyway, I've already listed the things which I consider valid issues for the media to explore. I'm just happy they're picking up on a few of them already.
But McCain's campaign has thrown the gauntlet down to the media, challenging them to report on "her record and the issues," so let's see if they pick it up and run with it or not. Of course, Palin could give such a warmly-received speech tonight that the mainstream media swoons over her, and starts reporting nothing but glowing Palin stories. It has happened before, and it is a real danger -- if Palin charms the media so much that they back off her, then the road to the election is going to be a lot harder for Barack Obama.
So, in contemplating the media's response to tonight's Palin speech, I leave you with Margie's next line from the movie Fargo -- which you can interpret however you wish:
"Well, that passed. Now I'm hungry again."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com