Manufacturing Spontaneity

One week ago, Sarah Palin barrelled into the Iowa State Fair, walking the grounds with a small security team, and slowing down for a while – really, around an hour – to answer questions from reporters. She stopped full-out to do two brief interviews with Jake Tapper of ABC News and Don Lemon of CNN.

Lemon was impressed. He was so impressed that his 24-carat answers from Palin became the focus of a weekend report on how Palin stacked up to Michele Bachmann. The GOP’s Iowa frontrunner, you see, repeated some of the same stump speech lines in all of her Sunday interviews. But Palin had answered Lemon’s questions on the spot!

But is Lemon overly dazzled? Think about it. Palin has been, up to now, an elusive figure for non-Fox reporters. The wall broke down a little bit on her One Nation bus tour, where she answered questions at multiple stops. The wall went up again after that. And then the GOP primary moved further away from her, with Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry easily filling the space that could have belonged to Palin. By an incredible coincidence, Palin decided to take the bus again and appear in Iowa – just when the mainstream media had descended, to cover the Fair and straw poll – and make herself available to whichever reporters could find her.*

That’s a hell of a display. It led Lemon to characterize an answer like this – Palin on the Tea Party and the S&P downgrade – as not talking points.

If it weren’t for the Tea Party, the discussion would never have gone where it went. So I appreciate the Tea Party’s passion for getting government to live within its means. You know, the last group or entity to be blamed should be the Tea Party. I think the question should be asked: Is the president to be blamed for the downgrade? And I think the answer is yes, because leadership starts at the top.

These aren’t talking points? I guess not, in the sense that Palin didn’t repeat the exact phrasing in other places, but they’re familiar cliches and repetitions of points she’d made before. “We have to make sure we realize that yes this is a victory,” Palin told Greta Van Susteren right after the S&P move, “because [of what] Tea Party patriots did with the debate.”

But Palin was able to manufacture an event – a spontaneous event that she planned. Lemon’s giddy pride at being able to ask her some questions is the centerpiece of Palin’s new PAC video:

When Palin talks about the “lamestream” media, she’s talking about a fourth estate that she knows exactly how to manipulate. But as her star fades, and Bachmann’s star rises, she needs to use the media more than ever to prove her relevance. Really, why else make the fact that there were lots of cameras on her so central to this video?

*Palin released no schedule for her appearances at the fair, but Republican presidential candidates appeared at a “soap box” for short speeches at scheduled times. Michele Bachmann was scheduled to speak at 4 p.m. And around that time, Palin and a roving mob of fans just happened to be near the soap box, moving north. Bachmann ended up being 25 minutes later. Had she been on time, Palin would have – just coincidentally! – been close to the scene.