Palin gets natural lip gloss from NPR

Palin-McCain Couric interview
We may all be eagerly awaiting the Thursday VP debate trainwreck, with finally a sense that sanity cannot but otherwise prevail on coverage of the Sarah Palin dunce cap corner. But Americans don’t have to look far to see that media bemusement with Palin is not unanimous, in fact NPR is still fawning. Nina Totenberg’s recent profile of Palin was as facetious as Palin herself. And the NPR website transcript suggest the staff don’t want to leave a record of Totenberg’s unbending endorsement. Morning Edition listeners get propaganda, websurfers get something more palatable than pure barf.

Totenberg knew she could not ignore the public’s growing repudiation of Palin, fueled by Palin’s self-immolation on ABC and lampooned by MSNBC, SNL and everyone in between. In her Morning Edition report, Totenberg began by paying lip service to her uphill task, putting the proverbial –you’d think a little too cliche at the moment– lipstick on a pig, paraphrased as sugarcoating. And then laying on the sugar anyway. In the excerpt below, the words in bold are actually Totenberg’s emphasis, not mine!

There’s no way to sugarcoat this. After a BRILLIANT debut at the Republican Convention and a speech that ELECTRIFIED the delegates and the country, Sarah Palin is STRUGGLING in her second act — as a candidate seeking to persuade uncommitted voters that she’s prepared to be vice president of the United States.

She draws HUGE crowds, though not as huge as G.O.P. staffers would like you to believe, still, by most standards, they’re ENORMOUS — five, ten, fifteen, even twenty thousand! People, particularly women, are thrilled to see someone SO like themselves up there and SUCCEEDING. And she remains a SPUNKY speaker.

Let’s see. Nina Totenberg concedes that sugarcoating will be impossible, then piles it on: “brilliant,” “electrified,” “huge crowds,” “enormous.” Not as huge as someone would have you believe, but ENORMOUS? Did you know huge was less than enormous? And then: “someone so like themselves,” “succeeding.” Now would either of those descriptions fit the Sarah Palin you’ve seen? She’s SO like you? She’s succeeding? Of course Totenberg doesn’t say she thinks so, nor that YOU think so, but simply that people do. Particularly women. Really Nina?

Then there’s a sample of Palin’s “spunky” speech:

[PALIN:] “Okay Pennsylvania. Over the next forty days, John McCain and I, we’ re gonna take our message and our mission of reform to voters of every background, in every party, or no party at all, and with your vote, we’re going to Washington to shake things up.”

Now I think it’s one thing to clean up Palin’s English, maybe even to prettify the grammar, but quite another to add or delete words. Compare the above semi-corrected transcript of Palin’s eruditeness to NPR’s.

Further on, Totenberg covers Palin’s energy policy expertise, playing a portion of Palin’s speech where she takes credit for a natural gas pipeline. Totenberg debunks, sort of:

News reports DO INDEED give her credit for the pipeline agreement, but suggest that Palin has left so many financial and land-rights problems unresolved that the pipeline might never be built.”

Totenberg sites “News reports” to substantiate Palin’s claims, the NPR website transcript changes this to “Media reports,” but isn’t this the same as arguing “Some People Say” to back up a statement without having to validate or invalidate it yourself?

(I recall NPR confronting Senator McCain about his ad accusing Barack Obama about advocating sex-ed for preschoolers. NPR cited Factcheck.org for contradicting McCain’s charge, to which the GOP candidate merely countered that the so-called “Factcheck.org” was entitled to their different view of the facts. Never did NPR feel compelled to provide investigation of its own into the facts. Do we need a news program to be so objective that it can be detached from reporting what is fact or what is misrepresentation?)

Also highlighted in the speech is her son, in Iraq, her Down Syndrome baby boy, and on the stage when we were with her, two of her three daughters, who with their mother worked the rope line for a few minutes afterwards. And then there’s Palin’s husband Todd, affectionately known as “The First Dude,” who’s a commercial fisherman, oil field worker, union member and close adviser to his wife.

[PALIN:] “He is the four time winner of the Iron Dog, the world’s longest snow machine race, two thousand miles! And the more John McCain hears about that Iron Dog Race, the more often he says Todd’s crazy.

Did you know Todd Palin’s moniker was coined out of “affection?” Whose? On the radio broadcast, it was just “The First Dude” which mirrors recent national news photo captions, usually sarcastic. However the NPR website transcript specifies “Alaska’s First Dude,” which might have made Totenberg’s suggestion more credible. I don’t know, we’d have to consult Palin’s Alaskan constituents.

Here is part of NPR’s written version of Nina Totenberg’s report, submitted for comparison. Palin Tries For Second Act On The Road. Perhaps NPR is not submitting such as being a literal transcript. Indeed even some of their quotes of Sarah Palin are not the words she actually spoke. By the way, the original web transcript did not include the disingenuous preface “There is no way to sugarcoat this.” This was added a day later. The transcript also omits Palin’s extra embellishments about her husband. In effect NPR listeners heard a vastly aggrandizing report than NPR has decided to put on record.

Morning Edition, September 30, 2008 · There is no way to sugarcoat this. After a brilliant debut at the Republican National Convention and a speech that electrified the delegates and the country, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is struggling in her second act — as a candidate trying to persuade uncommitted voters that she is prepared to be vice president of the United States.

Palin draws huge crowds. They aren’t as huge as GOP staffers would like you to believe, but they’re still enormous by most standards — 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, even 20,000 supporters. Many people, particularly women, are thrilled to see someone like themselves on stage, and Palin is a spunky speaker, especially when she promised that she and McCain would go to Washington to shake things up.

“John McCain and I are going to take our message and our mission of reform to voters of every background, in every party or no party at all,” she said at a recent campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

Media reports give her credit for the pipeline agreement, but suggest that Palin has left so many financial and land-rights problems unresolved that the pipeline might never be built.

Palin also spoke of her eldest son, who is serving in Iraq, and her infant son, who has Down syndrome. And she introduced her two young daughters, Willow and Piper, who joined her on stage and later helped her work the rope line, as well as her husband, Todd. Affectionately known as “Alaska’s First Dude,” Todd Palin is a commercial fisherman, oil field worker, union member and close adviser to his wife.

The family introductions took at least a couple of minutes in an 18-20 minute speech that was nearly identical to the one she gave at the Republican National Convention.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

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