On Wednesday afternoon, a few short hours before Sarah Palin was to take the stage for her big speech, Jeff Greenfield, the senior political correspondent for CBS News, sized up the Alaskan Governor.
His mind turned to cinema. “I’m trying to think of all the cultural examples about feisty women from nowhere who show up and beat the guys,” said Mr. Greenfield. He did a mental IMDB. There was Judy Holliday in “The Solid Gold Cadillac.” Sally Field in “Norma Rae.” Geena Davis in “Commander in Chief.” Dolly Parton in “Nine to Five.”
Ms. Palin was an archetype, thought Mr. Greenfield. She was the plucky American underdog. The blue-collar woman from the provinces who through hard work and a twist of fate finds herself in opposition to the powers that be, those sneering stuffed shirts, who underestimate everyone outside their club, and whose arrogance eventually spells their downfall. In American cinema, good character tops good pedigree.
Which helps explain, said Mr. Greenfield, why over the past several days the McCain surrogates have been relentlessly attacking the well pedigreed press. Having cast Ms. Palin as the underdog, they were busy trying casting the media as the self-satisfied bosses in Washington.
“If she’s the Dolly Parton character, who’s the stuffed shirt?” said Mr. Greenfield. “Well it’s all of us. It’s the press and Democratic congressional business as usual.”
Mr. Greenfield thought that all the recent reporting, documenting Ms. Palin’s personal foibles and professional shortcomings during her brief political career would serve to merely advance the story line. Not disrupt it. Thus the media bashing, he suggested, would continue.
“If you’re facing the prospect of an unknown vice presidential nominee about whom the media raises questions, the first thing you do is to tell the base ‘whatever you hear about this woman, remember where it’s coming from,'” said Mr. Greenfield. “Fred Thompson could not have been more explicit. It’s those Sunday gasbag, cocktail party, Volvo-driving, tofu-roasting liberals.”
“You know how Mencken once said nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public?” said Mr. Greenfield. “No politician of either party has ever got in trouble by criticizing the media.”