Josh Marshall is the latest liberal pundit (joining Peter Beinart, among others) to write Sarah Palin’s political obituary. Notice that both Marshall and Beinart are reacting to a media-filtered perception of who Palin is and what she stands for, based on the attack messages she’s been delivering on behalf of a McCain campaign that’s been trailing in every poll since the third week in September.
To my knowledge, neither Marshall nor Beinart has ever seen Palin in person or talked with the ordinary people in the crowds who turn out to see her. Certainly, they’ve never talked to Palin herself. So she is being evaluated on second- and third-hand impressions based on a campaign that isn’t her own.
Let me share this one anecdote: At Shippensburg, Pa., the “overflow” crowd — those who hadn’t made it through the doors in time to get into the main rally — waited in the performing arts center. Palin and her husband Todd came out on stage and the governor had changed into a T-shirt with the Shippensburg University joke slogan, “Ship Happens.” I jotted that down on my notepad.
When she’d finished giving her short speech, the crowd rushed the stage for handshakes and autographs and I pushed forward to get some photos. Palin worked her way toward where I was standing. I figured, “What the heck? Why not?” and handed up my notepad for her to sign. She looked at the pad, saw where I’d written the T-shirt slogan, then looked at me and with a laugh pointed to her shirt, saying, “Ship! Ship!” — just to make sure I had it right.
Think about that. Amid a madhouse of fans and autograph-seekers, after a day of campaigning, she deciphered my scrawled note, recognized the potential misunderstanding, and cheerfully played it off. A minor incident, but displaying a keen perception that some others who’ve met her have likewise noticed.
Relieved of the pressure of this campaign, and allowed to craft her own message, I suspect Sarah Palin will reappear as a personality much different than the one Marshall, Beinart and other hostile pundits now criticize. And once the media is no longer acting as Obama’s Praetorian Guard, Palin won’t be subjected to this relentless slagging.