Tuned In

The Sarah and Dave Show: The Outrage-a-Thon Continues

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So, as I type this, it’s 9 a.m., and the lead story at the top of the hour on MSNBC is a Democratic and a Republican strategist debating each other on the feud between Sarah Palin and David Letterman. The news judgment shouldn’t surprise me, I guess: Palin launched her latest broadside against Dave on NBC’s Today Show, with Matt Lauer, so there’s something in it for NBC News here. 

All this makes me feel slightly guilty about adding to the publicity, but hey, this isn’t Swampland. In the interest of completism, then, here’s the interview:

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We’ve discussed the original Letterman jokes, which I agreed were scuzzy, in a couple earlier threads, and by all means have at them again if you like. But let’s not pretend this is about the jokes anymore. Once you have expressed your outrage at remarks about you and your family, then done it again, then gone on the number-one morning show in the country to re-express it—it’s no longer about the outrage. 

Or rather, it’s no longer about your outrage. (Nor, sorry, is it about the gas pipeline that provided the fig leaf for the coverage.) What it is, is another of those carefully maintained outrage-a-thons that were so delightful throughout the 2008 campaign. What it is—with the references to the “Hollywood / New York” mentality and the media not getting “our” values—is about positioning Palin for 2012 as the Agnew-esque candidate of cultural resentment against the media, Hollywood and “elites,” with a 21st-century twist of identity politics. Because we saw how well that worked last time. (When, as I’ve said repeatedly, I voted for her opponents, so consider the source, etc.)

At the same time, she’s punishing Dave by providing him tremendous exposure as he’s facing a new competitor on NBC. (Who the Today Show is thus indirectly undermining. The ironies don’t stop!) And upping the ante by deliberately refusing to say that her spokesperson was not calling Dave a child molester: “Take it however you want to take it.” 

What’s curious to me is the question of just how eager Middle America is to hate Dave. (Also, calling America’s sweetie Lauer “naive” on TV seems a little off to me as a PR move, but we’ll see.) I mean, you have to take the targets that opportunity presents you, but this is not exactly like going to war with Eminem or Jeremiah Wright. First we were hearing that midwesterner Dave was mainstream America’s late-night host because he wasn’t goofy and lewd like Conan O’Brien. Now mainstream America’s going to recoil from him as the face of snotty, out-of-touch Hollywood? 

You tell me. Is anybody winning in this thing?