ACCENTUATE THE NEGATIVE
I haven't had a chance to watch Sarah Palin's full interview with Carl Cameron of Fox News, but I've read the transcript -- and I'm puzzled.
Maybe Palin's debate performance didn't change the course of the election, but just about everyone in America thinks she exceeded expectations, and some focus-group undecideds thought she won the debate. So you'd think she'd be trying to capitalize on whatever goodwill she built up to expand McCain's voter base.
But in the Fox interview she seems to be doing the opposite. Virtually the entire thing is a "So there!" directed at everyone she believes has mistreated her recently, or doubted her or questioned her judgment. Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric asked tough follow-up questions? Denounce the mainstream media! Her inability to name newspapers she reads and Supreme Court cases she disagrees with was mocked? Palin says, I've got your lists right here, haters! The press pointed out some debate gaffes? Rehash every one of them and explain why they really weren't gaffes at all!
Obviously, this interview wasn't journalism -- Fox News was working hand in glove with Palin to present her precisely as she wanted to be presented. So why is this how she wanted to be presented? Why not something a little more positive in order to appeal to swing voters?
I think it's because Palin and the McCainites are so immersed in the culture of right-wing resentment that they think this is the way you appeal to swing voters. I think they believe the vast majority of Americans utterly despise Katie Couric and rank "the liberal media" among the nation's biggest villains. At a time of endless war and financial meltdown, that's absurd, if that really is what they're thinking.
Either that or this is all about the future if there's an Obama victory. Maybe, in anticipation of 2012, Palin is looking out for #1 by positioning herself as the embodiment of right-wing culture-war resentment. (If so, she's reenacting Dan Quayle's career at warp speed -- his Murphy Brown speech came years after his initial humiliations on the national stage.) Or maybe Fox is positioning Palin and itself as the right-wing shadow president and her press office in exile.
Whatever's going on, there's still a month to go before election day, and there are still a lot of swing voters John McCain could theoretically win over. But his campaign either doesn't know how to win them over -- or doesn't care.