Please, please do not give Sarah Palin the opportunity to claim the moral high ground. That's one reason not to make the kinds of jokes David Letterman made about her (and her daughter) last night. The other reason is that, simply, it's tasteless and misogynist:
While counting down "The Top Ten Highlights Of Sarah Palin's Trip To New York" on the Late Show, David Letterman thought it would be funny to use crude and sexist terms to describe an accomplished governor. According to Letterman, the number two highlight of Governor Palin's trip was this:
2. Bought makeup from Bloomingdale's to update her "slutty flight attendant" look.
Sorry, but no. You don't do slut jokes about a female politician any more than you do monkey jokes about a black politician. You're tapping into a group slur that's been used to limit a whole category of people. It doesn't matter that the woman in question is obnoxious, McCarthyite, and ill-informed. You're still crossing the line.
And I'm not wild about this line from Letterman's monologue, in reference to Palin's visit to Yankee Stadium:
One awkward moment, though, during the game, maybe you heard about it, maybe you saw it on one of the highlight reels, one awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game -- during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.
You could argue that Bristol Palin* is now of age, you could argue that she's using her pregnancy to make herself a media figure, but I still don't see her as an appropriate target. She's not really in the arena in the way her mother is. I say leave her alone.
*(UPDATE: My error -- Palin was joined on the trip by one of her daughters -- not Bristol, but Willow, who's never been pregnant and who's 14. Wrong. Very wrong. Way, way over the line. Roy Edroso's point that "the only way the joke makes sense" is as a reference to Bristol doesn't wash -- it might have if Bristol had been with the governor, or the whole family, or none of her daughters. But that wasn't the case.)
I'm on the fence about the joke Chuck Nice told on the Today show, if only because I can conceive of a similar joke being directed at, say, Bill Clinton:
"But, Sarah Palin to the GOP, this is what I've got to say, she is very much like herpes, she's not going away."
But why go there? Palin and sex (and contagion) -- what's the thought process that gets you there?
I see sexism in this, and I see an opportunity for self-righteousness on the part of Palin and her cult that I'd rather they didn't have. Don't give her and her posse this gift -- please.
Gratifyingly, Palin can't really manage to take advantage of this opportunity. Apprised of the Letterman slut joke by a right-wing radio host, she reverted to one of her weakest boilerplate riffs:
Oh, good old David Letterman. You know, what a commentary there.... For him to pick up on such a thing, a distortion that is based on -- a slow news day, evidently? Not having anything else to talk about? Pretty pathetic, good old David Letterman!
A swing and a miss, Sarah. You can't spend days doing multiple visibility-raising public appearances and then complain about the fact that somebody treats you as newsworthy. Either you want to be a public figure or you don't. You get to complain about cheap shots, but you don't get to complain about being discussed at all. Not unless you want to come off as a whiner.