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From AJR,   October/November 2011  issue

Sarah Palin’s Good Deed   

Now maybe the news media can find something else to obsess about. Fri., October 7, 2011


By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.      

Thank you, Sarah Palin.

It is a far, far better thing that you do, than you have ever done.

I'm referring, of course, to Palin's announcement that she is not going to seek the Republican presidential nomination.

Maybe that will enable the news media to overcome their Sarah Palin addiction without a trip to the Betty Ford Center.

Since Palin burst onto the scene when John McCain stunningly chose her as his running mate in August 2008, she has been a source of boundless fascination for the media.

The saturation scrutiny was entirely appropriate when she was on the GOP ticket. An obscure small-state governor, Palin was, as Bob Dylan might say, a complete unknown. The blanks had to be filled in.

But that was long ago. After the ballots were counted in 2008, Palin morphed rapidly from candidate to megacelebrity. She was seemingly everywhere: purveying her punditry on Fox News, enjoying a foray into reality TV, making high-priced speeches, tormenting President Barack Obama and the lamestream media, firing up the base.

An accomplished media manipulator, Palin kept her will-she-or-won't-she thing going for quite awhile, long after it seemed unlikely to many that there was any chance she'd jump in.

And the press was a willing, not to say eager, coconspirator.

Props to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell for seeing through the whole charade from the get-go. For months he has been assuring viewers that there was no chance that the Thrilla from Wasilla was campaign bound.

For one thing, someone who quits her term as governor halfway in doesn't sound like a person with a passion for governing. And despite her endless publicity – or more likely, because of it – her negatives kept rising. What's more, she showed no signs of starting the laborious task of mounting a 50-state campaign.

Of course, the media love something new, something to liven up the narrative, the storyline. Thus the heavy coverage of Rick Perry's pre-candidacy and the didn't happen candidacy of Chris Christie. But that coverage didn't occur in a vacuum. The Perry boomlet reflected the fact that the GOP can't quite bring itself to embrace off-and-on frontrunner Mitt Romney. Then when Perry, exposed to the rigors of big-time national politics, looked awfully shaky, Christie emerged as the latest GOP heartthrob.

By just saying no, Palin may have at last closed down, or at least moderated, the media madness regarding her, and that would be plenty.

But we owe her more than that. If she had gone the other way and said she was running, that would have demanded considerable play.

And we certainly don't want anything getting in the way of the Steve Jobs canonization.