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Why Is It So Difficult To Defend Sarah Palin?

I'm finding it frustratingly difficult to get outraged over David Letterman's remarks about Sarah Palin and her daughter(s).

Perhaps it's because no one has argued the case against the talk show host - and his writers - in a way that truly resonates with me. Or maybe it's simply because I really like Dave and really dislike Governor Palin; proving, sadly, that my East Coast, liberal prejudices are hard to shake, even in the face of misogynist, questionable verbal assaults against women. Perhaps it's because the protestations of Governor Palin herself seem more a way of scoring political points and press attention than sincere repudiations of misogyny in the media or eruptions of her protective, inner "Mama Grizzly Bear". (I couldn't put my finger on why I wasn't more viscerally offended on behalf of Palin's daughter - Willow or Bristol - but a commenter on the blog Reclusive Leftist summed it up nicely: "What's really annoying about the last two videos is that he's just using Palin's daughter as a prop to make jokes about notable MEN (Spitzer and A-Rod). The effects are that she ends up being portrayed as a prostitute or a rape victim, but those effects are secondary to the punchlines about the men in the jokes." At first glance, this seems to absolve Letterman and his band of merry, mostly male, comedy writers of some responsibility: The jokes were about widely-mocked men! But of course, this also means the Palin daughter(s) become pawns, faceless, nameless vehicles with which to score comedic points. Yes, not cool.)

Speaking of jokes: I suspect my tepid defense of Palin and her brood it has a lot to do with the difference between "comedy" and, well, rhetoric. David Letterman, however unfunny or inappropriate, was making jokes when he went after Palin and her daughter(s) earlier this week. With assertions that cracks like his directly contribute to assaults on young women and an epidemic of low self-esteem, however, Palin, whose relentless verbal assaults and insinuations during the presidential campaign are hard for me to forgive or forget, bypassed reasoned disagreement and went straight into rhetoric-land. Take her appearance this morning on Today (clip above). Host Matt Lauer questioned the Governor on the Letterman flap, pressing her on some of her more provocative statements about situation, asking, "Are you suggesting that David Letterman can't be trusted around a 14 year old girl?" Her response: "Take it how you want to take it." Later, she sarcastically made mention of "the candidate who must be obeyed," i.e. Barack Obama.

There was more where that came from. Last night on Sean Hannity's Fox News hate fest, conservative columnist S.E. Cupp placed the blame for Letterman's remarks squarely on Obama.


"This is the enduring legacy of the Obama campaign. I'm not saying this to be inflammatory, I blame Barack Obama because he allowed his surrogates in the media and Hollywood and everyone else on the left to do this dirty talking for him," she said, adding, "I want Barack Obama or Michelle Obama to come up and say, this kind of rhetoric will not be tolerated."

Leaving Ms. Cupp's strange definition of "rhetoric" aside, it seems to me that coming to a passionate, spirited, coherent defense of a United States Governor and one or more of her daughters regarding a late night comedy show bit is well below President Obama's pay grade at the moment. Sadly, considering my obviously muddled feelings on the subject, it's also below my current cognitive, critical abilities...or sympathies.


Conservative Columnist Blames Obama For Letterman's Palin Joke [HuffPo]
David Letterman, The Voice Of Dude Nation [Reclusive Leftist]
Palin Forces America To Become Aware of Her Once Again [NY Mag]
Did Letterman Get A Free Pass? [Salon]
Palin, Letterman, Still At Odds Over Comedian's Joke [AP]

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This issue is not about Sarah Palin, people. It's about a young girl, about whom an INCREDIBLY insensitive joke was made. How is this about Sarah Palin at all, beneath the very surface?

I would balk at defending Sarah, or even Bristol at this point, who is in an adult role regardless of her age, but Willow is still a little girl. Furthermore, I find the excuse, "but I thought it was Bristol!!" to be pretty weak. Even if he did think he was talking about Bristol, the joke was reprehensible, simply because of the content.

Just because she's weak on women's issues doesn't mean we should be. Is this any different than an "asking for it" argument?