Last week the political media was mainly about the women: Sarah, Tina, and Rachel.
Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has become a GOP rock star but eluded sitting down face to face with an actual journalist until late last week. Charles Gibson of ABC finally got her on the hot seat, grilling her like she'd been caught cheating on her exams. I don't watch a lot of Gibson interviews, so maybe this is more of his style than I'm aware of, but he did have this exceedingly grave tone. (Copyrighted photo, left, by Donna Svennik for ABC News.)
It was interesting to finally see Palin respond to questions that have come up since she was tapped, like why Wasilla was debt free when she became the town's mayor, and she left it $22 million in the red, and what all happened with the Bridge to Nowhere. Not that the answers to those or any other questions will likely change any partisans' minds, but maybe they could be informative to people on the fence.
Surely, this will not be Palin's only pre-election interview -- if it is, that raises extremely serious questions, regardless of what McCain campaign manager Rick Davis says about respect and deference -- and we'll have more chances to see her on the hot seat.
Live from New York: Questions about whether Tina Fey would indeed get her Palin on were answered when Saturday Night Live signed on Saturday with its own dream ticket: Fey as Palin and Amy Pohler as Hillary Clinton (video, above). Fey had some great moments -- "I can see Russia from my house" and the rifle pose -- and so melted into Palin's look and accent, it took a moment to be sure it was Fey. But Pohler retained her title as SNL's supreme political impressionist, portraying Clinton as many suspect she is: fuming at how close she is to not being the first female President of the United States. There was also a pointed message to the press in there.
Even though Clinton is not still in the race, Saturday Night needs to figure out how to keep Pohler's impression on the show. And they also need to get Fey back on the SNL payroll, at least throught November. According to the New York Times' Caucus blog, Palin found the impression, "quite funny." You will also find a lot of commenters who need to grow a sense of humor. Or, I could lend them mine.
Mad about her?: The third big debut in politics this week was MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow's new show. Over the past few months, Maddow has grown into the Political Peacock's most effective liberal voice, articulating the left's position with passion, but minus the often strident tone of Keith Olbermann. Let's face it, those "Special Comments" can be painful to watch. So, it was welcome news that she was getting her own show to replace . . . well . . . they ran something at 9.
The biggest disappointment was that The Rachel Maddow Show is essentially cut from the same formula as Hardball, Race for the White House and MSNBC's other shows: a host and a series of talking heads. She did try to distinguish herself with some different guests and stories. It was a relief to tune in Wednesday and see her not lead with the "lipstick on a pig controversy." But her "scoop," along with The Nation magazine, of McCain appearing to board a yacht in 2006 with Anne Hathaway and her then-boyfriend Raffaello Follieri, who was convicted of wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy last week, was a bit overblown, to say the least. Maddow (Copyrighted photo, right, by Virginia Sherwood for NBC) does appear to have tried to be a little imaginative in her segments, like "Talk Me Down," in which a guest apparently is supposed to talk Maddow out of being upset about something that's got her riled up. I like the idea of her chats with her "fake Uncle Pat" Buchanan, both because they proved to be good sparring partners during the conventions and it reflects the often divided politics in our families. But the opening night chat got downright vicious discussing Palin's religious views.
Ultimately, the best night of Maddow's debut week was Thursday and a bit of an unofficial Maddow show, as she anchored coverage following a Columbia University forum featuring Republican Presidential nominee John McCain and Demoratic nominee Barack Obama. It showed that while creating a show may still be a work in progress for Maddow, she does have analysis down pat.
Moment of the week: Chris Matthews' rants can be as grating as Olbermann's. But when well placed and executed, they can be a thing of beauty, such as last week, when he got Republican strategist John Feehery on the mat and would not let him up while discussing McCain's short-lived ad claiming Obama had used the phrase, "lipstick on a pig," to describe Palin. "John, you're allowed to say, 'Uncle,' on this show," Matthews said. "You're allowed to say, 'My party, in this case, is full of bunk." It is exactly what anyone trying to defend that ad deserved.
This is the ad, by the way, that was quickly pulled after CBS claimed it violated copyright by using a Katie Couric clip.The McCain campaign has got to tighten up in its grasp of copyright law.
Washington and Lee University journalism professor Ed Wasserman has an excellent column in the Miami Herald saying that the media is spending too much time reacting to the whims of the campaigns: "Nowhere is it written that news organizations must cover whatever the campaigns decide they want to fuss about," he writes.