The phenomenon known as Sarah Palin made her debut this week as an analyst on Fox News. You should have heard the braying on our competitors CNN and MSNBC. She's a dunce, they wailed, a conservative shill! Foaming at the mouth doesn't begin to describe the reaction.
Well, here's my question. If you guys are so smart, how come your ratings are softer than Jell-O?
Governor Palin appeared on my program and began by knocking President Obama around a bit on health care and terrorism—standard issue right-wing stuff. But then I asked her about charges on "60 Minutes" that her frame of reference is so weak, she doesn't even understand why there are two Koreas. Mrs. Palin just shook her head and said the man who made the charge, author John Heilemann, is a liberal guy who simply is not telling the truth.
Whatever your opinion of her, you have to admit the bashing of Sarah Palin is almost unprecedented in the media. Newspaper critics and über-liberal TV commentators are the worst. Reviewing my interview with the Governor in the New York Times, Kate Zernike wrote, "After marveling that '60 Minutes' spent eight minutes on Ms. Palin on Sunday night, Mr. O'Reilly spent about 20 minutes with her."
Well, yeah, she's a brand new FNC analyst and was the lead guest on my program. The "60 Minutes" story was about a book featuring dozens of politicians. Palin, however, got most of the airtime. And it was all bad for her.
And that's the point. If you hammer the governor, the Times will have no beef. But give her a forum so she can respond to her detractors, and watch out.
David Zurawik, the TV critic for the Baltimore Sun, makes that point better than I ever could. Reviewing the Palin chat, Zurawik said, "In a protected TV environment like the one Fox and O'Reilly skillfully provided for her Tuesday night, I think [Palin] could be a red hot ratings winner. And the country and our political conversation are going to be the poorer for it.
"I can only imagine what kind of power these two might come to wield in the elections of 2010."
Never mind that I asked Sarah Palin about the perception her intellect is not up to Presidential standards; Zurawik and his soul brothers and sisters on the left are very worried that, now, Sarah Palin has a place to state her case. A very well-watched place.
That presents a clear and present danger to the liberal ideologues masquerading as press people. No longer can they mock Sarah Palin with impunity. Now she can mock them back, big time, and perhaps convince open-minded folks that her message is worthy and that she is not a reincarnation of Georgette from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Simply put, Governor Palin has a big opportunity to balance the playing field. Boy, do her critics hate that.