New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller’s latest column for the Sunday Magazine tackled what the subhead called “Sarah Palin’s codependent relationship with the press (and vice versa).” In two contradictory paragraphs, Keller bluntly revealed the liberal media mindset of Palin loathing – then dismissed the idea of liberal media slant as almost entirely mythical. Keller also stated that "a lot of journalists, regardless of their politics, find her confounding and a little frightening."
If the 2012 election were held in the newsrooms of America and pitted Sarah Palin against Barack Obama, I doubt Palin would get 10 percent of the vote. However tempting the newsworthy havoc of a Palin presidency, I’m pretty sure most journalists would recoil in horror from the idea.
That is not -- or not entirely -- for the reasons Palin thinks: that journalists are liberal elitists, that they find the Tea Party fringe ridiculous or alarming or that they are infatuated with the cerebral black liberal in the White House. There’s a grain of truth and a loaf of myth in each of those. But I think it’s more visceral than that. It has to do with a profound and mutual lack of respect that is not quite like any I recall between a candidate (or pretend candidate) and the press.
Keller is probably right on his Palin-Obama prediction; as the Media Research Center outlined in a May 1996 report, reporters confessed to voting uniformly Democratic by a ratio of around 10-1:
A poll of 139 bureau chiefs and congressional reporters discovered 89 percent pulled the lever for Clinton [in the 1992 elections] and seven percent picked Bush....Asked "How would you characterize your political orientation?" 61 percent said "liberal" or "liberal to moderate." Only nine percent labeled themselves "conservative" or "moderate to conservative."
Keller employed liberal pop psychology on Palin:
Palin’s disdain goes beyond the bitterness of a public figure who has been burned by the press. Plenty of others have endured the pain of mainstream-media excoriation but have remained civil and responsive. What these politicians have in common, though, is enough confidence in the strength of their ideas to imagine that they can make a case through the press, if not actually to the press. Perhaps one key to Palin’s dislike of the news media is a streak of intellectual insecurity, or a trace of impostor syndrome. Her best defense against being found shallow is a strong offense.
At the core of the media antipathy, though, is something more fundamental. The fact is, reporters want as badly as anyone else to see the country led by someone who inspires confidence. But watching Palin answer a question is like watching a runaway train struggling to stay on the rails, and fact-checking her is like fishing with dynamite. When she is caught getting something wrong -- most recently turning Paul Revere’s ride into a gun rights crusade -- she tends to dig in deeper. (Her attitude that the truth is what she says it is appears to be contagious. In the case of the midnight ride, Palin fans tried to rewrite history on Wikipedia to conform to her version.) I think a lot of journalists, regardless of their politics, find her confounding and a little frightening. Evidently, so do most Americans; only 21 percent of voters have a favorable impression of her in the latest CBS poll.
Keller concluded by dismissing Palin’s competence and, in liberal fashion, giving back-handed praise to the late Ronald Reagan (much the same way that the first President Bush is now hailed by liberals who despised him at the time).
Reagan, though, had a depth of experience, an underestimated grasp of issues, a gift for expedient compromise, a seasoned and loyal team and a good-natured charm that all translated into public trust.
Palin, on the other hand, just has our attention.