Are the media really that annoyed with how Sarah Palin talks? Or is it what she's saying?
A quick perusal of the Internet shows that maybe it's a bit of both. Even after surpassing all expectations on Thursday night in the debate against Joe Biden (admittedly expectations were quite low), it doesn't appear that Palin has many friends in the media.
No respect, I tell ya'
The late comic Rodney Dangerfield used to cock his head, grab his tie, bulge his eyes and say, "Tough crowd, I'll tell ya, tough crowd."
Although she is a bit more telegenic than Dangerfield, Sarah Palin could easily pull off the same routine if she were to read the nation's editorial pages. And according to Palin, she reads 'em.
The criticism? She's too inexperienced. She's not up for the job. She's a gimmick. She's way too conservative. She's too attractive.
Regardless of the specific criticism, one thing seems to unite the critics: her voice. That's the common ground. Rarely do you read a column on Palin without the author throwing in a "you betcha" or a "darn right." It's great material. It gives the very talented Tina Fey a lot to work with as she does her dead-on impersonation of the governor.
"You know, John McCain and I, we're a couple of mavericks. And gosh darnit, we're gonna take that maverick energy right to Washington and we're gonna use it to fix this financial crisis and everything else that's plaguin' this great country of ours."
Great comedy. But the media aren't laughing. They aren't the laughing sort. But it doesn't stop them from throwing in a Palin'ism or two. Or three.
We were not won over by her irrelevant populist rifts and appeals, the “betchas,” the “darn rights,” the references to Joe Six-Pack, hockey moms or the “kids’ soccer game on Saturday.” We were certainly not amused by her divisive pitting of energy-producing states against East Coast politicians, who by the way, have every bit as much right to oversee federal lands in Alaska as do Alaskans living next to them.
"Being mush-mouthed helped give the patrician Bushes the common touch. As Alistair Cooke observed, 'Americans seem to be more comfortable with Republican presidents because they share the common frailty of muddled syntax and because, when they attempt eloquence, they do tend to spout a kind of Frontier Baroque.'
"Darn right. And that, doggone it, brings us to a shout-out for the latest virtuoso of Frontier Baroque, bless her heart, the governor of the Last Frontier. Her reward’s in heaven.
"At Sarah Palin’s old church in Wasilla, they spoke in tongues. Maybe that’s where she picked it up."
Dick Polman at the Philadelphia Inquirer isn't that impressed with the Palin'isms either. He, like many, spots a similarity between Palin and a character in a cult-classic.
"Folksy, for sure: '...go to a kid's soccer game...I betcha....darn right it was the predatory lenders...Joe six pack...hockey moms across the nation...a heckuva lot...darn right we need tax relief...now doggone it...'
"After awhile, I started to think I was listening to Marge Gunderson, the pregnant hick cop in Fargo."
"Perhaps Sarah Palin will somehow emerge from the hurly-burly of history as a transformative figure who was underestimated in her time by journalists who could not see, or refused to acknowledge, her virtues. But do I think I am right in saying that Palin's populist view of high office—hey, Vice President Six-Pack, what should we do about Pakistan?—is dangerous? You betcha."
"She is perky, peppy, bubbly, one of those shiny, happy glass-half-full types whose folksy 'betchas' and 'shout-outs' to third-graders and winks would be welcome in the nurse wheeling you from the operating room or the flight attendant reassuring you as your jet bounces at 30,000 feet. Her style would go over great debating for student council.
"But in a person who could be president? It’s just weird, childish, silly, even patronizing, as if we voters are third-graders ourselves. And that relentless chipperness, real or faux? Enough already."
" 'It's time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency,' Mrs. Palin told talk-show host Hugh Hewitt. This left me trying to imagine Abe Lincoln saying he represents 'backwoods types,' or FDR announcing that the fading New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun. I'm not sure the McCain campaign is aware of it—it's possible they are—but this is subtly divisive. As for the dismissal of conservative critics of Mrs. Palin as 'Georgetown cocktail party types' (that was Mr. McCain), well, my goodness. That is the authentic sound of the aggression, and phony populism, of the Bush White House. Good move. That ended well."
"Why then did Palin take a drubbing in the polls? It may have to do with the very personality that brought her to the ball. You may recognize it: it's Marge Gunderson, from the darkly comic Coen Brothers film 'Fargo.'
For her portrayal of the small-town sheriff forever saying 'golly' and 'you betcha,' Frances McDormand won an Oscar. So should Palin. The resemblance is uncanny. Some reporter should find out if Palin talked that way before the movie came out."
Even across the pond over at the Daily Mail, they had their opinions too -- although they didn't seem to get caught up in the Palin-talk, they are certainly more blunt over there. Surprising? Maybe not.
"Crashing bore meets dingbat Mom. That, to be brutal, was the line-up in the U.S. vice-presidential candidates’ debate. ... Mrs Palin is clearly not a member of the Beltway tribe. She spoke of foreign presidents like a woman who has just learned to pronounce the name of exotic mushrooms.
"At one point she denied the charge of ‘naiveté’ but made it sound like a range of ladies’ evening garments.
"Plenty to play for, and these two are only the sidekicks. But the score from Missouri, folks: Bore 0, Dingbat 1."
Not everyone was brutal, however. Ellis Henican from Newsday and a political analyst for Fox News (there ya' have it) sympathizes with having a prominent accent, but isn't afraid to make fun it anyway.
"When I first moved up North, I tried to hide my Southern accent. I thought it made me sound, you know, ignorant - like the kind of guy who'd marry one of his cousins and then insist on turning up at the wedding in a baseball cap. I don't try to hide my accent anymore.
"Winking warmly at the camera. Filling the silence with actual words. Steering the conversation to taxes and energy, the two political topics she's most comfortable with. It was far from a brilliant debating performance. But the Alaska governor has this much: She beat the low bar of expectations by a North Country mile.