McCain, Palin, Letterman and SNL - what a week

Jake Turcotte

What a week in politics. A suspended campaign, a call for the debate to be postponed, a resumed campaign, a calamitous television interview, a call for the debate to be un-postponed, and lots and lots of comedy -- all at the expense of the Republican ticket.

Last night was the latest chapter in a wild week.


Sarah Palin's real life interview with Katie Couric was not well-received. Disastrous, cringe-inducing, awful, and unflattering were all words used to describe the one-on-one.

So bad was the interview, Republican strategists were calling for McCain to resume his campaign and hold the debate simply to get the Couric interview off the air.

One conservative columnist called for Palin to remove herself from the ticket stating that the Alaska Governor was "clearly out her league." And a FOX News commentator agreed with the "out of her league" assessment stating, "“I hate to say it, but she may be right."

The interview, however, provided a goldmine for comedy writers.

Sarah and Katie

A parody of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live two weeks ago was well-received by the Republican vice presidential nominee, according to her press secretary. It would be hard to imagine she felt the same about last night's treatment.

Alaska's proximity to Russia and why that emboldens Palin's foreign policy credentials happened in the real Palin and Couric interview as we discussed earlier. The SNL writers thought that was pretty good material.

Russians hanging around

So they took Amy Poehler, who impersonated Hillary Clinton in the earlier skit, but this time had Poehler imitate Couric in what they called the "fourth installment" of the interview series.

"You got Alaska here, this right here is water, and this is Russia," Palin (Fey) explained using her hands to assist. "So, we keep an eye on them. Every morning, when Alaskans wake up, one of the first things they do, is look outside to see if there are any Russians hanging around. And if there are, you gotta go up to them and ask, 'What are you doing here?' and if they can't give you a good reason, it's our responsibility to say, you know, 'Shoo! Get back over there!'''

Lifeline please?

It would have been a missed opportunity had the writers not lampooned the "I'll get back to ya'" gaffe that the real-life Palin used when Couric stumped her. They played that line when discussing foreign policy.

COURIC: "What lessons have you learned from Iraq and how specifically, would you spread democracy abroad?"

PALIN: "Specifically, we would make every effort possible to spread democracy abroad to those who want it."

COURIC: "Yes, but specifically what would you do?"

PALIN: "We're gonna promote freedom. Usher in democratic values and ideals. And fight terror-loving terrorists."

COURIC: "But again, and not to belabor the point. One specific thing."

PALIN: "Katie, I'd like to use one of my lifelines."

COURIC: "I'm sorry?"

PALIN: "I want to phone a friend."

COURIC: "You don't have any lifelines."

PALIN: "Well in that case I'm gonna just have to get back to ya'"

Wondering if Palin might call for a suspension of her campaign next week to work on a legislastive issue? If so, she should make sure she's not scheduled for the David Letterman show. He's already got enough material.

Cancel Letterman - stat!

The comedy-drama all started on Wednesday when McCain suspended his campaign in order to fly to Washington to work on the financial bailout - something that was criticized as a stunt, ploy, shenanigan or insert similar-meaning word.

But pundits also likened the move to vintage John McCain - someone who will throw the dice when necessary to shake things up - which it did.

It got most everyone talking about the strategy tactic rather than the downward slipping of polls, his running mate's disastrous interview with Katie Couric and his campaign manager's seeming inextricable links to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Make 'em laugh

The key words in the above paragraph is almost everyone. The people who did take note could have more sway than the omnipresent Wolf Blitzer or Keith Olbermann. People tune in to David Letterman and Saturday Night Live to laugh - not that Wolf isn't funny or anything.

But, to our knowledge, Gallup hasn't conducted such a poll yet - but we'd be willing to bet that Letterman and SNL would have higher favorable ratings than Blitzer and Olbermann.

Letterman strikes back

The Republican nominee was supposed to appear on Letterman's show Wednesday night. This is something McCain has done many times before. This was supposed to be his 12th appearance, in fact.

It was the timing of it all that got Dave steamed. A last minute cancellation ensued and Letterman said the reason provided was that McCain had to fly to Washington to work on the financial bailout package.

"This doesn't smell right," Letterman ranted to the audience. "This isn't the way a tested hero behaves."

"I think someone's putting something in his metamucil," he groused.

He's still here?

What really irked him was the tip that McCain was still in town. He, in fact, was getting prepped to do an interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric. Letterman was able to wrangle the internal video news feed showing McCain getting prepped by a makeup artist and display it live for the audience.

“He doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he?” Letterman asked before shouting at the monitor: “Hey John, I got a question! You need a ride to the airport?”

Night two

It wasn't going to end with just one night of mockery. The following night Letterman continued his rant. What was ironic is that one of the people the McCain team targeted to label Barack Obama as an airhead celebrity was his guest Thursday night - Paris Hilton.

"You're here on a good night," Letterman said to the audience. "So far none of our guests have canceled."

“Paris Hilton is on the program tonight," he announced. "Unless she needs to rush to Washington to fix the economy.”

On the topic of stuntman David Blaine who was hanging upside down in Central Park for 60 hours, Letterman quipped, "They just left the guy hanging there. It's the same thing McCain did to me last night."

Next week

As for this upcoming week, one would imagine Letterman's not going to just drop this and of course the SNL writers will be watching Thursday night with much anticipation.

In terms of the debate, one Republican strategist isn't worried. He instead sounds a bit like John Elway right before he marched his team downfield in the legendary football sequence called "The Drive."

Elway told his teammates before the miracle 98 yard drive to win the game, "We've got 'em right where we want 'em." GOP strategist Todd Harris must have been taking notes.

“I think expectations for Palin will be so low on Thursday that it will be difficult for her not to meet them,” Harris told The Vote. “And debate performances are not graded in a vacuum. It’s not just how she does, but also how Biden does and how he acts towards her, that makes for the ultimate grade. She could stumble through the entire evening, but if Biden talks down to her, the debate will be a draw.”

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