Sarah Palin -- The Last Republican Standing?

Douglas MacKinnon
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Posted: Jun 26, 2009 12:00 AM

It’s official. Flies now have a longer life-expectancy than the political viability of most 2012 GOP presidential contenders. At least the male contenders.

Two weeks after David Letterman’s forced apology to Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, and days after Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina teamed with Senator John Ensign of Nevada for admittance to the “Adulterer/Hypocrite Hall of Shame,” Palin is starting to appeal to more and more Republicans…and Americans. As well she should.

Hillary Clinton certainly proved that the citizens of our nation are prepared to vote for a woman. Absent a questionable campaign strategy, she could be in the Oval Office right now -- or at 3 AM -- deciding how best to deal with Iran, the economy, and Joe Biden’s curious mind. Regardless, there is no doubt that a woman will soon lead our nation…and obviously, not a moment too soon.

Now, while the left, their handmaidens in the media, alleged feminists, and various late-night comics will flat out tell you that it’s over for Sarah Palin, I would beg to differ. Despite the most unprofessional, unethical, and unrelenting character assassination in modern U.S. political history, not only is she still standing tall, but still retains that “it” factor. She is very comfortable in her own skin, believes what she believes, and is not afraid to challenge the tenets of political correctness or speak-up for traditional values when needed. Attributes that tens of millions of Americans believe actually qualifies someone to be president.

With the Ensign and Sanford implosions and Letterman’s act of contrition, I started to not only ponder Palin’s rising chances in 2012, but wonder who else owed her an apology? As a communicator who has worked a few presidential campaigns in the past, the answer was and is quite obvious: John McCain.

Leaving aside McCain’s very public backstabbing of Palin on “The Tonight Show” when he wouldn’t even list her as a contender in 2012, we need to remember what started her “not ready for prime-time” problems. That being her interview in September of 2008 with ABC’s Charlie (I REALLY love Barack) Gibson. An interview that went viral faster than a “Jon & Kate plus Eight” slap-down.

In addition to being a disloyal opportunist, here is why McCain owes Palin an apology: Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, if you are the press secretary or director of communications for a presidential or vice-presidential candidate, you are always looking to establish certain ground rules with the press, least your candidate get ambushed or made to look bad. If ever there was an interview that screamed out for ground rules, it was the Gibson-Palin two-step.

While managing editors and network news heads will tell you they never agree to interview ground rules from candidates, politicians, or celebrities, in the five years I worked for Bob Dole, I certainly insisted on them and got them. Sometimes the ground rules were as simple as the number of questions to be asked, to the more complicated assignment of picking the person from the network who would actually ask the questions. As every single “news” network and every single network anchor was desperate to question the Governor of Alaska at the time, ground rules would have been a lock.

Knowing that, and in the best interests of Sarah Palin, I was shocked that two critically important ground rules were ignored or not attained by the McCain campaign. The first rule for any Republican candidates at the presidential level being, only do live interviews. If ABC insisted on a taped interview, then campaign advisers should have demanded that edited teasers not be released prior to or following the interview. As history and “youtube” show, not only did the McCain campaign not secure Palin that much needed live interview, but ABC flooded the electronic world with those dreaded teasers edited to put her in the worst light possible.

Why only live interviews and no edited teasers? With a live interview, the candidate, just as much as the anchor, controls the outcome. No words taken out of context, and no anchors editing the candidate’s comments after the fact.

All too often, campaigns and candidates forget that human nature plays a commanding role in every success and every failure. Network anchors are human. As such, they usually don’t like to be challenged or have their authoritative or left-of-center voice questioned. If the McCain campaign had put Palin in the proper setting for her all important coming out party, she could have more than held her own against the Obama-infatuated Gibson.

For that failure -- as well as a host of others -- she is owed an apology by McCain. In the meantime, as these male GOP pretenders continue to succumb to human temptation, Palin may be the last one standing and win the 2012 nomination by default.

Poetic justice for sure.