So what did we learn from Sarah Palin’s powwow with Sean Hannity, her first interview since the Tucson tragedy? She won’t sit down. She won’t shut up. She’s not sorry about using the historically loaded phrase “blood libel.” She’s still staying mum on a potential bid for higher office. The kerfuffle over her political target map was a “diversion” manufactured by liberal critics and the lamestream media.
Palin is a skilled practitioner of the politics of the aggrieved, but even Hannity, representing the network that writes Palin’s checks, seemed underwhelmed by her performance last night. (You can watch the tape here.) Lobbed a series of softballs, the brassy, smirking incarnation of Palin never showed up to hammer them. She seemed weary, her answers rote. When she emerged from her defensive crouch she got lost in logical cul-de-sacs–one moment she’s decrying the politicization of a tragedy, the next she’s mentioning the Tucson shooter was “apolitical or perhaps even left-leaning.” I’m sure this delighted her base, but it can’t have broadened it.
Last week, when Palin issued her initial response to the Giffords shooting, TPM’s Josh Marshall shot off a one-liner mocking Palin’s solipsism: “Today has been set aside to honor the victims of the Tucson massacre. And Sarah Palin has apparently decided she’s one of them.” But what’s really striking is her basic inability — or calculated unwillingness? – to acknowledge the legitimacy of other people’s views. Her critics are always the same cabal of America-haters cooking up plots to stifle the truth, silence patriotic debate or steal your freedom. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Palin meant to tap into an old anti-Semitic trope with the “blood libel” remark. But it would have been easy enough to simply say that no malice was intended and she regretted if anyone was offended by the phrase. And yet, she would never. You don’t retreat, you reload. (Rhetorically, I know.) Even if the post-Tucson unity push is a fleeting illusion, at a moment when most politicos are still toeing that line, Palin opted for division. Not that it was totally a choice, per se. It’s the only play she has.