This week, Sarah Palin joined NBC’s Today show as guest presenter. Billed as a co-host, she was more of a guest who wouldn’t go away: she was interviewed as much as she contributed to items about other news. And there were so many self-deprecating references and nods to her famous blunders of the past that there wasn’t much time left for her to make any new ones.
There was an echo of her famous interview with Katie Couric – coincidentally now presenting Good Morning America, the rival to Today – where she could not name a single newspaper she read. Perhaps journalists and politicians were more shocked by that than the public, but everyone winced at how clumsily she attempted to evade the issue. By comparison, her dodges on Today were clear and calculated.
Host Matt Lauer asked whether she supported Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential race and she very effectively conveyed that she really does not – but she did it by repeatedly dodging the question. There was nothing clumsy this time.
So she is significantly more polished on TV than she was when she first came to public prominence. In 2008, she was picked seemingly out of the blue to be John McCain’s running mate in the Presidential elections. The ferocious attention and pressure that brought would be overwhelming for anyone, but Palin did not rise to the occasion.
Instead, she managed to become simultaneously a figure of fun and of some worry, as actor Matt Damon eloquently said in an interview at the time.
On the worrying side, she had problems with US geography and there was this ramble about her being good at foreign policy because Alaska is near Russia.
On the fun side, she was parodied by Tina Fey, who very often stuck precisely to Palin’s own words. A particularly bewildering speech of Palin’s was also read, again verbatim, as performance art by William Shatner. It wasn’t all on TV, either: The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin penned an anti-Palin article, too.
And perhaps the best single summation of her impact on US politics is in this comedy news report from The Onion, which claims a majority of Americans want Palin to be President just to see how bad it could really get.