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Republicans Get Message Across Unfiltered
September 4, 2008  | By David Bianculli
Last night the Republicans made history, and not just by nominating the first woman to be part of their presidential ticket. They made history by being the first party at either of the 2008 conventions -- and, if my memory serves, the first party at any presidential convention ever -- to get across its prime-time message totally unfiltered on commercial broadcast TV.

giuliani-against-post911.jpgThis happened, in part, because ABC, CBS and NBC have limited themselves to one hour of prime time nightly at these conventions. But even so, all previous nights have allowed room for the networks to skip one speech while replaying parts of another, give room for its anchors and commentators to comment, and settle in for the night's one big speech.

Not Wednesday night. Wednesday night, Republicans filled the entire hour, and then some.

CBS, NBC and ABC joined the cable and PBS coverage at 10 p.m. ET, and said hello to viewers, setting up the speakers to follow: Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin. And that was it. At 10:01, Giuliani began speaking, with a New York skyline image, notably bereft of the World Trade Center towers, towering behind him.


As soon as Giuliani was through, he introduced Palin. The biographical video that had been scheduled was scrapped, in an undeniably canny move that allowed the Alaskan governor to, in essence, introduce herself to the American TV public.


Palin spoke until 11:08, at which time she was joined on stage by John McCain, who made his first appearance at the convention. At 11:15, local stations took over with local news at most stations, and that was it.

Both speeches were presented whole.

And both were accompanied by memorable visuals, including one of Palin's daughters cradling Palin's youngest child, and licking her palm licking-baby's-hair.jpgto smooth his hair. The images, like the speeches and the evening, went by mostly unremarked -- except on cable, where there was room to speak afterward.

On commercial broadcast TV, all those anchors and correspondents, all that money and expertise, and they got to say nothing except a few minutes of observations at the end.

At CBS, Jeff Greenfield said Palin's speech had "perfect populist pitch." At ABC, George Stephanopolous said that McCain "broke free of George Bush tonight." Chris Wallace, on Fox News, called Palin's address "a heck of a speech," And on PBS, Jim Lehrer observed of Palin, "To say that she was well-received in the hall would be an understatement."

A lot of Palin's speech, as with Giuliani's, focused not only on attacks on Barack Obama, but on the media, and its treatment in covering and uncovering the various stories about the national neophyte Sarah Palin. Thrust upon the national stage, she is the first governor nominated for vice president since Spiro Agnew in 1968.

Agnew, of course, was the first vice president to make a name for himself by attacking the media, which he dismissed as "nattering nabobs of negativism." As another Republican said more recently: Here we go again...




Fro said:

I thought the clips Jon Stewart showed of Karl Rove, et al shamelessly contradicting themselves were great. Even better was when Stewart was talking to Gingrich and asked him, if Palin thinks the choice her daughter made is a personal decision best left to the family, why would it be okay to elect the Republicans and have them legislate that same choice away from every other woman? Great question, and one that nobody in the "liberal media" will ever pose to Palin or McCain.

Comment posted on September 4, 2008 2:47 PM

Paul from Richmond, KY said:

It's interesting you should mention Palin's baby with Down's syndrome. How that baby has been seen, and the controversies surrounding Palin's oldest daughter, both speak to media reporting and efforts to manipulate that coverage. I'm sure Palin loves her son. She's been known to breast feed him while working as Governor, instead of just turning him over to a nurse. However, the reason the media reacted to her daughter's pregancy as they did also touches on the son. What's not said it that it's Palin's right wing "soulmates" (to steal a term from John McCain) who often cluck their tongues at unwed mothers. (I guess the daughter must not have listened when her mom gave her the abstinence talk.)

By the same token the mother's situation relates to the point the media is slyly insinuating while covering the daughter's unwed pregnancy. To wit, if Sarah Palin was a young working class girl, who had to work because her husband couldn't make enough money working full time - or even overtime - to support a special needs child, the far right evangelists and other radical pundits would be criticizing her for not being a full time mom. The same pundits who jumped all over Hillary for saying she wasn't going to stay home and bake cookies. In other words, what the mainstream media was reporting, but was too coy to actually spell out, was the hypocrisy of the contrast between the Palin families real life situations and the far right's rigid, stereotypically view of women's "roles".

Don't think I'm critical of the Palin's in that score (except for the hypocrisy of some of her idealogical affiliations). However, I am critical of how the baby was essentially used was used as a prop, first to cover up the daughter pregnancy, and, when that didn't work, handed to the youngest daughter the next time for an "aww, that's so beautiful I want to cry" moment. After all, the baby has DOWN'S SYNDROME, did he really need to be at the convention AT ALL. It was certainly more cynical than having Barack Obama's daughters talk to him on the convention stage (that was just standard convention scripting, which is I why I don't watch.)

Oh well, I guess in a far right family you're never too young to earn your keep. I wonder when the baby will be sent out to hunt moose.

Comment posted on September 4, 2008 8:05 PM

David Reich said:

It was a breath of fresh air to actually be able to listen to the proceedings without inane commentary.

I am glad, however, that in the very brief time Brian Williams had to do a wrap-up on NBC, he corrected Sarah Palin about her saying no the famous pork barrel "bridge to nowhere," reminding us that actually was in favor of it for a long time until Congress changed it so Alaska would have to kick in some money. Only then did she oppose it. Some will say it's the media's bias, but to me it's just their job to keep the politicians honest and to keep us informed with facts.

Comment posted on September 7, 2008 10:17 AM

Fred said:

Hey Dave,

I listen to your commentary on the Midday show w/ Anthony and Glen and noticed you dont't promote The Sons of Anarchy. I had the opportunity to watch the first 2 episodes recently, and I became hooked on it instantly. there is some great characters on this show, including Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal. I know Anthony will not like Drea from the Sopranos playing a junkie, but regardless, GREAT SHOW so far!!!

Comment posted on September 17, 2008 2:36 PM

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