Now that Palin has stopped pretending to be a politician, she’s back to being, uh, whatever she was before.
Sarah Palin was like a sparkling celebrity holiday gift in the Oprah interview. She was just shining with the thrill of being on that stratospheric studio sofa that would rocket her book sales even further off the charts. The only veiled moment of impatience that dimmed her gorgeous stare was when Oprah opened up with whether Palin thought she had snubbed her during the ’08 campaign by not asking her on the show. You could see Palin thinking, as we in the audience were, “Huh? Why the eff are we wasting time talking about you?”
Was it a rare small frisson of competitiveness that made the Queen of All Talk Show Hosts suddenly want to prolong the limelight on herself, rather than hand things over immediately to the mink-haired, fresh-as-a-daisy bombshell who could be the natural star to grab Oprah’s crown and her time slot?
Now that Palin has stopped pretending to be a politician — there’s been zero effort in any interview so far to leave the EQ stuff behind and divert to a policy message — the abdicated Alaskan governor is back to being as appealing as she was when she first made her debut at the GOP convention at John McCain’s side. (Admit it: We loved her at first when she thumbed-over-the-shoulder the now famous crowd-pleaser “The governor’s private plane? I put it on eBay!).
With Oprah, she was once again fun when she shafted Levi Johnston, that feckless dope of a near-miss son-in-law. She was wonderfully sly when, the next day, Barbara Walters on Good Morning America gravely quoted McCain adviser Steve Schmidt’s assessment that as VP she would have been an unmitigated disaster. With a roguish smile, Palin responded, “That sounds like Steve Schmidt!” And the appearance of her genuinely fond-seeming teenage daughter Willow with her younger sister — cute as can be Piper, who told Barbara it was “sad” when her mother was criticized — gave us, for the first time, a whiff of authentic Palin family feeling.
Video: Palin, Levi Johnston in war of words I believed her 100 percent, by the way, when she told Oprah she had not been fearful of the American public finding out about Bristol’s pregnancy: “Gosh, the only skeleton that I have to confess to is I did get a 'D' 22 years ago in a college course.” Of course that’s what Palin was fearful of, because that was the only true thing she had to fear — that America would discover that she knew, in her own inimitable phrase, “bullcrap” about the policy issues or international affairs. In that sense, she was right to resent the campaign’s effort to suppress her and keep her away from the traveling media. She knew she only had her charm to go on, but Schmidt & Co. kept trying to cram her head with index cards masquerading as a vice-presidential education. She stayed cocky after the Couric debacle because she knew the dawning revelation of her ignorance was the campaign’s fault, not hers.
My only regret in this recent series of star turns was Palin’s denunciation of the current Newsweek' cover to her Facebook following as “sexist.” That’s the boring old fake-gravitas Sarah speaking. The Newsweek cover shot, a months-old Google chestnut from Runner's World of sassy Sarah in shorts, didn’t show much journalistic enterprise on the magazine’s part, but you can hardly call it sexist. No one cried sexism when New York magazine took a photo of fallen Gov. Eliot Spitzer and added the word “brain” with an arrow to his crotch. And circa 1994 we were all happy to ogle Bill Clinton in his running shorts and never called out the media’s ethical judgment. If you don’t want the moment captured on film, don’t show up in sporty hot pants for a photo shoot. But Palin, like Carrie Prejean, is savvy enough to know that umbrage is a great Day 3 story when you are running the media marathon.
Indeed, her “hurt” retaliation is probably doing the same thing for Newsweek’s sales as what she suggests an appearance on her old foe Letterman’s show would do for the sales of her book (hint, hint). Everyone is someone else’s catalyst for selling something these days. And right now, by golly, Sarah Palin is out there selling herself.
Tina Brown is the founder and editor in chief of The Daily Beast. She is the author of the 2007 New York Times bestseller “The Diana Chronicle.” Brown is the former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Talk magazines and host of CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown.
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