At the LIA, the selling of Sarah Palin
Starting around the 10-minute mark, you felt as if you were watching a late-night infomercial. Instead of touting vitamins or exercise equipment, Sarah Louise Heath Palin, appearing on Long Island, pitched the commodity known as herself.
After all, she and daughter Bristol did recently apply to the U.S. Patent Office to trademark their names.
Not that Long Island Association president Kevin Law didn't ask her straight and relevant questions over an hourlong, one-on-one question-and-answer session. Nor did he fail to solicit interesting answers on gun control, federal spending and civility - prompting rounds of applause from her VIP audience at the Crest Hollow Country Club.
But to nobody's surprise, the one-hour, host-guest format allowed Palin to deliver a series of prepared, rapid-fire responses in the perpetual multimedia sale of self - as conventional now in mainstream electoral politics as it is in entertainment.
Palin came nowhere near those cringe-inducing, deer-in-the-headlights TV-interview moments of her 2008 campaign for vice president. Now 47, in the third year after her vice-presidential run, Palin enters what you might call the middle age of the national fame conferred on her by Sen. John McCain in his failed bid for the presidency. She enjoys the cosseted, richly paid status of Fox news commentator, as New York Times best-selling author, as Alaska travelogue maven, as show-biz mom, as tabloid fodder, as Twitter and Facebook figure, and as a peddled brand name of the Washington Speakers Bureau.
Accustomed now to stay on her message, she repeatedly attacked President Barack Obama at several turns, candidate-style.
Fans would find Palin's patter charming about how a mom like herself may be best qualified for the presidency - which she says she has yet to decide on. On recent events in Egypt, she whacked the current president for sending confusing signals, wished pro-democracy activists success - but warned against the Muslim Brotherhood and said Hosni Mubarak had been a 30-year ally of the United States and protector of Israel. It sounded like Sunday press-show stuff from Capitol Hill.
There was free-market treacle and romanticization of "tea party Americans." Some responses came out clumsy ("Isn't that amazing, how the new world of social media will be impacting politics today!") or coyly disingenuous ("We hired a chief of staff because Todd is getting tired of doing it for me").
Any media consultant will tell you that such political celebrity demands red meat and controversy. She offered this zinger: "No wonder Michelle Obama is telling people to breast feed their babies. . . . Yeah, you better, because the price of milk is so high right now." She quickly added she hoped that line - which is her second public snipe at the first lady - wouldn't be the "take-away."
One thing hasn't changed: When Law asked Palin about high negatives in her poll numbers, she said her record on guns in the wake of the Tucson shootings had been "misrepresented" in the news media - whose personnel flocked to listen, though she took no press questions.