Bob Franken

Hearst-New York Times Column

(As usual, the arrangement with the syndicators means these columns appear here a week after their newspaper release)

^SARAH PALIN STUMPING AND TRUMPING@< ^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@< ^By BOB FRANKEN@= ^C.2011 Hearst Newspapers@= WASHINGTON _ Of course The Donald would invite The Sarah up to his New York penthouse. She is, after all, taking her Clampett bus expedition to American shrines, and that's what Donald Trump considers himself. In addition Sarah Palin and Trump share two interests: presidential politics and sham reality shows. Actually, that's just one. ``What do we have in common?'' she responded after the get-together. ``Our love for this country, a desire to see our economy put back on the right track.'' They both also have a remarkable ability to turn reporters into shills who chase after them to snap up whatever crumbs they toss. Palin can even keep a straight face when she tells her Fox News BFF Greta Van Susteren that her bus jaunt isn't ``a publicity-seeking tour.'' All the while she's getting disproportionate publicity from the very news people she disparages. ``I don't owe anything to the mainstream media,'' she gloats. Actually, she might feel she owes us a measure of sweet revenge for making her squirm in the 2008 election, when she ran as the Republican vice presidential nominee. According to her disenchanted former top aide Frank Bailey in his new book ``Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin,'' the former governor of Alaska is someone who would ``routinely set out to destroy those who criticized her or her loved ones.'' If that's what she wants to do to news coverage of political campaigns, more power to her. Her relentless attacks on the news media could result in some reforms that are long overdue. It's high time that the usual candidate-journalist symbiosis is ripped apart. For too long some of us have been the lazy ``Boys (and girls) on the Bus.'' Sarah Palin would be doing a great service if she continued to keep reporters off her bus and disrupted the inevitable Stockholm Syndrome that results from such extended captivity.

Less dependence on spoon feeding would allow us to look more aggressively past the superficiality of her compelling personality, get beyond her lowest common denominator bromides while we sift through her background, policies and, dare I say it, comprehension of the compelling issues of our times.

Right now, she’s playing us a like a fiddle. Call it Reverse PR. By disdaining the media, she creates more media interest. Imagine the frustration a Tim Pawlenty must feel when at every stop he’s met with questions about Palin.

In fact, you don’t have to imagine it. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” he complained: “We need to quit worrying about polls and bus tours and get onto the issue of how we’re going to fix the country and get the country back on track.”

The latest Gallup Poll of Republican and leaning Republican respondents show that newly announced old shoe candidate Mitt Romney is leading the GOP presidential pack at 17 per cent. Unannounced Palin is breathing down his neck at 15 per cent. Pawlenty is at 6 per cent. By the way, that’s the same poll that Trump led in April, before he folded his tent.

If Sarah Palin bails, we would still have Michele Bachmann waiting in the right wings, denying that she’s simply Palin-lite. Newt Gingrich is also out there firing away, but Newt’s not new and definitely not the extremist novelties that Palin and Bachmann are.

Palin has managed to stay fresh partly because she looks like she’s not traveling the traditional path of presidential politics. Those of us who cover elections shouldn’t get stuck in that rut, either. Instead, we should be keeping the players at arm’s length while we carefully examine whether they’re worthy participants.

We shouldn’t care at all whether she or other candidates are vindictive because we should not be beholden to anyone of them for anything. Including their bus schedule.

^–@< (Email: bob(at); on the Web:

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