In the wake of the Tucson-shooting the question that most concerned the news media and TV-pundits was when and how Sarah Palin would respond. She did today and it did not do her any good. As a matter of fact, for presidential hopeful Sarah Palin it was an opportunity missed. Here is why:
First: By quoting Ronald Reagan she pointed out that a criminal act stands on its own. And here she is quite right (After all, it seems Jared Lee Loughner was rather apolitical and though I do think that her rhetoric contributed to the heated political climate and though I despised her putting cross-hairs on congressional districts, making a connection between her and the assassination attempt and massacre is premature to say the least). But she did not stop there. After saying that every criminal act stands on its own, she argues: “journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.” Well, that simply is contradictory and John Dickerson just pointed that out on Slate.
But it is more than just a case of conflicting logic. It serves as evidence for what her critics have argued all along, anyway: That she is playing double standards, there is no connection, but you know, except when there is a connection between hatred and left-wing pundits on MSNBC. Tonight, her critics are correct and this will be ammunition not only to Keith Olbermann, but also to those in the GOP who fear nothing more than a Sarah Palin presidential run.
My second point of criticism is this: She used this opportunity to vindicate her rhetoric and campaign style. Only, that was not the moment to do that. Had she been presidential material, she would have provided comfort and left the debate for another time (and lets not kid ourselves here, the media would still have run that prime-time in a week from now). Put differently, instead of focusing on the tragedy, she made the speech about her political style. And that's a huge mistake and it is also a misstep in tone.
By the way: If you're presidential material, people do not want you to pray for guidance, they want you to lead. That at least is what politicians are supposed to do and good ones manage. Good ones also take such criticism and treat it as an opportunity. So, what does her speech do politically, you are inclined to ask? Not any good. The only thing she could have won today was some independents who would have thought her likeable. But today's speech did not do that. At a moment when she would have needed to appeal to the nation, she appealed to her basis. And that's what makes today's performance a failure.