If you thought Sarah Palin’s Donald Trump endorsement speech was semi-incoherent at times, you should see the media narrative about the former Republican vice-presidential nominee. It’s all over the place.
I realize the media don’t function as one big collective, but news outlets very often agree on what the main story about a political figure is at any given moment — even if there’s no consensus on how that story ought to be reported.
When Trump said the United States should block all Muslims from entering the country, that’s all the press wanted to talk about. Ditto when Hillary Clinton went to Capitol Hill to testify about Benghazi. Opinions varied, but everyone was covering the same thing.
What is the central Palin storyline right now? Let’s just say the nominees are more diverse than those for the Oscars. Some are downright contradictory. Others simply reveal a Palin-esque lack of focus by the media. In no particular order:
- She’s backing Trump
- This is a big deal
- Meh, don’t be so sure
- Her endorsement speech was nonsensical, “post-apocalyptic poetry”
- Her endorsement speech was full of “substantive, logical reasons”
- Hey, her son just got arrested on domestic violence charges
- She blamed the arrest on her son’s military service
- No, wait, she blamed it on President Obama
- Her support for Trump legitimizes him as a conservative
- Her support for Trump delegitimizes her own conservatism
- She could be Trump’s running mate
- No, no, she’ll get a different position in his administration
- What was up with that sparkly sweater, anyway?
That’s all in just a few days. Sarah-nado has touched down; the media have no idea what to say about it, but are pretty sure there’s a lot to be said.
Maybe that’s the point. And maybe this is the genius of Donald Trump, whose name is invariably mentioned in every Palin story, regardless of the subject. Much as he complains about negative media coverage, he seems to subscribe to the all-press-is-good-press philosophy. It doesn’t matter what the Palin story is, as long as she — and, by association, Trump — is the story.
The GOP front-runner surely knew that Palin’s endorsement would set off a media frenzy. And Trump said it was he who suggested that the former Alaska governor bring up her son’s arrest on the campaign trail in Tulsa, Okla., on Wednesday.
Bringing Palin into the fold isn’t only about drawing attention to her and to himself; it’s also about diverting attention away from his rivals two weeks before the start of primary voting. In a single tweet, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, who co-wrote the first story confirming Palin’s endorsement of Trump, perfectly summarized the effect.
Trump deprived Cruz of needed oxygen yesterday and again into today. Now 12 days out from the caucuses.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 20, 2016
The more the media shower coverage on Palin — whatever the nature of that coverage might be — the less they devote to Cruz and the other Republican White House hopefuls who are trying to chase Trump down.
Which seems to be the real story when it comes to Palin.