Working for MSNBC has been bad for Chuck Todd. I really used to like his analysis back when he was just weighing in during the mornings on C-SPAN and writing for The Hotline. Chuck seems to think that Sarah Palin has now had some magical pixie dust scattered on her that makes her immune from the same scrutiny other politicians have to endure because she has become....a celebrity. Isn't that special?
Chuck Todd seems to have forgotten what he wrote back on Aug. 2, 2008, when John McCain ran his "celebrity" ad against then candidate Barack Obama.
The hardest thing to do in politics is campaign as someone you aren't.
People can spot an imposter from a mile away.
The most successful politicians are the ones who embrace their best traits while turning their liabilities into loveable attributes.
And yet, many a candidate tries to run as something they aren't simply because the strategy dictates it. And when even a good strategy doesn't match the candidate, the result can be a disjointed campaign that produces a lot of uncomfortable moments.
Unless, somehow, the candidate figures out how to embrace the strategy.
Are we seeing this happen right now to John McCain?
If you were to diagnose the best way to go at Obama in the midst of this disastrous Republican environment, you might come up with the tactics the McCain brain trust unveiled this week: Paint Obama as a bit full of himself, over-confident, elitest and out of touch.
There are a number of ways to paint that picture, including attacking Obama for his celebrity. America has a love-hate relationship with celebrity. We love to follow celebrities but we also love to mock them. And secretly we believe we're better than they are.
Making light of Obama's pop icon status and trying to use it as a way to undermine his serious presidential credentials is a good one. The latest McCain ad did just that. We may love U2 and we may love Bono's humanitarian efforts, but do voters in Youngstown want him as president?
But the flaw in this attack from McCain is that it doesn't fit who he is. This is a guy who hangs out with Warren Beatty. This is a guy who is married to a wealthy beer heiress. This is a guy whose senior adviser was Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign manager. This is a guy who owes much of his success in national politics to marketing himself as a political celebrity.
And attacking Obama’s celebrity is just one part of the playbook. There are two more plays: attacking his experience and attacking his common touch.
So now that Sarah Palin is a "celebrity" in Todd's eyes, it's all good. Not something to potentially attack someone for. When asked why he thought Palin was leaving the Governor's office, Todd seemed to think it was all about that great conservative value, lining ones' own pocket. I'm sure they'll all be trying to spin that into something positive for her as well. She just needs the money since that evil liberal media, and those evil folks who kept filing those darned ethics charges against her made her need to quit and go make some money instead of paying fines for politicking when she was supposed to be governing.
Transcript below the fold.
Todd: Well, I’ll tell you what’s in it for her, whether this was the total motivation or not, and that is, she is about to become a very rich woman. Now that she is a private citizen, she can take on speaking engagements. She can frankly, maybe sign a TV or radio deal and so when you look at it in just that, through that prism, it’s possible that was a motivator. You know one of the things that was tiring her out, we were told, I’m quoting a couple people close to her, is all of the ethics investigations that were happening in Alaska, every time she would leave the state to do something that might be something for the state, but then something that was also political, somebody would file an ethics complaint. She’d end up having to reimburse the state for maybe travel for her family. And that financial burden was I think taking a toll on her as well as a political burden. So I think she may have seen this as the easiest way out from what she thought was becoming a big distraction for her.
Witt: Did you see any clues as to where she plans to go. Take anything from that speech?
Todd: I did. I mean I saw somebody who wants to take advantage and basically cash in on her celebrity, whether it’s for herself or to become sort of the lead national Republican. You know she talked about going around and campaigning for fellow Republicans. You know there’s probably not a single other Republican that can get more people to show up for an event for Congressman Schmenge who wants to either run for reelection or become Congressman Schmenge and you know only on the Democratic side there’s the President. There’s nobody that can attract the crowds that Sarah Palin can attract. Now some of them are, some folks that show up to these events are, you know, are just curiosity seekers but it doesn’t matter if it gets folks there and I think that this gives her now a chance to do all those things.
Witt: What about those who would say, look, you want to run for President down the road, wouldn’t it have served her better to stay in Alaska, mastered the job as Governor as many Republicans who supported her suggested?
Todd: Well look, I think if she were a conventional politician, you’d say yes. Those rules apply and her career is over, her national ambitions are over. But the conventional rules don’t apply to her. Look, she has crossed into this celebrity status. She’s very clever about it too. I mean look at, she’s probably been on the cover of People Magazine as much as anybody else over the last ten months. And remember, she’s only been around ten months. A year ago people were still trying to figure out is it Palin, or Palin, so it’s a very meteoric ride to say the least but, you know, she is this weird sort of celebrity elite politician now, and things that can destroy conventional politicians don’t destroy celebrities who decide to get involved in politics. Prime example, Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.