You may have seen this video flying around the internet. In it, NBC reporterette Norah O'Donnell ambushes a teenaged Palin supporter wearing a funny anti-bailout tee shirt, and confronts her on the "fact" that Sarah Palin "supported the bailout."
On its face, there is a certain "gotcha" aspect to it, though it's easy to say that Jackie Seal, the 17 year-old who was caught unawares—and who didn't have a truckload of producers feeding things into her earpiece– ultimately got the better of the exchange.
But when you know… the REST of the stooo-ry, the cheapness of O'Donnell's stunt, and the poise of Jackie Seal is rather amazing.
First, it's a little over general– and overstated– to say that Sarah Palin "supported the bailout." WHICH bailout? Palin has opposed every bailout since TARP. During the campaign, as Jackie notes in her very engaging and entertaining blog (more on that later) it would have been pretty extraordinary for even Sarah Palin to go so "rogue" as to oppose McCain on TARP.
Of course, had McCain opposed TARP, he might very well be President today. He suspended his campaign to run back to Washington so he could vote the same way Obama did on a wildly unpopular trillion dollar measure. Thus McCain showed the only difference between him and Obama that week was that Obama could focus on 2 things at once.
But of course, Palin was the reason McCain lost… right?
But back to Jackie and Norah. MSNBC hosts chuckled all night long over this moment, while many on the right decried the tactic. However, it was surprising how many pros on BOTH sides assumed that the scene played out as spontaneously as it appeared on tape. Sometimes it happens that way; but in my experience national reporters don't go on live television without knowing exactly what they are getting– like an attorney asking a question of a witness in open court.
It's also hard to believe that anyone who's watched Norah O'Donnell for more than 5 minutes would think that SHE was quick on her feet to battle a smart 17 year-old girl to a seeming draw. That should have aroused some suspicions.
Fortunately, we have Jackie's very entertaining and well written blog post to fill in the details and give us an inside look at how Big Media really works:
I was first approached by a New York Times writer who wrote what my shirt said and then asked me a couple questions. She asked me what it was I liked about Sarah Palin. I said, "As a young female she is someone I can look up to, before her the only prominent female in politics I had known about was Hilary Clinton, whom I respect don't get me wrong, I respect her but when you don't agree with someone it's hard to really look up to them. I like how Sarah Palin will speak her mind, regardless of what the media will say about it." After that I just stood in line eagerly waiting for Sarah Palin to arrive.
I then see Norah O'Donnell approach a man all decked out in Palin garb. She asked him a few questions (camera not rolling) then said she'd like to have a woman in the shot. She asked a woman who refused then pointed at me and said "Hey talk to her" So I walked over. I knew I was walking into hot water with MSNBC- thought I was prepared….Seconds later I met her… One of the many faces of liberal media bias. She asked me my name and then before going on air asked me why I liked Sarah Palin, I repeated what I told the NYT reporter. Norah didn't seem to like that much. So what did she do? I mean she couldn't ask me that question on television, heaven forbid her not have a biting response.. I noticed her look down at my shirt then, she turned around blackberry in hand spoke to a man, thumbs tapping the blackberry (I don't remember if she called or not, she may have. But she was on her blackberry), then jotted down a quick note. Little did I know that note would be used against me.
She told us she'd be walking up to us. You know like she just stumbled upon us. The shot began… I kept telling myself answer her question well, don't freak out. Well, I thought she'd ask me the same question. She asked the man beside me (who by the way is NOT my dad) the same question she had before we went on air. Myself on the other hand, not the same story.
She had me read my shirt and then proceeded to ask me "Did you know Sarah Palin supported the bailout" to be 100% honest I was like, are you kidding me? She is trying to use my shirt against me. I was so shocked by the craftiness she had that I was truly stumped. I asked her where she got her fact and she read her little note. Then she asked me what I liked about Sarah, and I talked about the Constitution.
It's a closer call than what's coming, but if you handicap this at all, it's easy– Jackie 1, Norah 0
Immediately after the interview I said to my dad "Oh man, I have so many great responses now about my shirt" I could have said, well my shirt doesn't say anything about Sarah Palin supporting the bailout or "Hey Norah, have you read the book? She talks about how during her debate prep she was handed a list of note cards that had questions and 'non-answers'" Of course they told Sarah Palin to support everything McCain did. Call me crazy but it would have looked pretty bad had Sarah Palin been against something John McCain was against while they were running together.
Jackie takes a knuckleball on the outside corner and slaps a clean double to the opposite field–Jackie 2, Norah 0
Norah also claims I told her I voted (on her twitter). That is not true. She never asked my age or if I voted. I'm 17 I couldn't have voted…and I don't live in an ACORN district so I didn't have a chance to even register illegally. Making that statement by Norah completely false.
Jackie slam dunks over the flat-footed defender. In the NBA, they call this "posterized." Jackie 3, Norah 0
If this wasn't pathetic enough, once Chris Matthews's panel of mean white girls got done calling Sarah Palin a "mean girl" who appeals to white racists, they actually tried to do a little end zone dance over Norah's supposed triumph over a teenager standing in line to get an autograph.
JOAN WALSH: Norah did great reporting, by the way. I was watching when she interviewed these people who were wrong about TARP and who just started babbling about she will defend the Constitution, as though Obama won't.
WALSH: So, I think you've got that same kind of paranoid tea party, maybe even birther crowd that talks about the Constitution, without really understanding what they are talking about. They love her.
Yes, anyone who thinks the U.S. Constitution does not provide for the Government taking over 2 out of 3 car companies, printing money to bail out states who overspend their budgets and calling it "stimulus," and taking over health care with the threat of jail to anyone who doesn't buy health insurance, typifies the crazed militia birther fringe.
It's not surprising that Joan Walsh would be willing to savage a teenager that way, it's hilarious that she would do it a minute and a half after throwing a Mean Girls reference in Sarah Palin's direction.
All night on MSNBC, their classy lineup of hosts crowed that Norah O'Donnell exposed the ignorance of the Palin support base. But, like in most things having to do with Sarah Palin, the elite media revealed a lot more about itself than about the Americans in flyover country that they can't even begin to understand.
If only other NBC reporters– like David Gregory– would put half as much thought and preparation into asking tough questions of Barack Obama as Norah O'Donnell did of a 17 year-old bystander.