Let's just dispense with one disclaimer right off the bat: I like a good right-wing talk show, whether on television or on radio, as much as anyone. Yes, when I'm on long drives, I like to listen to Rush Limbaugh. Yes, I used to watch "The O'Reilly Factor" nearly every night. No matter what I think of those men, their methods, their beliefs, whatever, there's a reason they're successful and that a thousand other imitators are not -- they're good at their jobs. They're entertaining. And I can appreciate that.
That said, watching Sean Hannity interview Sarah Palin on Fox News Wednesday night was just plain painful. It's one thing to watch Hannity serve as a propagandist, but watching him try to affect a network anchor's air of gravitas while doing it is fingernails-on-a-chalkboard-level grating.
And make no mistake, Hannity was pure propagandist on Wednesday night. There was no effort to ask a single tough question, no effort to follow up when Palin dodged a question or failed to offer specifics -- which was often. In fact, the only way in which he posed a challenge to Palin was by actually going too far in promoting her and John McCain or slamming Barack Obama and other Democrats, forcing Palin to walk back some of his statements. (For example, at one point Hannity implied that Palin had magically managed to run Alaska's government without a state sales tax or state income tax and still return money to the people of the state. In fact, as she explained, the government makes money off the oil drilling that goes on there, and shares excess revenue with residents, and that system was in place for years before Palin was elected.)
Really, perhaps the only interesting thing to come out of the interview was the story Palin told about asking her daughters to vote on whether she should join McCain's ticket. Telling the story of what she said her family's reaction to McCain's offer was, Palin said:
It was a time of asking the girls to vote on it, anyway. And they voted unanimously, yes. Didn't bother asking my son because, you know, he's going to be off doing his thing anyway, so he wouldn't be so impacted by, at least, the campaign period here. So ask the girls what they thought and they're like, "Absolutely. Let's do this, Mom."
That conflicts with the McCain camp's official story of how Palin's children were informed, not to mention the story Todd Palin told Fox's Greta Van Susteren in an interview broadcast Tuesday night. With a tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan, here's the account McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker gave on Friday, Aug. 29, the day Palin was announced as McCain's running mate:
At approximately 11:00 a.m. Thursday August 28, 2008, John McCain formally invited Governor Sarah Palin to join the Republican ticket as the vice presidential nominee on the deck of the McCain family home.
Later that morning, John McCain departed for Phoenix and Governor Palin departed with staff to Flagstaff, Arizona. Governor Palin, Kris Perry, Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter proceeded to the Manchester Inn and Conference Center in Middleton, Ohio. They were checked into the hotel as the Upton Family. While there, Governor Palin's children, who had been told they were going to Ohio to celebrate their parents' wedding anniversary, were told for the first time that their mother would be a nominee for Vice President of the United States of America.
Todd Palin told Van Susteren something similar. Asked, "And so when did the kids first finally get the official word?" Todd Palin responded, "When we got to Ohio."