She's smacking back at her critics in a string of interviews, but I can't see how she's changing any minds.

Published November 12, 2008 11:35AM (EST)

How can we miss her if she won't go away? The Sarah Palin rehabilitation tour began as soon as the election ended, but so far, I'm not being won over by her attempted charm offensive. I expected Fox's Greta van Susteren to pander to her, given her employer, but I was a little surprised at Matt Lauer's friendly, supportive probing as he ate dinner with the Palin family in the kitchen in Wasilla, and tried to help the former Veepzilla tell her side of the story.

Let me say first: I agree with Palin on one thing: the anonymous McCain advisors who've savaged her since she became a drag on their ticket are cowards and jerks. Whatever her flaws, McCain is to blame for all of them, because he's the one who "went rogue" and picked her with inadequate vetting. I've said that before. But Palin isn't particularly helping her case with these interviews. If you like her, you'll like what she has to say. If you don't like her, or more relevant, don't think she ever had what it takes to be vice-president: Well, nothing in either interview will reassure you.

Hands down her worst performance came in a "Web-only" video where Lauer asks Palin about the infamous Katie Couric interview, and whether it took a toll on her confidence. She tells Lauer no, but adds: "I think it also showed, though, that certainly as a Washington outsider and not one to just I guess play even the campaigning media game that is played, in just repeating, perhaps, memorized lines in a, in a interview, that's not me." Read that again. Trademark Palin grammar, and totally unconvincing. Answering questions about foreign policy and Supreme Court decisions isn't a matter of rote memorization, it's a matter of knowledge, depth, intellectual curiosity and experience that she clearly doesn't have.

She was also borderline dishonest about the issue of whether she looked into banning books while she was Wasilla mayor, using as "proof" the fact that some people claimed she wanted to ban the "Harry Potter" series, even though it was written after she was mayor. In fact, Salon interviewed a Wasilla minister who said his book, "Pastor, I Am Gay," was on Palin's hit list. Palin can say Howard Bess is lying, but she's choosing to address only the most ludicrous claims against her. Not convincing.

She was also unconvincing when she downplayed talk of campaign infighting and dysfunction -- and then gave Lauer a great example of it. She told the story of working with two speechwriters on a version of a concession speech to give in Phoenix. But she admits she didn't know until she was walking up to the stage that she wouldn't be allowed to give it. That's dysfunction. And even though I'm sympathetic to Palin's complaints about McCain advisors' anonymous claims that she sent aides out shopping for her, her defense won't rise beyond "he said, she said" sniping until she's willing to name some names, herself. Who bought the clothes? Who does she think is behind the leaks? I'm sure she knows.

But the saddest part for me was the interview with little Piper, who tells Matt Lauer she didn't like campaign rallies, missed her friends and fell behind in school. But when Mommy asks if she'd like to do it again in 2012, Piper says sure. I found myself asking: Why wasn't Piper home attending school, like the Obama daughters did most of the time? Was Todd Palin enjoying the campaign trail too much to stay home with the family?

I'm hoping I can put Sarah Palin behind me, although she's got a big star turn Wednesday at the Republican Governor's Association meeting, including a press conference. Clearly she thinks she's ready for prime time, and that the McCain campaign hid her light under a bushel. So we'll be seeing more of her in the weeks to come. Given her plummeting poll numbers at the end of the campaign, it's just more good news for Democrats that she's fighting to emerge as a party leader in the wake of McCain's shellacking.


By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections