[Updated]Sean Hannity is an oaf. A better interviewer, even a sympathetic one, would actually have asked Sarah Palin harder questions, so her self-centered flailing wouldn't have seemed so aimless on his Fox show Monday night (ideal programming to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, don't you think?).
Hannity let Palin insist she knew the meaning of "blood libel" -- the term used to describe the hateful myth that Jews killed Christian babies and used their blood in ritual. But Jews aren't the only victims, Sarah seemed to say. "Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused, or having blood on their hands," Palin insisted, though she did reference that other meaning of blood libel from medieval times.
Palin looked even angrier and more defiant than in her tone-deaf video from last week, confusing calls for more civility in politics with calls for censorship. Hannity actually asked if she thought maybe cross hairs and gun imagery might be retired from politics for a while -- by far his toughest question -- and she answered no. "Certainly I agree with the idea of being civil ... but we should not use an event like that in Arizona to stifle debate," Palin said. "They can't make us sit down and shut up. And if they succeeded in doing that our Republic would be destroyed."
Hannity bears some of the blame for the pity-party, because he set it up by telling her that he Googled "Sarah Palin" "Tucson shooting," and came up with "10,000 instances." Palin talked about her shock at learning she was being mentioned, "along with your name, Sean" and Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin and other right-wing blowhards. And so she had to stand up for these victims. She continued: "I know that a lot of those on the left hate my message, and they'll do all that they can to stop me" -- emphasis on "me," and her voice rose there, even though she said repeatedly it's not about her.
Interestingly, while Palin staffers have claimed that the cross hairs she used to target Gabrielle Giffords on a SarahPAC map in March were "surveyors' marks," Palin admitted "the graphic that was used was cross hairs." And she said it was "not inappropriate" for "a contract graphic artist" to take down the map when it became controversial. "It had nothing to do with an apolitical or perhaps even left-leaning criminal who killed these innocents and injured so many, I didn't have a problem having it taken down ... if in fact it got taken down." Got that? Whatever she said? Whether it was taken down or not? By whomever? Like the way she slipped in with no evidence the fact that Jared Loughner might have been left-leaning?
I know it's too much to expect of Hannity, but I'd love to have some interviewer, somewhere, ask Palin how she makes sense of the fact that Giffords herself complained about being in Palin's cross-hairs ad on MSNBC. "We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district, and when people do that, they've gotta realize there are consequences to that action," she told Chuck Todd last March. It's Giffords' own eerie reference to Palin that, in my opinion, made the media speculation about Palin's role relevant on the day of Giffords' attempted assassination.
Maybe if an interviewer gently confronted Palin with the fact that the Tucson Blue Dog Democrat had her office door shot or kicked in, that a man dropped a gun at one of her town halls, and that she was concerned by the uptick in rhetoric, concerned enough to mention Palin's cross-hairs ad -- maybe, just maybe, a skilled, sympathetic interviewer like Hannity could have coaxed a genuine human reaction out of Palin. Maybe it would make it harder for the former governor to pretend she's one of the victims of the tragedy. Maybe she'd even say to herself, "Gee, Gabby Giffords herself was worried about my cross-hairs map. She'd put up with a lot of crap, even threats and vandalism last year. Maybe I could have found better symbolism."
Hannity asked if she thought the controversy had hurt her political future. Unbelievably, she turned to Dr. King and quoted him saying, "A lie cannot live," apparently referring to the blame she's endured for contributing to the climate of violence that may have led to the Giffords shooting, and why she must confront it. Way to get beyond yourself, Sarah! I think she might have been participating in the Obama-recommended King holiday day of service -- to herself. She went on to insist: "I’m not ready to make an announcement as to what my political future is going to be."
I have to say: I don't think anyone's really hanging on that announcement anymore. Unbelievably, 35 percent of people in a CNN poll think Palin and her cross-hairs map had something to do with the Tucson violence, and an ABC News poll found 46 percent disapprove of the cross-hairs ad, while 78 percent liked President Obama's healing speech Wednesday night. I think Palin has sealed her fate as a divisive pundit and well-paid headliner on the Republican red-meat circuit, who will watch the 2012 race from the sidelines. Sean Hannity didn't help her cause tonight.
Watch it and decide for yourself:
Update: Michael Goldfarb, who assists Palin with media relations, emails to note that Palin did not actually say, "Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused, or having blood on their hands," as we originally transcribed it. Her actual statement was, "Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands." This post has been updated to reflect that.