It’s morning in America, and Sarah Palin’s on ‘Today’

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If once upon a time the world was a stage, it now often seems like an endless audition tape, especially for Sarah Palin. Mayor, governor, vice presidential candidate, author, blogger, political commentator, reality star and now guest-host of Tuesday’s ‘Today’ show.

Palin may have nothing good to say about the media or popular culture, but she appears to be quite happy to embody the corset-loosening effect those forces have had on the definition of political leadership. When Matt Lauer interviewed Christie Brinkley about her upcoming return in “Chicago,” I cannot have been the only one thinking: Hmmm, Sarah as Roxie … could work; she certainly looks good with a gun in her hand.

Actually, if Palin is shopping around for a new job, and not treasuring some wild hope of rising like a phoenix at this year’s Republican convention, a morning show like “Today” would not be a bad choice. Whatever personal teeth-gritting it required — Lauer did not look pleased when, after her initial appearance, Palin was installed in his dressing room — the “Today” team seemed to have a humanizing effect on the former governor.

She allowed herself to be shot “prepping” for her interview by reading a pile of newspapers and not only joked about being taken for Tina Fey, but conceded that she thought Fey’s famous mid-campaign impersonations of her were funny.


This is a huge step for Palin, whose sense of humor has previously seemed confined to tear-down humor aimed at liberals, the media and the president. The Palin who appeared on the ‘Today’ show still held the ultra-conservative line — during her initial sit-down with Lauer, she skirted his question about her feelings for Mitt Romney by repeating that ‘anyone’ was better than President Obama and his “socialist policies.”

But for perhaps the first time, there was a smidge of self-deprecation as she discussed the perils of raising teenage girls and the scrutiny women face about their weight, both during and after pregnancy. She even managed to keep a straight face during a party-planning session with Tori Spelling, and that kind of hosting gravitas normally takes years to achieve. In fact, when the discussion turned to the precarious state of the Oprah Winfrey Network, Palin made a good point by suggesting that Winfrey consider diversifying with some conservative voices. But after she quickly added the expansion should include ‘true patriots,’ the moment was ruined.

In fact, the best moment of the morning -- besides the look on Lauer’s face when Palin picked up his “hair product” -- came not when she told Lauer that people shouldn’t put their faith in a single politician because “a politician will disappoint you,” but when the conversation during the “young professionals” segment turned to the new Facebook ability to “enemy” something. Although no one seemed to remember that Facebook was invented as a vehicle for invective, they were all happy to weigh in on the nasty nature of social discourse.

When Donnie Deustch essentially said that politicians set the negative tone and that Palin’s “anyone but Obama” fell into the category of divisive politics, Palin calmly disagreed, saying that it simply opened up the discussion for an alternative.

If NBC was hoping to juice its ratings by getting the grizzly to roar, well, they were no doubt disappointed. But love her or hate her, Palin is a woman with a unique life experience, and considering that her biggest strength has always been the ability to connect with people who often feel overlooked, morning television would not be the worst fit.

Maybe, if Al Roker asked her nicely, she could quit with the whole “real Americans/true patriots” thing. Because morning television understands what many of our current politicians do not: No matter what the local news or weather may be, in terms of the big stories, we’re all in it together.


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-- Mary McNamara