The McCain campaign scrambled to take control of the public debate over vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin, canceling her public appearances and teaming her with high-powered Republican operatives as she prepared for a speech Wednesday night that will be her first, and perhaps most important, chance to define herself to the American public. [...]In Minnesota she has stayed out of the public eye, a contrast with Democratic vice-presidential pick Sen. Joe Biden, who milled about the convention in Denver last week. Gov. Palin refused media interviews and canceled plans to appear at the Republican National Coalition for Life Tuesday.
This includes steering clear of Republican activists at the convention -- Palin even skipped meeting with Alaska's delegation -- but it's more striking when it comes to the media. I've poked around, trying to find out which media outlets Palin has actually spoken to since accepting the invitation to join the Republican ticket, and as far as I can tell, she's chatted with a couple of Alaska radio stations and People magazine, but no major national news outlets.
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis refused to say when Palin might be available for interviews, saying only that this isn't a good time, because the media has adopted a "combative" attitude. Presumably, once reporters agree to stop asking pointed questions about Palin's controversial past, extremist beliefs, and unimpressive record, the campaign will gladly make the vice presidential nominee available for questions.
Palin's qualified to run the nation, and she's John McCain's purported "soulmate," but for the love of God, don't ask to actually engage her in an interview. Just assume that the McCain campaign wouldn't steer voters wrong.
There are a couple of angles to this. First, I suspect the McCain campaign probably isn't entirely confident in Palin's abilities quite yet, and the more they hide her, the more comfortable McCain's aides will feel. Second, Palin almost certainly is getting a crash-course in Federal Government 101, which is going to take a while. Usually, when governors seek national office, they take many months to become more familiar with federal issues and policies; Palin has a small fraction of that time. She hasn't demonstrated any knowledge of or interest in federal issues in her brief career, so it's safe to assume her tutorial sessions have been fairly intense.
And third, I imagine the McCain gang is managing expectations, building anticipation for tonight's speech in St. Paul. Keeping her hidden away might even be part of an effort to have the political world expect less from her convention address. (I tend to avoid predictions, but I'm going to guess that Palin's speech tonight will be strong, delivered well, and very well received.)
But avoiding the media, over the long run, is a recipe for disaster. It won't be long until people start asking, "If she's afraid of CNN, how can she be expected to take on serious global challenges?"