Sunday, July 5, 2009

Palin's speech had shades of Nixon, circa '62

By Andrew Malcolm and Johanna Neuman
July 5, 2009
The announcement by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that she was bowing out of Alaska politics on the eve of the Fourth of July left a lot of people scratching their heads. Palin's friends report that she is genuinely sick of the attacks that seem to be part of the fabric of national politics these days.

But Palin's hastily announced news conference also had all the earmarks of Richard Nixon's famous concession speech in 1962, after he lost the campaign for California governor to Democrat Pat Brown. Nixon's rant was also a last-minute affair. Reporters had been told that Nixon -- a former congressman and senator who served as Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice president from 1952 to 1960 and lost the 1960 presidential race to John F. Kennedy -- would not be making a public appearance.

Instead, Nixon surprised even his staff by taking the microphone and, at the end of a rambling, 16-minute discourse on national and state politics, he dramatically left the stage:

"I leave you gentleman now and you will write it. You will interpret it. That's your right. But as I leave you I want you to know -- just think how much you're going to be missing. You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference, and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you."

Like Nixon, Palin seemed fraught with emotion. Like Nixon, she seemed angry at her critics.

Of course to the surprise of his detractors, Nixon recovered. He spent the next six years stumping the country, piling up chits from grateful politicians who benefited from his endorsements, chits he cashed in during his successful 1968 run for the presidency.

Palin gave no hints of her future, except to say that a person can influence from outside the electoral process as well as inside the governor's office. Maybe Palin, who landed on the national political map in August when Republican John McCain plucked her from Wasilla, Alaska, as his vice presidential running mate, is planning to follow the Nixon playbook on that front too.

Fox News has Obama to thank

President Obama may be obsessed with the critical coverage of Fox News, as often reported. But the cable news channel sure must love him.

The latest ratings out for the second quarter show that the top-rated FNC had one of the best quarters in its history, with prime-time ratings jumping an astounding 34%. That 8-to-11 p.m. slot, which includes Fox's showcase "The O'Reilly Factor," is crucial for viewers -- and ad dollars.

Throughout the viewing day, Fox News did even better, with its 1.2 million viewers, on average, more than doubling CNN's 598,000 and more than tripling MSNBC's 392,000.

Loyal Ticket readers will recall back in May when White House official Kareem Dale revealed in a speech that MSNBC was the Obama administration's favorite TV channel. And that liberal affection seems to have rubbed off on Obama backers, helping the NBC outlet to barely squeak past CNN in weekday prime-time average audience, 946,000 to 939,000.

Will Lakers fans forgive Obama?

Chicagoan and basketballophile Obama appears to be writing off the California vote in 2012, at least the basketball fans around Los Angeles.

In a pre-holiday interview with the Associated Press, Obama was asked who was the better player -- six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan or four-time champion Kobe Bryant?

Without a moment's hesitation, the ex-senator from Illinois blurted out, "Oh, Michael!"

Then, apparently realizing what he'd said and the profound effect on any 2012 election, the new president hastened to add: "I mean, Kobe's terrific. Don't get me wrong. But I haven't seen anybody match up with Jordan yet."

Too late.

Obama correctly picked the Los Angeles Lakers to thump the Orlando whatevers in the NBA Finals this year. And he was also right in picking North Carolina to win the NCAA championship this spring.

But then he also picked tax delinquent Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services.

Now, we'll see how the left-handed White Sox fan does on the mound at the upcoming All-Star Game in St. Louis.

Neuman writes for The Times.

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