It's a tawdry scenario that has become one of the more depressing clichés of our modern media era: an attractive but naive young woman, eager to succeed in show business, falls into the hands of a Svengali who convinces her to perform unnatural acts on videotape with vague promises that it will advance her career. The video, long forgotten, resurfaces when the young woman, now older, wiser, and more respectable, comes into the public eye and is passed around via the Internet, not only among perverts and teenaged boys, but among the general public, as well.
No, I'm not talking about the Verne Troyer sex tape. I'm speaking of another disturbing bit of footage, one that has almost as much potential to damage our collective psyche, which began circulating among political insiders earlier this week. The video in question (which can be seen at below) shows a young Sarah Palin, then Sarah Heath, reading a sportscast during her brief stint as a local broadcaster at KTUU in Anchorage back in 1988.
In the video, Palin displays the basic facility with TelePrompTer reading that served her well in her speech at the Republican convention. Unfortunately, her rudimentary newsreading ability -- along with her eye-catching Valerie Bertinelli hairdo -- makes it very difficult to evaluate what Palin actually knows or doesn't know about sports. A segment on the Iditarod dogsled race seems competent enough, as one might expect from an Alaskan newscast, but a round-up of baseball scores is shakier, with Palin repeating faux-spontaneous lines that seem to have been written for her. Alaska, of course, lacks a professional baseball franchise, which could account for Palin's hesitancy in dealing with a phenomenon confined to the lower 48. An unscripted back-and-forth with the anchorman at the close is confusing and superficial, foreshadowing Governor Palin's encounter with Charlie Gibson twenty years later.
I will leave it to the professional sports reporting critics to examine this incriminating tape in greater detail. But for those who have viewed the rise of Sarah Palin with some alarm, it does offer some context. The past, as Shakespeare tells us, is prologue and we can hear an echo of the current state of things in this antique video. Back then, Palin was appointed to a role traditionally given to a man based not on her ability and qualifications but on her appearance and novelty value. It was a publicity stunt. And although the ploy succeeded for a time and she was warmly received at first by the nightly news audience, her allure soon faded. In a few months, she was quietly replaced and forced to fall back on her second choice career: becoming vice-president of the United States.
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