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Free Sarah Palin!

To do interviews, I mean. That's the cry you're hearing from the Fourth Estate, and it's one I agree with . . . as a reporter. But if I were a McCain campaign strategist, I wouldn't let Palin within a hundred feet of a reporter asking a question--which, of course, is precisely what the McCain campaign is doing. What's the upside? She's already a celebrity based on one speech, and she can keep on giving versions of that same speech during McCain campaign events and stoking her celebrity. Who knows how she'd handle herself in an interview? And even if she did well, would that really get her (or McCain) that many more votes? Sadly, I think the answer is probably no. If she did badly, though, then her star comes crashing back to earth.

A few days ago--when I thought Palin was on the verge of becoming the next Dan Quayle--I went into Nexis and read the coverage of Quayle's VP rollout in 1988. The thing that struck me most was just how accessible Quayle was to the media in the days after his nomination--and it was his accessibility that caused him so many problems. He did long, gaffe-filled interviews with the network anchors and, most infamously, he participated in that press conference with H.W. Bush, where, confronted with questions about enlisting in the National Guard rather than going to Vietnam, he infamously replied, "I did not know in 1969 that I would be in this room today I'll confess."

Looking back on it now, the amount of media access the Bush campaign afforded to Quayle actually seemed quaint, reminding me that there was a time when political campaigns (even ones that constantly complained about liberal media bias, as Bush's did) recognized that the press performed a vital role in a democracy. But, of course, in the case of Quayle, that media access proved disastrous. Indeed, I almost have the feeling that if Bush 41 had simply kept Quayle as sequestered as the McCain people are keeping Palin, he would have been fine. After all, the speech Quayle gave to the '88 convention wasn't that bad.

--Jason Zengerle