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Palin Seeks to Evoke Presidential Aura in Video Message

Palin Seeks to Evoke Presidential Aura in Video Message

By Scott Conroy - January 12, 2011

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin released a lengthy video statement on Wednesday morning in which she discussed her reaction to the tragic shooting spree in Tucson on Saturday and the political discourse that has developed in its aftermath.

Released on the day when President Obama is scheduled to travel to Arizona to pay his respects to the shooting victims and deliver remarks near the scene of the carnage, Palin's video message appeared designed to present a measured tone and to conjure up a stately image, as she spoke directly to camera with an American flag placed conspicuously over her left shoulder.

The immediate reaction to the video message has focused on Palin's media criticism, particularly her warning that journalists and pundits should not use the mass murder and attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) to "manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."

The phrase "blood libel" has traditionally been used to describe anti-Semitic uproars, in which Jews were falsely accused of sacrificing Christian children for their blood.

But at least as notable in a political context was the video's production quality and format, which somewhat resembled an opposition party's response to a State of the Union address.

The video was unlike anything Palin has released to the public before and suggested that the former Republican vice presidential nominee was seeking to project herself in a manner befitting a judicious and accommodating leader -- and perhaps a presidential candidate.

"Our exceptional country -- so vibrant with ideas and passionate exchange and debate of ideas -- it's a light to the rest of the world," Palin said in the nearly eight-minute long video. "Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic's core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It's inexcusable, incomprehensible why a single, evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day."

The timing of the video's release was sure to dominate the political discourse online and on cable news just hours before Obama is scheduled to take center stage, suggesting that Palin has sought once again to become the standard bearer for the Republican Party on a controversial issue of national significance.

Until Wednesday, Palin's reaction to the Arizona tragedy had been uncharacteristically muted. After releasing a short statement in the shooting's immediate aftermath, the former Alaska governor relied on an aide to make the case that the map her political action committee had released during the midterm elections actually featured "surveyor's symbols," rather than crosshairs over targeted districts -- a suggestion that was widely ridiculed, considering Palin's own descriptions of the map that evoked gun imagery.

Palin then relied on her conservative media ally Glenn Beck to read on the air from an email she had sent him, which condemned violence in general and disparaged the reaction from those who had sought to pin the blame on her.

In the video message released on Wednesday, Palin attempted to strike a balance between seeking a more accommodating and sober tone in light of the tragedy in Tucson, while refusing to cede ground in her argument in favor of lively and often provocative political discourse.

"No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent," Palin said. "And we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good, and we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedom by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults."

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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