Reporters offered two stunning takes on the Saran Palin bus tour. The surprising one came from CNN producer Peter Hamby. He noted that despite her hide-and-seek with the media, “once reporters tracked her down, Palin was eager to engage. At stop after stop after stop, she answered questions on everything from energy subsidies to the debt ceiling to her favorite brand of designer jeans.”
The strongly negative one was this sneering piece from Politico: “Sarah Palin’s tour a rolling menace.” (This was nasty enough to be spotlighted on MSNBC’s Last Word on Friday night.) Reporter Kasie Hunt breathlessly painted a picture of “harrowing” danger in traffic:
SEABROOK, N.H. — Sarah Palin’s bus is plastered with a mock-up of the U.S. Constitution. But her entourage — both the three-vehicle motorcade that includes the bus and the smaller, two-SUV version she uses for smaller events — hasn’t been very respectful of traffic laws.
They speed. They run red lights and stop signs. They make last-second lane changes to get off the highway, sometimes without signaling.
So do the reporters following them.
Journalists in the caravan trailing her “One Nation” tour bus describe the experience as harrowing, a rolling menace careening up the East Coast in hot pursuit of the former Alaska governor who declined to provide any advance itinerary of her tour over six days on the road.
As they left the clambake she attended Thursday in New Hampshire, Palin’s two-SUV caravan traveled at 52 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone as it peeled away from the hosts’ neighborhood. Both cars blew through a stop sign about a mile later. They did 70 mph in a 55 mph zone on I-95 — and then, after they got off, without signaling, flew right past a flashing sign informing them they were going 45 mph in a 35 mph zone.
Earth to Kasie: Most people describe driving 70 mph on I-95 as “average.” (People might pass you --annoyed at your alleged languor -- on some stretches.) Driving 45 in a 35 zone also is pretty average. Running a stop sign is far more serious...or was it a “rolling stop” where there was no traffic? (Given Hunt’s exaggeration of the other driving behavior, one should wonder.)
This raises another question: did Politico pay for a radar gun for this story? Or did they measure the old-fashioned way – by joining the 52-mph “peel away” from Palin’s clambake hosts? Regardless, it strongly smells of a get-Palin tone. The “rolling menace” story continued, including the detail that Palin was “forcing” reporters to become menaces, too:
On Tuesday, the bus nearly hit a biker turning off of Pine Street in Philadelphia.
On Wednesday, after a police escort led the bus through a closed section of the Lincoln Tunnel, the bus ran at least two red lights racing up Sixth Avenue and through Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan. Before long, a cop pulled up, pointing out to the first reporter trailing the bus how many lights they were running. The reporter apologized — but begged to stick with the bus. The perplexed cop let him go.
On Thursday, the story was much the same. Palin’s two SUVs — used for minor events and tight spaces — braved the tiny, winding streets of Boston’s North End. And when the bus joined them, the trailing car in the entourage ran two red lights after the bus barely made it through the yellow, as did the media caravan, leaving behind a traffic jam for the locals.
The reporters who are speeding, tailgating, cutting off other cars, blasting through roundabouts and passing on the right in an effort to keep up, say they have no other choice since they never know what Palin’s up to or where she’s headed — and aides typically won’t tell them anything. Once they’re on the road, they’re filing urgent updates by phone and figuring out unorthodox bathroom breaks, like the reporter who pulled over to relieve himself on the side of the highway going from Gettysburg, Pa., to Philadelphia — drawing notice from both Palin aides and the rest of the trailing press.
The ending was “perfect,” if by that, you mean, a perfect nasty summation. Politico both demeaned Palin as like Princess Diana and recalled Lady Di’s fatal car crash:
“It’s like paparazzi,” said one reporter who followed Palin to the Thursday evening clambake. “It’s like following Princess Diana.”
Kasie also brought this tone to her Twitter page: