In the 1970s, "The Boys on the Bus" exposed how a clubby pack of male political reporters ruled the road to the White House and shaped the news. Four decades later, an outsider gal from Alaska has commandeered the 2012 media bus -- and left Beltway journalism insiders eating her dust. We've come a long way, baby.
Amid frenzied speculation over her potential presidential campaign plans, former GOP Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin launched an all-American road trip with her family this Memorial Day weekend. Establishment media types didn't get reserved seats or advance notice of her itinerary. Palin rubbed the Washington media mob's institutional sense of entitlement right back in its face. "I don't think I owe anything to the mainstream media. I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this," she jabbed.
Robbed of the reflexive genuflection customarily paid by publicity-seeking candidates to the political press, scribes, cameramen and producers on the campaign trail began howling louder than the Rolling Thunder Harleys that Palin rode along with on Sunday in Washington, D.C. One miffed CBS News producer, Ryan Corsaro, pouted that the O.J. Simpson-style media caravan giving chase to Palin had created hazardous working conditions for all the intrepid news correspondents.
"I just hope to God that one of these young producers with a camera whose bosses are making them follow Sarah Palin as a potential Republican candidate don't get in a car crash, because this is dangerous," Corsaro said. Puh-lease. As if traveling America's highways to historic tourist spots were akin to driving in an armored tank on Baghdad's road of death.
In Philadelphia, a pair of news helicopters braved treacherous conditions to monitor the enemy on the ground. Soon, editors tracking the story from their cubbies will be filing workers' comp claims asserting exposure to secondhand exhaust fumes from Palin's bus. And I'm counting the minutes until some cub reporter double-parks somewhere in hot pursuit of Team Sarah and demands that she pay his ticket. I mean, how dare Palin "make them follow" her!
As my friend and blogging colleague Doug Powers put it: "Reporters whining about Palin are like kids who can't reach the cookie jar because she keeps moving it."
For more than two years, Palin-bashing journalists (on the establishment left and the right) have mocked the conservative supernova while milking her for headlines, circulation, viewership and Web traffic.
They lambaste her as trivial, while obsessing over her shoes, glasses and hair -- and turning one of her misspelled words on Twitter into Watergate.
They label her a grievance-monger for calling out media double standards and then kvetch, moan and wallow in a pool of self-pity when she doesn't spoon-feed them coveted political scoops.
They call her dumb and then run around in circles trying to figure out her "mystery" tour and blame her for "faking them out."
They blast her for incompetence, but grudgingly acknowledge that she is a master of social media who has changed the rules of the presidential campaign game.
The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta griped that "reality TV star Palin" was "treating pol reporters like paparazzi -- needing and hating, inviting and making chase." Perhaps Franke-Ruta needs a reminder of what a truly parasitic press-pol relationship looks like. I have stacks of Obama 2008 profiles exulting over his glistening pecs and soaring oratorical skills, followed by countless spurned-lover laments from reporters disappointed about the control freaks who stage-manage his every press appearance.
What makes Sarah stand out in the national GOP field is that she is beholden to no one and controls her own destiny. She doesn't need media kingmakers to make her. They need her. She doesn't need newspaper or TV producers to drive her story. She drives them. Crazy.
The unhinged reaction of the Palin-hating convoy reveals what its attendants fear most: a politician who doesn't fear them.