You can’t plan an ad lib.

Election 2008I was all fired up last night about “clean coal” after watching Palin’s speech at the RNC. Obama also talked about “clean coal” in his speech last week, and it seriously bothered me. There is no such thing as “clean coal”, kids. But nobody that listened to the two nominees is talking about that. What Americans should be thinking is, “Wow! The ‘clean coal’ lobby must be pretty powerful if they managed to get their topic mentioned in two of the most important political speeches of the election this year!” But, no, most people simply heard both candidates use the term “clean coal” and will assume it must be pretty good, since everyone likes stuff that’s clean.

But what really bothered me the most about Palin’s speech was a comment in Mara Liasson’s story covering it in on NPR this morning. Liasson referenced Palin’s little joke comparing hockey moms to pit bulls and called it an ad lib. Did Liasson watch the speech? That was not an ad lib, it wasn’t even close. Being able to gracefully ad lib is a tremendous skill and should be respected. Palin didn’t ad lib that joke at all. Please. There was a clear pause while she waited for the — most likely planned — chants of “hockey mom!” to begin so she could deliver her joke. It was so awkward that I had time to wonder, “Why is she pausing?” And then she made her joke.

I don’t care that the joke wasn’t that funny. I don’t even care that much about the media ignoring the “clean coal” issue. What I do care about is irresponsible journalism, especially when it comes to misrepresentation of oratorical skill. Mara Liasson’s incorrect use of the term ad lib amounts to a tacit congratulation of an act that didn’t occur, and that makes my blood boil. Palin may very well be an astoundingly good public speaker who can ad lib at the drop of a hat, but her hockey mom joke wasn’t an example of it.

2024-01-21: Broken links in this post have been removed and/or updated.

There are 2 comments on this post

  1. Press calling the pitbull joke an ad lib are at least technically correct in that the joke did not come from her teleprompter. This is simply a documented fact as the telepromt script goes out as an advance copy to the press and doesn’t change afterwards. I cannot say whether the joke was something that Mrs. Palin planned beforehand, but it was not on her teleprompter.

    Also, I find your logic concerning her “pause” faulty. It did not come off to me as Mrs. Palin waiting for any chanting, but rather the natural pause she might have before deciding whether she wanted to deliver the joke or not (whether it was preplanned or not). Perhaps she was waiting for chanting, but I don’t think it necessarily was so.

    BTW – I really do generally like your blog. It is a shame that many people (like myself) don’t send feedback until they disagree with someone. =)

  2. Also, concerning “clean” coal. I think of “clean” coal like I think of “safe” sex. There is no such thing. There is such a thing as cleaner coal and safer sex though, and both are better than the alternatives.

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