Dave Weigel Has New Sympathy for Sarah Palin

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Dave Weigel tells his side of the story in Esquire: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sarah Palin (Kinda).

Over the first churning 48 hours of this whole mess, I resisted — and then accepted — a new sympathy for a politician I’d never pretended to admire much: Sarah Palin. A political celebrity who raises money and appears on TV needs the media in a way that a reporter doesn’t. But damn if I didn’t feel sorry for the way every utterance Palin ever makes is taffy-pulled and inspected for lies. During the trial of a boy who hacked into Palin’s private e-mail account, I reported a rumor while appearing on MSNBC — where I am now a contributor — that she had “perjured” herself on the stand. She hadn’t. She’d spoken correctly, if clumsily, about some of her old e-mails. Like I said: screwed, and then a new sympathy. (Of course, journalists would have had an easier time reaching me than Palin, who is notoriously difficult to get a comment from unless you happen to be a Fox News host.)

This is, obviously, a weird place to be. Lucky for me, it’s not a place that will prevent me from working again; it is not a place isolated from journalism. At one level it enhances the way I think about what I cover — I can’t imagine ever again writing about someone without manning up to get him or her to comment, or provide more context. (Or explain why the hell he wanted Matt Drudge to set himself on fire.)

But it’s not a place I want anyone else to visit. When I finished up the phone call with Strong, brutally aware that I was about to spend weeks or months carrying this burden, I realized that no one could take the same scrutiny and walk away looking saintly.

“I just hope,” I said, “that no one ever does this to you.”

I have a lot of sympathy with Weigel’s point here; people with various political motives have been examining my every comment with microscopes and ideological filters for years. I’ve learned to ignore 95% of it, but the reality is it comes with the territory.

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