One of the key moments in “Colors” came when “Pacman,” the young hothead cop (Sean Penn) was incorrectly identified as the guy that mistakenly shot an innocent black kid during a raid gone wrong.  The word came down that the gangs, in retaliation, had “green-lit” Pacman for a retaliation payback assassination.

The other gang strike force cops protested that it wasn’t Pacman that had done the bad, stupid shooting – it was actually a cop who was Pacman’s enemy, and that they should tell the gangs the truth.

Bob Hodges (Robert Duvall), the grizzled old cop, says basically, “What difference does it make? If they think he did it – he did it.”

What does this 20-year-old gang movie have to do with the much-maligned Republican vice-presidential candidate?  Well, stick with me here. 

After watching Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, and in the interviews airing this week on NBC, it’s becoming increasingly clear that she’s not a complete and total doofus. Yeah, maybe she’s not a total policy wonk, able to spout off the import-export stats on Burkina Faso off the top of her head, but she’s clearly not as bad as her public image would lead you to believe. 

She can talk coherently, when she’s not so over-coached and micro-managed – it’s the panicking handlers’ fault that she comes off as a malfunctioning robot, spouting nonsensical phrases.  She’s never going to be one of our leading governmental minds, never going to have a memorial dedicated to her next to Jefferson or Lincoln … but she’s also not quite the drooling, babbling dimwit she appears to be.

It’s also clear that that doesn’t matter.

Palin arrived on the scene, basically a blank slate, tabula rasa.  The rollout of this new product at the GOP convention was greeted with a lot of fanfare – and initial euphoria.

In product marketing terms, the packaging was great.

The problem was that McCain’s handlers had nothing prepared beyond the initial product rollout.  Big initial marketing push, lots of glitz & glamor, the American people take the product into their homes …

…and that’s when the troubles began.

See, they really hadn’t thought this whole thing through.  They hadn’t prepared for what was going to come next.  In much the same way that the invasion of Iraq was botched because nobody who was (allegedly) in charge stopped to ask, “And then what? After we destroy the Iraqi army and take over the country … then what?  What’s going to happen next?”

In retrospect, this all becomes sickeningly clear.

Again, in product terms – the American people took this into their homes and tried to figure out what made it tick. The media, doing their jobs, tried to figure out what this newcomer to the scene was all about.  And, in response, the Republican party had prepared … nothing.

You’d think they’d have the equivalent of what NBC does for the Olympics for the athletes – little pre-shot segments of the athlete at home, in training, interviews with family and coaches talking about the dedication that was needed for this underdog athlete to brave the odds and pursue her dreams… c’mon, you can see this in your mind’s eye already, right? All leading to a flatteringly lit scene with the athlete sitting in a loveseat with her adoring husband in front of a cozy fireplace, talking about the day she almost succumbed to her self-doubts, but (choking up a bit here), her faith in herself and the support of her family (stifled sob) carried her through…

If that had happened in the three weeks after Palin was introduced to us, we’d be having a completely different conversation about this election right now.

Instead, there were the disastrous interviews with Katie Couric, which led to the skits on Saturday Night Live.  After the first skit, there was still a chance that Palin might be able to turn things around.

And then came this little gem from last night:

This pretty much sealed it.

Palin’s image is now cemented.  She’s a doofus who, along with her fellow odious doofus, George W. Bush, is costing McCain his shot at the presidency.

It doesn’t matter anymore if she’s not what we think she is. In much the same way that it no longer matters whether or not Al Gore invented the internet, or Dick Cheney personally subjects prisoners to torture. 

We think they do, so they do.

A lot of this damage was caused by the ham-handed way the McCain campaign dealt with the New Media. They’ve been late to that party this entire campaign. I don’t know if that’s because McCain doesn’t understand this medium, doesn’t care, or if the handlers that were so adept at playing the media back in ’04 have gotten fat & lazy with their successes.

And yeah – the selection of Palin without having a plan to deal with What Comes Next is indeed an indictment of McCain and his decision-making process (one of the key objections that just won’t go away). Snap decisions that later wind up being disastrous? I think we’ve had just about enough of them these last eight years…

In the movie Colors, Pacman is saved only because a prisoner rats out the plot to kill him, and the gangs attention then turns to silencing the rat.  I don’t see any possible equivalent on the horizon that can save Palin, particularly in light of the recent revelations about her shopping habits, the cost of her makeup person, the fact that she and her husband are having to testify under oath today in “Troopergate,” and damn, just about everything else.  Her image has been set, the die is cast, and from this point forward, all information that comes out that affirms our collective perception of Palin as a moron will get accepted and spread around, while contrary information is buried under the weight of all the “Can you believe what just came out of her mouth this time?”

Oh yeah – for safety’s sake – here’s the segment from Colors that I linked to above – damn YouTube links have been kinda sketchy lately.  Enjoy the cheesy party scene.  I can’t figure out if the redheaded kid is Carrot Top, or the villain from “Children of the Corn.” Both?

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