There was a big deal recently when Sarah Palin was paid 100,000 dollars to give a populist speech at the Tea Party convention. The hubbub wasn't over the irony, it was over the fact that she had notes written on her hand. You know, like in high school when you're too lazy to remember five words for an exam so you write them down. She wrote “Energy" “Tax” and “Lift American Spirits”. She had also written "budget cuts" but apparently that was too complicated of an idea so she crossed out the word budget.
Like most people I took having to write down notes on your hand as a stupid move for a politician to do. She was railing against President Obama using a teleprompter to give speeches (which they all do), and using sickeningly folksy phrases like "hopey changey", and generally being phony. Although in the sense of full disclosure, for 100 thousand dollars I'll be happy to add -ey to any wordey.
But, most people focused on the notes on the hand and not on anything else. As Fred Conrad writing for the New York Times phrased it, her "sleight of hand". After reading his article, I couldn't help but realize that we had all fallen into the trap that Sarah Palin had set. She is aware of the image that the media (excluding her employer, Fox News) has of her: unintelligent, hypocritical, lack of ideas, etc. And she used her self-awareness of that image to manipulate the media into reporting the story that she wanted reported instead of one of potentially damaging substance.
It reminds me of an argument I was having with someone recently. I thought I was being persuasive and winning the argument, but made the mistake of letting the other person define the terms and set the tone without realizing it. As soon as we were discussing things using the phrasing and on the terms he had chosen, the argument was over and he had won. Point being, that feeling when you think "wow they've left themselves wide open and vulnerable" probably means they're just setting a trap.
Side note: perhaps the small act of Sarah Palin scribbling over the word budget is showing the difference between how people perceive "budget cuts" versus "spending cuts". Everyone is in favor of spending cuts (that is, cuts in programs we dont' use) but budget cuts is a less popular phrase because it implies cuts in services that one uses.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/opinion/14rich.html?em is the column from the NYT that made me think about what she had done.