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September 4, 2008
Hi Mom! I'm on Al Jazeera
Thomas Lifson, publisher and editor of American Thinker, emailed me Wednesday morning and asked me if I wanted to appear on Al Jazeera (world-wide Arab TV in English a nd Arabic). I thought about emailing him back and telling him, "I got this bridge in Brooklyn...." I said "yes" instead.
Lifson put me in touch with Al Jazeera's headquarters in DC. They were looking for a female blogger to defend Sarah Palin's speech in a televised debate. I convinced them that I was their woman ... er ... man.
Cicily Scott, a personable young woman who became my handler for Al Jazeera from DC, told me that I would need special credentials to get into the sky box studio. "You need a special pass," she told me. "I am trying to get you a special pass."
I spent a good part of the day scrambling for credentials I didn't really need. None of the security people for the RNC had a clue what "special pass" I was talking about. (Nor did they give me any reassuring looks when I told them I needed the pass to get on Al Jazerra.) I did not understand this yet, but the "special pass" did not exist. Turned out that the guest pass that the Idaho Republican Party had provided for me was good enough -- but I would not discover this until after I had finished the debate.
So I snuck and dodged security. I finally found a sign that said Al Jazeera. Sarah Palin's speech was an hour away. I quietly opened the door and stepped inside. I heard people speaking Arabic. I told myself, you can get through this in Hebrew -- even if it has been twenty five years since you've really spoken it -- but you can't do it in Arabic. (I also had some unpleasant thoughts about Thomas Lifson, but I'll not rehearse them here.)
One of the staff in the studio spoke English. (He was from Minnesota.) He explained that there were two Al Jazeeras, English and Arabic. "Where's Al Jazeera English", I asked him. He had no idea.
I called Cicily in DC (or maybe she called me) and asked where the English version of her network was located. "I think they're in with NBC," she told me.
"Did you get me the special pass?" I asked her.
"No," she replied. Cicily gave me the number of someone named "Hebora" (not certain of the spelling - never really clear on the pronunciation either.) Hebora might have a special pass, I was assured.
I called Hebora (or maybe she called me). She confirmed the location, gave me directions, and asked me if I had the special pass needed for access to the studio. I almost told her that I thought that she was supposed to give me the special pass. But I was getting tired of the search for the ever elusive (and non-existent) "special pass." I told her, "I've got the special pass." With the help of the AJ staff, I found the door to Al Jazeera English/NBC just before Sarah Palin took the stage.
I made my way to the front of the gallery and sat on the first of the two steps that lead down to the narrow landing of the sky box. Palin appeared. The crowd went wild.
Two Caucasian women, NBC staff, sat at my left. Two Arabic women, Al Jazeera, sat to my right. I was deep in enemy territory. I was thinking again of Lifson.
The Al Jazeera employees listened intently to Palin's magnificent speech. They asked me questions about her and about Idaho. (I told them I lived in the state where Sarah was born.) Though they clearly disagreed with her, they were just as clearly impressed.
Meanwhile, on my left, the two NBC gals were snarling at Palin like rabid dogs. They were vulgar and demeaning; they were, as we say in Idaho, downright disgusting.
I was suddenly, and sincerely, grateful that I was debating someone on Al Jazeera ... instead of NBC.
Sarah's speech ended. I was rushed in front of the camera. "One minute to air," someone said. The cameraman handed me the headphones with attached microphone. I stuck them on.
I could barely make out a voice coming from the left earpiece. Great, I thought, that's the ear that's partially deaf.
"Thirty seconds. Can you hear?" the cameraman asked.
"Nothing coming out of the right earpiece," I answered.
"Only the left. In five ... four...."
I was on world-wide television ... and I couldn't hear a thing. Don't even think of thinking about Lifson, I told myself.
I stared at the ground trying hard to pick out a word or two of the question. It dawned on me that since I was on world-wide television looking into the camera wasn't a bad idea. I sort of heard my opponent. She was speaking a lot louder than the moderator. I was pretty sure I heard my name. I definitely heard the silence. Must be my turn to answer the question I didn't hear.
I stumbled with the first reply. (It wasn't really a reply, more like a fishing expedition.) Remember to look into the camera while you make a fool of yourself, I thought.
It sounded like the moderator was trying to ask another question. I shut up.
I decided I was going to wait until I heard my name and then just speak from my heart.
Silence again. Must be my turn. "Sarah Palin believes that her baby, her Down Syndrome baby, is a gift from God."
That's more like it, I told myself. I was on Al Jazeera.
(Very special shout out and thanks to Thomas Lifson. He is a man I deeply respect -- even when I am having those unpleasant thoughts.)
Larrey Anderson is covering the RNC in Minnesota for American Thinker. His latest award winning novel is The Order of the Beloved.