As the current crop of frustrating – and probably doomed – Republican candidates runs around, trying to organize the deck chairs on the good ship Titanic, there’s a continuing sideshow which both attracts and repulses me. It’s a “sideshow” because it can’t possibly be a “story” in anyone’s definition.

And that is the love-hate relationship between Sarah Palin and the national media. In my estimation, as in most such match-ups, there will be an angry fallout in the end as one destroys the other. My money’s on the media surviving.

Palin delights in kicking the media’s backside. And the media keeps coming back, saying “Do it again. Oh, please, again. Just one more time.” She does and the sick relationship continues another day.

Because of this abnormal condition, whenever she deigns to enter public view, the sycophants with cameras and microphones help her suck up all the oxygen in any given room. The rest of the candidates can climb on chairs, do back-flips off the head table and present whatever their message de jure might be, but Sarah-baby’s presence in the neighborhood at the same time will leave ‘em all alone.

This is not politics. This is marketing. Absolutely pure marketing. This is not a possible presidential candidate “testing the electoral waters.” This is Jack LaLanne or the late Billy Mays or Ron Popiel hawking the latest Ronco gadget, a whizbang new blender or battery acid remover. She just holds up the product – her – and the marketing folks spin and spin. And spin some more. Almost always for free.

She calls the media degrading names. They love it. She travels without an advance itinerary – advance appearance schedules are standard campaign must-dos – and the media camps out here, there and everywhere else without a clue, waiting for the magical moment the right wing Tinker Bell may actually show up. Her people say she’s going to be here, but she shows up over there. They love it! She signs up for a speech, then cancels. “Oh, do it again,” comes the media chant.

I give the woman very low marks – just above Michelle Bachmann – for her qualifications to even be in a campaign, much less the possibility of actually becoming President of the United States. A certain disaster in heels. But she takes a backseat to no one in her ability to grab a product off the shelf and put it right in your face with the message, “Ya gotta have this!.”

Rather than appearing with presidential candidates, her peers are Brittney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton and Snookie. The model is purely interchangeable. Each is a paparazzi delight for a few months or a couple of years. Each has – or will – return to anonymity when the 15 minutes of personality fame are over.

There have been some very qualified women in national politics in my lifetime: Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton, Margaret Chase Smith, Olympia Snowe, Helen Gahagen Douglas and a few others. Though each had a strong personality – a requirement to be successful in politics – each was professionally capable because she was equipped for the job by study, intelligence and dedication.

Anyone see Ms. Palin fitting into that list? Now? Ever?

Marketing is essential in politics. We call it “campaigning” but it really is nothing more than regularly exposing the “product” to see if we want to “buy” it. Nobody gets anywhere in politics without marketing.

But in Palin’s case, I call it the “$19.95 syndrome.” All that stuff you see on your TV for $19.95 is marketed. We don’t know which Chinese factory it came from or whether it’s durable or even if it works the way that TV pitch guy shows it. Often, after you’ve paid your $19.95 and open the box at home, you try to use it once and it winds up in the garbage.

Palin is a $19.95 marketer first class. I gotta give her that. You can’t get from Wasilla to nightly spots on the news networks without knowing how to pitch the product. Even if the product is a person. Either she has the talent for it or she has found someone she trusts who can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. She’s raking in the big bucks and has absolutely no desire to give up millions for a job that is one of the toughest and most demanding in the world.

No, Sir. What you’ve got here is hat but no cattle. Sizzle but no steak. Buyer beware.

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