That David Letterman's Sarah Palin joke was not in good taste goes without question. It was, and he--as he now admits--should have cut it. The image of some Yankee star messing around with a 14-year-old girl may well make some people laugh, but the implications aren't the stuff of comedy, but exploitation and abuse.
Sarah Palin remains a largely mysterious presence on the American political stage. She has the virtue of being darlingly photogenic, but seems to delight in using the cameras that love her in ways that have made her more of a celebrity than a statesman. Millions think her the answer to just about every Republican misfortune; on the other hand, millions more sometimes aren't sure if anyone's home in that pretty head of hers.
Now that the dust has settled (we hope!), it seems clear that both Palin and Letterman profited from Letterman's bad taste joke--Ms. Palin by keeping those beloved cameras flashing all around her, and Letterman by whacking Conan O'Brien in the late-night talk-show ratings for the very first time since Leno left. Scandal and gossip is just another form of news, after all, and we're all looking to stay on top of things. Media delivers the goods, what we want, when we want it--no question.
And think of this. Today, our news out of Iran comes by way of Twitter. "The evil empire" seems to be imploding; time will tell whether or not the protests amount to anything vis-a-vis the election, but whatever news we get from the streets comes from a social messaging utility that spits out info in news bites of no more than 140 characters. Say what you'd like about tweets, but right now, blocked by a repressive regime, they're just about all we have.
Imagine that, Dick Cheney: the war on terror won by tweets.
Media matters today, in every way. It manages and wields power sufficient to make leaders, and break them. Amazing world.