Now that the David Letterman/Sarah Palin flap has pretty much died down (and now that I have a little time to blog about it), I wanted to weigh in on it. And, I'm going to warn my conservative readers out there that this one may not be one you'll agree with, but hey.
Frankly, there were no white hats in this situation. Both sides used it as a means to perpetuate their own preconceived notions. That makes every side involved in this situation dirty; it's just a question of how much mud they have on them.
Let's start with David Letterman. As much as I like Dave even to this day, the original joke that sparked this wildfire of criticism was in poor taste and showed a level of intellectual laziness. Come on, Dave! You're still doing Palin jokes well after the election and well after she's been savaged six ways from Sunday? She may be an easy target, but humor isn't always about going for the easy target. You need to aim higher and at a more relevant target for your humor.
Then, there's Sarah Palin. What she did damaged her chances to be a viable Presidential candidate in 2012 because she looked, sounded, and acted less than Presidential. When the initial joke about Palin's daughter getting "knocked up" by Alex Rodriguez was circulated, she came out swinging like an angry boxer and said something just as reprehensible about Letterman. Sorry, but this wasn't a tit-for-tat situation. If you would have laughed it off with a better joke like Ronald Reagan used to do instead of coming out with a legalistic argument that most people wouldn't bother to get, this would have become a major victory for you. Instead, you came off looking just as bad as Letterman.
Then, there were the people in the pro-Letterman/anti-Palin and pro-Palin/anti-Letterman camps. This whole situation was an opportunity for both sides to stump for their cause. To the Left, Palin came off as a moralistic hypocrite who was desperate to get back in the spotlight. To the Right, Letterman came off as a bitter, arrogant, unfunny jerk. And although both sides were right to a point, they spun events to make their side look better.
The pro-Letterman/anti-Palin side said Palin "couldn't take a joke" and was trying to "get back in the spotlight", but in this case it was only because of Letterman's statement that Palin reacted. Then, they bashed Palin for reacting. That's a self-perpetuating problem, kids.
The pro-Palin/anti-Letterman side screamed about how Palin was "being attacked by the media" and how the Left was "scared of her." Given the opportunities Palin has given the Left to attack her, it stands to reason that they'd keep doing it. And with Palin's reaction, she gave them more fodder. Again, a self-perpetuating problem.
Now, to the apology. Dave's first apology wasn't so much sincere as it was snarky. It came off as "I'm being forced to do this, so I'm not really apologizing." This gave Palin stronger ground to play the victim, and she played it to the hilt. Then, Dave "got it" finally and gave what I felt was a heartfelt apology, or at least as heartfelt as he could muster. This was enough for Palin, and she accepted the apology. We can debate whether the apology was a week too late, but that's not the point.
The point is that this whole situation revealed a lot of bad things about the particulars involved. Letterman looked bad for telling a bad, lazy joke and then not "getting it" until he'd tried to brush off the entire situation. Palin looked bad for coming off like an emotional mess who let a late night talk show host get under her skin. And both camps' supporters came off like they were using Letterman and Palin as pawns to say "See? We told you we were right!"
And in the end, it was a sideshow to take our minds off real issues.