and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin came together for what Fox News Channel promoted as an exclusive interview.

But, in truth, what viewers saw was a carefully staged display of partisan political theater -- from the executive-office backdrop to the non-stop stream of smiley-faced softball questions Hannity served up with great servility.


In TV terms, the imagery was impressive, with an American flag over her left shoulder, a richly appointed china cabinet off to the side and thick carpeting throughout.  Every table had flowers in a fine vase. It was all supposed to remind viewers of the White House while sending the message: Look how comfortable and natural she looks here.

Typical of their staged conversation was the following exchange:

Hannity: "Senator Obama yesterday was attacking Senator McCain for saying the fundamentals of the economy are strong. Do you believe the fundamentals of the economy are strong?"

Palin: "It was an unfair attack on the verbiage… because he (McCain) means our work force, of course, and that is what's strong… So, that was an unfair attack."

Note that she didn't answer the question. Instead, she used it as an opening to attack Obama. And Hannity let her go run with that – rather than asking the question again or pointing out that she didn't answer it.

Even on the friendly confines of the Fox News Channel with Hannity serving up heaping helpings of home cooking, she couldn't get it right. Her handlers might want to re-think letting her face as skilled an interviewer and journalist as Katie Couric on CBS.

Here's another exchange representative of her empty rhetoric:

Hannity: "Who's responsible for these failing institutions on Wall Street?"

Palin: "Corruption on Wall Street that's what's to blame …There's a toxic waste on Wall Street affecting Main Street, and we gotta cure it."

Hannity did get Palin's reaction to Tina Fey's widely acclaimed parody of her last week on NBC's Saturday Night Live, but even that had the feel of damage control talking points rather than any kind of genuine response.

Palin: "I thought it was hilarious…spot on."

Instead of informed answers, it looks like Palin's handlers have been concentrating on her hair in recent days. I think they saw how strange and bunned-up and it looks when they saw it parodied by Fey and now they are trying to soften the look.

Too little, too late.

(Above: Fox News Channel photo of Sarah Palin)