In light of Joshua Green's call to "Regulate Pundits!" let's take a refresher course in the recent truly substantive coverage of the Letterman-Palin feud.

Today in a pleasant post on The Atlantic, Green said we should hold pundits accountable for getting it all wrong: 

Yes, pundits are a plague on us all. It is time we acted.

The crowning indignity, of course, is that they're usually wrong. Not just off-by-a-few-degrees wrong, but invading-Iraq-is-a-good-idea wrong. "Dow 36,000" wrong. And what are the consequences? There are none at all! You can blow the biggest questions of the day, time after time, and still claim to be a discerning seer.

Well, there ought to be consequences. It's not as if blogs and propaganda outlets don't keep track of this stuff. In Washington, regulation is back in fashion. If we can regulate tricky things like credit-default swaps, surely we can regulate pundits.

On June 12, after Letterman's first apology, Margaret Carlson said on The Daily Beast, "Palin Can't Outsmart Letterman":

There is only one reason Palin should relent—she’s not a good enough politician to play. … Picking a fight with a trained comedian, refusing to accept his apology, and continuing to battle after the white flag is shown reveals a complete lack of political sophistication.

But there's no doubt now that Palin won and Letterman lost. She mobilized protesters and got feminist support, he lost an advertiser, he apologized twice and she got the very snippy last word.

Carlson's broader point — "Palin appears to be squandering her leftover fame from the campaign on staying famous, settling scores, making headlines over petty concerns" — may still stand. But this failed prediction is worth remembering. Let's not, in the memorable words of another,  "misunderestimate" people.

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Alisa Harris

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