Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Delaware blogosphere and Sarah Palin

Truly, I suspect that what we have seen over the past week would have happened no matter what the name of the VP candidate Senator John McCain selected.

But he didn't select anybody: he selected an evangelical social conservative with some libertarian leanings who is obviously ambitious, politically astute, but hardly immune to miscalculations and outright blunders.

Aside from all that: he selected a woman.

Obviously Alaska is too far away either for McCain's vetting team or the press to be able to do much research, because the people criticizing this pick have more credibility and accuracy problems than you can... Well, metaphors fail me here.

Let's see, first the far-left (excuse me, progressive and liberal) bloggers ran with the story that Palin had faked a pregnancy with a Downs Syndrome child in order to cover up her daughter's own pregnancy, announcing her grandchild as her own daughter to avoid the shame and embarrassment of it all. Ironically, other than photo-shopped images of the Palin daughter showing a presumed baby bump, there was never the slightest shred of evidence that this story was true. No testimony from a doctor, a nurse, a neighbor, nobody. Just pure innuendo and filth. But the adherents were so convinced that Palin just had to have faked a pregnancy that many of them found a way to declare themselves vindicated by the final proof that their story was utter BS.

In one of the most tendentious (that means intentionally misleading=a lie) postings to grace the Delaware blogosphere, Delawaredem entitled his entry The Rumors are True. Partly. The problem? The rumors weren't true at all, no matter how DD tried to spin it:

Bristol Palin is pregnant. Right now. She is five months pregnant, right now. So the rumors are partly right. No, Sarah Palin did not fake a pregnancy to adopt her daughter’s child back in April. But her minor unwed daughter is pregnant. Normally, I would make no value judgments on this, as it is none of my business or anyone else’s. But, when radical religous nutjobs like Sarah Palin make it their business to make value judgments about unwed teenage mothers and premarital sex and family values, it is every bit my business, for it is evidence that for all their pontification, they are hypocrites.

This is a wonderfully crafted slip past the land of no facts. The rumor was not Bristol Palin was currently pregnant, but that she had been pregnant a year ago, and that Sarah Palin had reacted to that pregnancy by concocting an elaborate conspiracy to fake a pregnancy. That wasn't true. That was never true. And Delawaredem knew that when he wrote the post. But he was so self-admittedly angry that an evangelical might stand for national office that he ignored the fact that everything he had previously written was crap.

What did happen? Sarah Palin and her family kept their teenage daughter's pregnancy fairly quiet for several months, and when vetted as a finalist for the VP position, she told the McCain camp about it. Then she announced it to the world.

So the rumors weren't true, but it didn't matter.

Nor were the rumors that she was a former member of the Alaska Independence Party, which DD passed on a couple days ago.

She had attended conventions of the AIP, and her husband was in fact a member, but not Sarah Palin.

Oh, but again the facts don't matter, because the argument now changed to how can we trust her if her husband is an Alaska secessionist. In a post entitled Today's Double Standards in Patriotism, cassandra said:

Remember how conservatives were oh so offended by Michelle Obama’s “proud of her country” remarks?

So when do these same conservatives get offended by the fact that Sarah Palin’s husband was a registered member of a secessionist political party for seven years? I mean, how proud of your country can you be if you want your state to leave the union?

So having been proven wrong on the AIP membership, do we regroup and admit our sources might just be a wee bit... wrong?

No, we drive on and make this weird equivalency argument that Michelle Obama's public statements in a campaign (which definitely did NOT rate the opprobrium that right-wing radio ladled out) should be compared Todd Palin's flirtations with one of the fringiest of fringe third parties that (and remember, I'm a third-party guy myself) is more of a huge drinking club than anything else. Find me a public statement by Todd Palin, as opposed to a membership card, and we'll talk.

No, what this really represents is a chance to pay tit-for-tat cheap shot even if the original, underlying basis of the whole story was ... incorrect.

Or how about the story that Palin slashed money for teen pregnancy programs, presented with gallons of outrage and about 1/32 of an inch of research over on Delaware Watch:

I really can't understand how a governor could slash funds for teenage unwed mothers unless increasing their hardship is supposed to teach those sinners a lesson. I believe that is about the correct righteous tone that masquerades for apathy and stinginess in "fiscally prudent" circles these days.

Of course, if one wants to get really biblical about the matter, one could always consider the significance of "Whatever someone sows that also he reaps" if you get my meaning.

Only one problem for Dana Garrett: the story is inaccurate if not completely untrue. Yes, Palin used her line-item veto to cut funding from $5 million to $3.9 million, but--as Shirley pointed out at Delaware Curmudgeon:

Heartless? Let’s look at the Covenant House balance sheet for 2006. At the end of the calendar year, they reported $4.3 million in assets and $212,887 in liabilities. Wow, pretty healthy, huh? Even their own financial report says, “an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.”

The organization’s IRS Form 990 shows that the funds described as being “slashed” was over a threefold increase from the government funds they received from all sources in 2006.

Shirley's last comment (not specific to Dana but to other bloggers in general) is particularly apt:

As usual, such hyperbole generates from those who cannot read a balance sheet.

My conclusion: Truth is no barrier in pursuit of a good knock on Sarah Palin. As a matter of fact, even outright lying on the part of some people is strangely not considered to be anything to be embarrassed about.

A separate question: how should Sarah Palin be rated as a politician and a potential VP?

That's tough, and hard to know until we have time to separate fact from spin, rumor, and lie.

But so far the only person I have seen take a legitimate shot at it is J. D. Tuccille at Disloyal Opposition. JD tries to ferret out the truth to be found, doesn't give her any passes, but doesn't want to lynch her, either.

It is particularly interesting (and an education for Delaware bloggers in real reporting; you should read the whole piece) to note how JD handles the Wassila Library book-banning episode:

More troubling are reports that Palin may be weak in terms of respect for free speech. Time examined her record as mayor of Wasilla and reports:

Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.

Note, though, that the claims of attempted censorship have come from Palin's political opponents -- she defeated Stein to become mayor and the story has otherwise been spread by Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla Democrat. I'd like to see stronger sources for those charges.

And this is important, that caveat. Why? Well, take a look at what Anne Kilkenny said about the controversy recently:

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sounds pretty dire? Crazed Christian book burner faced down by angry townspeople?

Except, as Time reports, those same angry townspeople re-elected Palin after that incident "by a landslide."

I agree with JD--book-banning bothers me immensely, but there is also much more to this story that we haven't seen yet.

That, however, doesn't stop people from going off the deep end; in reporting this story (curiously citing the New York Times who gives the Wassila librarian in question a different name than Time did), Mike Matthews at DWA literally froths at the mouth:

Forget Troopergate. Forget Babygate. Forget Secessiongate. This is the most frightening thing about McCain’s hasty pick. This not-yet-ready-for-primetime diva is more dangerous than we thought.

OK, Mike, but what about the point Hube raised in the comments, with which you agreed?

Hube: Regarding your post, Mike, I agree that this story is troubling for free speech (if accurate). Much like Obama’s asking for the DoJ to investigate a 527 group for running an ad about him and Bill Ayers, wouldn’t you say?

Mike: Agreed, big time. As much as I despise 527’s (including MoveOn and their ilk), I don’t think Obama’s actions are becoming of a leader…at all.

Now, let's parse this. Sarah Palin's attempt in a small town to have the library pull some books makes her more dangerous than we thought, but Barack Obama's heavy-handed attempt to get the Federal Department of Justice to muzzle political speech that he didn't like is only [un]becoming of a leader? Not dangerous? Not worthy of outrage? Only worth a quiet agreement on the comment page, after you'd completely failed to cover the other story at all?

Yeah. Right.

Look, folks, I don't like Sarah Palin's take on a lot of issues, but as JD Tuccille points out, there is also evidence that she has often struggle against the urge to use her power to inflict those views as law or policy.

Guess what? She's a politician who has successfully re-invented herself at each level of her career. Like most of them.

Those who miss the point of this post will undoubtedly tell me about all the other problems Sarah has.

Right now, I'm not interested in hearing them, until the people willing to pass along any salacious rumor they hope is true start doing some serious fact-checking.

And maybe even look in a mirror to check on whether they like what they see.


downwithabsolutes said...

I so want to read this, but come on, dude, some of us just don't have the time!

Can't you, like, chunk this up?

Anonymous said...

First of all, let me preface by saying I usually vote Republican 95% of the time. I am having a hard time with the Sarah Palin choice because it seems like he chose her for all the wrong reasons (mostly, pandering) and it seems like a bad made-for-tv woman... small time mayor from alaska, due to some bizarre circumstances -- becomes President. Mitt Romney, Pawlenty, Jindal, Katherine Harris.

There are many things about Sarah's pregnancy that seem odd... her 22 hour labor, her daughter's disappearance from school during the same time, no hospital records, the photos... I am not saying I believe it, but I think Sarah should kill these rumors and put out some definitive proof and documentation to get the crazy liberals off her back.

Steven H. Newton said...

You do what you do, I do what I do. Sorry.

I'm not a Republican and I'm not advocating for Sarah Palin; my point is that the treatment of her in the DE blogosphere in particular, and in the large left blogosphere has been exhibit one why not to take blogs seriously.

I really don't care if Sarah's pregnancy seems odd to you or to anyone else. Unless we live in a world where Jerry Springer has just been elected king, there's a term for this:

None of our goddamn business.

I will guarantee you this: if Sarah Palin feeds the trolls by answering those rumors, it will not get the crazy liberals off her back; it will only smell like blood in the water to the piranha.

The fact that even you have at least partially credited a story based on absolutely no facts (and how the woman who had had four kids decided to bring her fifth into the world is not evidence of anything), suggests that not even a freaking DNA test would do her any good.

Anonymous said...

Sarah did one up, (other than feed the trolls)

She sent a torpedo aimed directly at Obama, framing the campaign as rural versus urban... Although she never used the term urban, she sure did make anyone who has ever put down rural roots,... rather proud...

McCain was vindicated tonight. As "I" said (lol) in my piece on Sarah Palin (which somehow got missed), his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, although risky, has freed him up from his handlers, and has firmly established him as John McCain again, and not as he had been called: "the Republican nominee."

Anonymous said...

As far as the AIP membership rumor, it appears to have been started by one of the leaders of the party. Her husband's membership is certainly germane. Certainly if Michelle can be cast as a soldier in the black power movement, we have the right to discuss facts surrounding her husband's political leanings.

On the rest of it, I am somewhere between you and Dave Burris. McCain did a crappy job on this. If he knew about these marks on Palin's record and the status of her daughter and he went ahead anyway, he is stupid and heartless. If he didn't know, he is just stupid, and Palin is heartless.

I feel terrible for Bristol and her beau. Talk about a shotgun wedding. But whoever thought it was OK to expose them to the world as teenagers that got caught should not hold office.

Steven H. Newton said...

I think you work overly hard to miss my point.

It may or may not have been appropriate for Palin to accept the position with a pregnant daughter; that was not the question in my post. It was not appropriate to claim that Bristol's pregnancy somehow validated the rumor-mongering that Sarah faked a pregnancy.

And you can certainly discuss Todd's membership in the AIP if you want to: and if you want to look foolish. Michelle threw out her statements as a political surrogate on the campaign trail; that is not the equivalent of examining Todd Palin's membership in the AIP.

My thrust was that even bloggers have to respect some sort of due diligence--and in this instance the urge to fight fire with fire has taken you guys well beyond the pale of legitimate political discourse.

a most peculiar nature said...

The whole “book banning” thing really aggravates me. I was surprised that Allan Loudell wrote on it. It doesn’t have the qualification of being even close to a wild rumor, let alone a fact. I wonder why the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, “declined to comment”? Could it be that an off-the-cuff (and disgruntled) remark of her own got blown out of proportion?

Are there minutes to this Council Meeting that Democratic operative Kilkenny refers to?

It is amazing that when people cannot find something of substance, they simply make things up. It shows the “American Idol” nature of our society these days, I guess. Very troubling.

Geek: Do you have any real issues to address besides her daughter and her boyfriend? C'mon.

John Famularo said...

It is possible that Sarah Palin did discuss this with her daughter before accespting the VP slot? Perjaps her daughter agreed.

If Palin declined the VP slot because of her daughter, might that not been much more of a psycological burdon on Bristol for the rest of her life and perhaps her childs life?

Libertarians should concentrate on recruting/accepting/converting women like Sarah Palin. The LP might just get somewhere someday.

The LP had Ron Paul for some time a while back but was hell bent on driving him and his supporters out of leadership positions in the party. I was new on the LNC at the time and saw what was hapenning close up. It was shortly after the Ron Paul "scare" that the LP "insiders" reduced the size of the LNC by elininating half of the regional representatives to give the "at large" members effective majority control. Later, most control was further concentrated into a smaller group called the executive connittee. The LP started out as an anti-libertarian organization and has been getting less libertarian each year.

Anonymous said...

Steve and Shirley - I am not missing the point of your post. As I stated, I am somewhere between your view and Dave Burris' view. I did not engage in the rumor mongering and I do not exercise editorial control over DelawareDem.

I do have substantive policy difference with Sarah Palin. I am certain that once the bloom is off the rose, we can discuss policy and beliefs other that what we have been force-fed by the media for the past week.

For now all I have to go on is that someone made a decision about whether or not this 17 year old should be thrust into the public sphere. That decision was not made by "the media," the decision was made by the McCain/Palin ticket.

For now, this is all that we have to go on with this candidate from Nowhere, AK.

Hube said...

For now all I have to go on is that someone made a decision about whether or not this 17 year old should be thrust into the public sphere. That decision was not made by "the media," the decision was made by the McCain/Palin ticket.

Whaaaat? And how much have we heard about Obama's and Biden's children (negatively) in the press??


Anonymous said...

LG - maybe that "someone" who made the decision was her MOTHER! Maybe that someone was actually the FAMILY as a unit and not the McCain campaign. You guys are really grasping at straws.

It's none of our business what the Palin family decided was the best for them. It was their decision to make and they are the one's who will deal with the consequences of that decision. Of course accepting personal responsiblity for one's decisions really was never one of the left's strong suits.

Delaware Watch said...

As someone who spent years writing grant requests to governments and always ended grant requests under budget, I KNOW that Shirley's facts could easily mean next to nothing. Surpluses designated for certain projects can't simply be flipped to new projects w/o violating the law. That's not the REAL world.

Also, it's COMMONPLACE to end w/ a surplus 1 year but have a project need the next year whose costs far exceed the costs of the previous year. I happens all the happened in my experience.

So, I wasn't trashing Palin by withholding information. I just find Shirley's information insignificant on its face. She needs to provide more facts to make her exoneration of Palin's apparent indifference stick.

Steven H. Newton said...

Sorry, I've got a lot of experience in public grants as well, and I think you're splitting hairs here.

Shirley quoted the financial report and quoted the summary; I have enough confidence in her integrity that had the analysis said something like, "Yes, there is a surplus, but it is restricted," that Shirley would have printed it. But since I don't expect you to accept that, I did what you didn't do: I went back and checked the links Shirley provided.

Guess what? Palin did not slash funding at all. The State Grant for this program in 2006 was only $1.194 million. In 2007 Sarah Palin increased the state grant to $3.9 million--an increase of 2.8 million!

Yes, the legislature wanted to increase that by 3.9 million, but that hardly justifies calling Palin's willingness to TRIPLE the state budget for teen pregnancy programs a slashing based on religious prejudice.

I am sure there are many legitimate issues to pick with Sarah Palin, but pursuing this one is a loser.

She did not slash anything.

Delaware Watch said...

"Yes, the legislature wanted to increase that by 3.9 million"

So she slashed the amount the legislature budgeted for the program. The prosecution rests.

Steven H. Newton said...

If you seriously expect to be taken as a legitimate observer, and you try to call tripling the size of the program's budget instead of quadrupling a slashing, it isn't Sarah Palin's credibility that suffers... it's yours.