Friday, June 18, 2010

Sullivan/Palin

As all those who read the blogs know, Andrew Sullivan (who, I should note, has been incredibly kind to this blog) is a wee bit obsessed with the Sage of Wasilla.  E.D. Kain makes the case that Sullivan is right to do so:
We may as well keep a close eye on Palin, if only to keep our finger on the pulse of the right-wing’s beating heart. Or at least its heartthrob.  And who knows? Maybe Palin has more tricks up her sleeve than we give her credit for. Perhaps she’s playing all her cards just right, and will surprise us all come the 2012 primaries (which I believe start in 2010…?).  You just never know.
I think that's exactly correct, except to say that while the 2012 primaries don't begin until 2012, the nomination contest is certainly going on right now (and has been going on for over a year).   I don't think that Palin is particularly likely to win the GOP nomination, but she's a serious candidate of sorts for it right now, and the most visible of the serious candidates -- her ability to get things she says noticed is, no question about it, greater than that of Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty.  And in my view, Sullivan is absolutely correct about the shockingly small amount of scrutiny that the Framer-bashing former half term governor has received.  It really is weird, and unprecedented, that she never gave an open press conference in 2008, and has restricted herself to friendly media since then, and I think the political system is helped when things like that aren't allowed to be forgotten.

However...I have to admit that I don't understand the energy and space that Sullivan has devoted to her family, and especially to her youngest son.  I can't claim that I've read every word of Sullivan on Trig, but I've read quite a bit, and frankly I have no idea why I should care what the truth is about the situation.  I get that Sullivan thinks there's a high probability that what we've been told isn't the truth.  But surely pols have the right to dress up their private business in the nicest possible clothing for public consumption, as long as it doesn't have any implications for how they would govern, or for anything else. And as far as I can see, it doesn't.  As far as I can see, none of the rumors or possible explanations for behavior Sullivan has identified as odd would really tell me anything important about Palin.

I think I have to be a little less vague about this.  Sullivan believes that Palin's birth story for her youngest son is implausible.  I think he has a good case for that, for what it's worth.  As I've read over the last two years, I've seen three possible explanations.  The first is the wild one, that the baby isn't really hers; she's covering for someone else's inconvenient pregnancy and has adopted that child.  The second is that she was an irresponsible mother, and took terrible risks given the dangerous nature of the pregnancy.  The third is that she made the whole thing up, or most of it: she invented a heroic birth story, and then wound up being stuck with  it when she suddenly had a massively larger audience. 
 
So.  Let's say one of these is true.  Why should I care?

I'm tempted to say that Sullivan owes it to us to explain what he thinks is at stake in the story of Palin and Trig, but I think that's not quite right.  I'll leave it at this: as a regular reader, I would like to know what he thinks is at stake here.  And I might even believe that he owes it to Palin and her family to explain why the stakes are high enough to outweigh their privacy.  At least for me, it has to be more than just her habit of straying from the truth; we have more than enough examples of that.  Now, granted, Palin herself has led with her family often enough that I can't say I feel particularly sorry for her on this score, but -- and again, just in my opinion -- that's not a reason to invade her family's privacy.  I do believe that such reasons can exist, but I haven't seen it in this particular case.  And given the amount of attention Andrew Sullivan has devoted to the topic, I'd like to know why he thinks it's important.

But the general point -- is Palin someone who should be subject to critical scrutiny and analysis by the media?  Obviously, yes.  No question about it at all.

18 comments:

  1. We can agree that Sullivan goes overboard in his attacks on Palin. And that's unfortunate, because he's done a lot of good work in exposing her fraudulent behavior, step by step. His "Lies of Sarah Palin" series is thorough, and contains examples that no reasonable person can possibly dismiss.

    She has told lies that are as transparent and brazen as any I have heard a politician make, and that's saying something. They go way beyond Clinton's equivocations, or Reagan's fish stories, or even Nixon's sneaky lies. They are the equivalent of me saying "The background to your website is solid purple," and you protest, "No, it's beige on a navy blue background," and I say, "No, it's solid purple."

    Does it sound like I'm exaggerating? That's essentially what she did when she described a memo--which plainly stated that she had violated an ethics law as governor--as having "cleared [her] of all legal and ethical wrongdoings," even after a reporter pointed out to her the memo's exact words. And that's just one example.

    But Sullivan unfortunately includes things that probably don't belong on his list, such as one where she said the only flag in her office was the Israeli flag. It is reasonable to conclude that she meant only foreign flag, and that Sullivan is quibbling over imprecise wording.

    As far as I'm aware, Sully is the only major media figure to get into this Trig nonsense, but that hasn't stopped Palin and her supporters from falsely alleging that it was a widespread media rumor. Others have suggested that it hurts Sullivan's credibility, and I would agree.

    Nevertheless, I think he is basically right about the threat that Palin poses, and I think she has a much better shot at winning the nomination than a lot of commentators seem to think. She may be incoherent in interviews, but everything she's been doing since quitting the governorship suggests that she's thinking strategically. The Tea Party candidates she has backed may have decreased the chances that those seats will be won by Republicans, but if Rubio and Paul and Angle do all manage to pull off wins--which is entirely within the realm of possibility, despite the problems they face--she'll be all set.

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  2. "But surely pols have the right to dress up their private business in the nicest possible clothing for public consumption, as long as it doesn't have any implications for how they would govern, or for anything else."

    This sounds like a nice principle, but it doesn't really do the work you're claiming it does here.

    To be sure, if Joe Pol wants to say "Jane and I are very proud of our three wonderful children," it's bad form to point out that Joe Jr. is a C student who regularly gets busted for smoking pot behind the bleachers.

    If, however, Joe Pol claims that Joe Jr. is an all-state quarterback and A student, and he just isn't, that's just lying, which is relevant even though the subject of the lie is immaterial.

    The latter is Palin's situation: she told a wild and probably false story. People are entitled to know that.

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  3. And who knows? Maybe Palin has more tricks up her sleeve than we give her credit for. Perhaps she’s playing all her cards just right ...

    Er, no. She a shameless media hound, a spotlight grabber, a huckster and a grifter. She cravenly hunts for pennies in the populist trash heap, just like every piece of trailer park trash I know here in Tennessee. She's no different than any of them except she got a microphone shoved in her face and she's riding that cash cow as far as it will take her.

    C'mon, give me a break.

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  4. I think alkali has it about right. If it's just an out and out lie, then I think it's relevant.

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  5. "I'm tempted to say that Sullivan owes it to us to explain what he thinks is at stake in the story of Palin and Trig....."

    I think he's done that, repeatedly. He thinks a pathological liar, a fabulist, a person who is -- literally -- borderline insane, has a pretty good shot at the presidency of the United States. This alarms him. As well it should.

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  6. Alkali & Brian,

    Really? No matter how personal & private, and how irrelevant? I guess I agree about the "all-state QB" hypothetical, because that's a very public & on-the-record sort of thing to lie about, but what if a pol is asked if his or her daughter has ever been pregnant, when in fact she has and miscarried, or had a legal abortion, but doesn't want anyone to know about it? I'd have no problem with a lie, there. I can imagine plenty of trivial but irrelevant stuff, too. Do we really want our pols disqualified because they're trying to spare their spouse's feelings, or avoiding embarrassing their kids?

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  7. "Do we really want our pols disqualified because they're trying to spare their spouse's feelings, or avoiding embarrassing their kids?"

    This is irrelevant to a critique of Sullivan, though, who has made very clear that he doesn't think that's what's going on with Palin, and has (repeatedly) offered his reasons for so believing.

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  8. I think Sullivan is simply thirsting for the knock-out blow. Palin has been caught outright in so many episodes of lying, incompetence and malfeasance - her abuse of power in pursuit of the vendetta against her former brother-in-law should alone have been enough to disqualify her for further public service -- that it's incredible she hasn't been driven off the public stage as Tonya Harding was. Sullivan probably thinks that there are even more dramatic smoking guns in her private life than have been documented so far, so he cheers on Levy and the Trig birthers. And I agree with Alkali and Brian: if it were revealed that Palin had faked a pregnancy and whole abortion angst and passed off someone else's child as her own, to me that would be a level of pathological mendacity even beyond the serial misrepresentations of her record and policy fact that Sullivan has chronicled so lovingly. All that said, I do think that Sullivan goes way overboard in turning the Dish periodically into a tabloid tracking every turn in the saga of Bristol, Levy, etc. He is not, after all, uncovering new info, simply relaying whatever the mudflatrakers turn up. If a smoking gun does emerge, everyone in the country will learn about it in any case. And while Palin's demagoguery does need to be tracked and refuted, Sullivan definitely helps amplify her personal soap opera and hence her celebrity.

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  9. First, I actually do want Andrew Sullivan to continue his obsessive blog posting about Palin in some sense. Sure I cannot keep up with it all the time, sure it sounds boring many times and it does go over board. But the mere possibility of Palin to become President of USA means that we need such a rigorous examination of her on a continuous basis until the fraud and intellectual deceit in Palin is fully exposed.

    But it is beyond possibility of Presidency here. What about the decease of politics of this country which makes Palin possible? The senseless Fox, Tea Baggers, impotent response from mainstream GOP and all the money making which is going on here? Andrew following Palin is the minimum intellectual inoculation of this country.

    Next, it is bit amusing to see America's premier political thinker, especially the political commentator, ignoring the standard American way of 'rating' politicians on the basis of how they keep their personal / sexual commitments. Everybody knows that that is how we do in USA, different than Europe and many other democracies. Now, if you want to fight this deep rooted tendency of America; then it is fine. Otherwise, the reason Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards all those guys loose politics is because of their sexual transgressions; it is kosher to apply the same scrutiny to Sarah. True it is not about how and with whom she sleeps, but the product of that act (since so far we do not have Palin and her band claiming her as the Madonna of 21st century...).

    Finally, I think the most probably situation is Palin was essentially a careless mother and she did not bother about health of her baby during that last pregnancy; for variety of selfish reasons. I think exposing that thoroughly is important because the politician as 'custodian, care taker of common good' that kind of role is not workable with her then. At least that is the politics. I do believe, establishing this convincingly is important.

    Blogsphere is the right media outlet which affords Sullivan the needed freedom, single mindedness (without the cost of his other commentary) and effectiveness to pursue this over the top sustained investigation. Quite literally other traditional Media, where attention to one topic comes at the cost of another, cannot afford that. To the extend Sarah Palin is the unique and contemporary fusion of Media and Politics; Sullivan's blog and it's Palin focus is a perfect response in our democracy to attack underbelly of dangers lurking there.

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  10. Other than the fact that Palin claims to be an evangelical christian, her claim to the moral high ground rests upon Trig and her decision to carry him to term. Her political credentials are extremely thin, thanks to her unwillingness to finish out the term of the highest elected office she has yet held. So we are largely left with her morality. If she is incapable of living an open and candid life, she doesn't have that, either. If she has built her public persona upon a fabrication, we certainly can't trust her with the presidency. And if the core of her story is true, she is reckless and oblivious to the gravity of the risks she took--again, not to be trusted with the presidency.

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  11. I applaud Andrew Sullivan for his continued coverage of this grifter, Sarah Palin.

    She is a sociopath, plain and simple.

    Here is the most common question asked when considering a potential sociopath's behavior: "Why would anyone DO such a thing?"

    You have clarified the importance of her fraudulent story and placed the "three possible explanations" squarely in the category of aberrant personality disorder.

    We have watched for over ten years while the national media have been co-opted and silenced. Young people have died. Millions suffer and die as a result of the policies of the loudest bullies.

    This is why it matters. We cannot afford this any longer.

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  12. When McCain chose Mrs. Palin as his VP running mate, within minutes, everyone heard the story of this forty-something mother so stalwart in her pro-life beliefs, she carried to term a Down Syndrome baby despite being barely a year into her governorship. It knocked Obama's nomination of the previous night completely off the tv screen. And then we heard the details of said child's birth, told by Palin herself, in her own voice, even.

    I am a mother of three. I recall shaking my head in amazement, knowing right then that it was an enormous fabrication--a lie.

    Yet no media would touch it. With the exception of my fellow Brit, Andrew Sullivan.

    Why is this so? The story of the pregnancy and resulting child that Palin herself has made central to her pro-life politics, that Palin herself has used as both political prop and sales tool, does not add up. Where are the investigative reporters, and why do they give this dishonest and dangerous woman a pass even as they report on the tiniest detail of the foibles and personal failures of other, far less significant politicians? Why, when the evidence all points to a hoax of staggering dimension?

    As any woman who’s had any number of babies will tell you, when you’re 43 and in labor—having broken your water, no less!—there is no way in hell you could or would skip going to a hospital (or at least a doctors’ office) and instead, stand at a podium, deliver a speech (complete with jokes!), not have anyone notice, then fly across the continent on two separate flights (with no flight attendants noticing that you’re that far along, either, much less in labor), then drive through the state—still in labor, mind you, and about to give birth to a premature, special-needs infant who will undoubtedly need emergency care upon birth—bypass not one but two large hospitals with specially-equipped Neonatal Intensive Care Units, and go to a small regional hospital in a small town, and have a general practitioner (not a high-risk OB/gyn, as would be required) deliver your premature, special-needs baby with jaundice and a heart defect. There is no way.

    Still not convinced? Consider this: being in labor is painful. Not hangover-headache painful, such that one could still stagger onto a plane and make it home. Seriously painful.

    At first, in the early stages, you simply cringe a little and double over. For intervals, you are not able to speak, much less give a speech. People would definitely notice something was wrong.

    Then, the pain gets unbearable—drawn-and-quartered unbearable. You beg for drugs; you might even ask to be killed (with my third child, I had no anaesthesia, and I requested exactly that. Other mothers who’ve delivered sans drugs, please weigh in). You scream like a banshee. People would definitely notice that something was wrong.

    Instinct takes over, and as the labor progresses to delivery, and your screams reach the wild-assed, paint-peeling, scare-your-partner-out-the-door point, you assume whatever physical position you need to and begin pushing the baby out. It is unspeakably, shockingly messy and primal, to use delicate terms. (Mothers reading this are all nodding, aren’t you?)

    Now imagine the sitting governor of Alaska, a woman who places high value on her appearance, risking such a thing taking place on an airline—twice in one day—in full view of passengers.

    So. Here we are. For nearly two years, the media has been inexplicably squeamish and hands-off about reporting the truth of this lying woman’s fifth child—which would not be anyone’s business if (a) she were a private citizen and (b) had not made said child’s existence the center—indeed, the be-all and end-all—of her pro-life cred, thus “energizing the base”, as they say.

    Bravo to Mr. Sullivan, I say. And bravo to all and sundry who, like him, like me, are capable of looking at the evidence already in front of us--who well understand why it matters and will thus continue to call for someone in the press to please say something, do something.

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  13. have you ever given it a thought
    "that its just not any of your business"?

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  14. As a lifelong Alaskan and a former journalist, I also applaud Andrew Sullivan's persistence. I didn't vote for Palin as governor, but I didn't think her election was the end of the world either. However, when Troopergate started breaking, it became clear that Palin has an exceptional talent for . . . what is the right word for the sort of brazen ability to say night is day and to get away with it?

    I read the original troopers' investigation into Palin's complaints about her brother-in-law. It was perfectly clear that she and her sister were engaged in a family vendetta in which lying was perfectly acceptable. This was confirmed by the two formal inquiries into her actions as governor.

    Here is one example: She and Todd Palin claimed that they feared for their family's safety because their former brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, had not lost his job. They based this fear on a death threat that he allegedly made about Sarah Palin's father years before. And yet, in the official interview she gave troopers before she was governor, Palin admitted that she waited TWO WEEKS before she even mentioned Wooten's statement to her father. She didn't think Wooten was serious. Furthermore, after she took office, she dismissed all but 1.5 members of her security patrol. This was the testimony given by her security head. Is that really the behavior of people who claim to fear for their children's lives?

    Why lie? Because they weren't afraid of Wooten at all. They hated him, and she abused her office trying to get him illegally fired, and Todd helped her. The inquiry that "cleared" her did so on the premise that only Todd's actions could be proven, and he was a private citizen, entitled to talk to whomever he wished. (This info is all available online.)

    This may seem small, but it is only one of scores, maybe hundreds, of the kind of lies she tells. I know people who worked for her; the woman lies.

    I used to think Trig Trutherism was silly. Then I looked at the photos, talked to people who saw her weeks before she allegedly gave birth (and yet had a flat stomach and was headed for a run), and read her accounts. I don't know what the truth is, but I am certain that it's not what she says it is.

    A final point: Recall the time line of her ascension into national fame. McCain picks her and announces it. Over the weekend, an anonymous comment appears on Daily Kos alleging that Bristol gave birth to Trig and that Palin covered it up by faking a birth (something already discussed in Alaska at the time). Kos yanks the post. But the National Enquirer is also interested.

    So Palin's first act as a national politician is to TELL EVERYONE HER UNWED DAUGHTER IS PREGNANT and that's why the rumors can't be true. She didn't ignore the post or laugh it off. She used her teenage daughter as a human shield to protect her ambitions.

    Everything Sarah Palin stands for depends upon no one ever questioning seriously the crap she says. And no one does.

    Except Andrew Sullivan.

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  15. bunch of fucking nutters, here.

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  16. When I read this kind of raw, spittle-flecked hatred and laughable conspiracy-mongering coming from otherwise rational people such as Andrew Sullivan, I rub my hands in glee at the prospect of the mental anguish they will suffer when Sarah Palin is sworn in as President.

    I hope it sends him and all the rest of you nasty bastards to the looney bin.

    You are some of the most despicable people in existence.

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  17. When I read this kind of comment from "Skookum John, with its name calling, petty disinterest in the facts or exposing the fraudulent behavior of a celebrity sociopath, I nod my head calmly, assured that one day he will see what the rest of us see. It will be a day of confusion for him and the few others who lap up the cult-like drink served by Queen Quitter. Some will never want to vote again. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

    Yet, I will still wonder why people like "Skookum John," hate America so...

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  18. I can't believe you're even considering what he's saying. And it's a shame that a decent magazine carries that piece of trash.

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