Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sullivan/Palin, Again

I asked Andrew Sullivan for why he thought the story of Sarah Palin and her youngest matters; he answered.  (By the way, see also the comments to my post, many of which argue strongly for Sullivan's position).  Conor Friedersdorf makes the pragmatic anti-Palin case for leaving the story alone. I do urge those who are interested to read both pieces. 

I don't really have much to add to the Palin part of the story.  My bottom line, I guess, is that I'd like to give pols as much privacy as possible, and I really don't believe that fibbing about private lives is necessarily correlated with lies about public affairs, although I'll readily admit that's a belief without much evidence one way or another.  (Although Sullivan makes a good case that Palin has forfeited her own claims to privacy in this case because she has made it so public). When all is said and done, my feeling is that if the case that Palin has a history of telling whoppers can't be made without reference to this story, then I'd give her a pass on this story; if it can be made without this story, then I'd give all other pols a break by letting it go, because I want to allow them to smooth over the rougher edges of their intimate lives.  As it is, I think the case against her on these grounds comfortably reaches overkill without any reference to her children, so if I was a reporter I'd leave it at that.

That's the Palin side of it.  I may have some thoughts later on the press side of things.  I do appreciate Sullivan's comprehensive response.  For now, I'll give him the last word:
I have never claimed I know the truth. I don't. I only know that none of us does. We all have to rely on the word of Sarah Palin - something about as reliable as a credit default swap. I want to know the truth. Because if I am loony, I deserve the pushback and criticism for suspecting a story that turned out to be true. And because if Palin has lied about this, it's the most staggering, appalling deception in the history of American politics. Not knowing which is true for real - and allowing this person to continue to dominate one half of the political divide - is something I think is intolerable. In the end, this story is not about Palin. It's about the collapse of the press and the corrupt cynicism of a political system that foisted this farce upon us without performing any minimal due diligence.


  1. The crazy thing about this story, and Sullivan's obsession with it, is that the "official" explanation---that she declined medical attention for more than 24 hours and flew thousands of miles after her water broke, in contradiction of all sound medical advice (your Possibility #2)---portrays her as wildly reckless and irresponsible. We can stipulate Palin's right to privacy and still conclude that she's woefully unfit for office.

  2. She certainly has a "right to privacy."

    But tell that story, or read her version of the story, to any woman with kids, and they will call bullshit on it.

    Anyway, she will never run for President. Too much of a salary cut, and too much responsibility.

  3. Interesting to hear you weigh in. I know Sarah and I know Dr. Baldwin-Johnson. There is no possible way Cathy told Sarah on the phone from Texas (4am Texas time; 1am AK time) that Sarah didn't need to check into a medical facility to have her "leaking water" condition looked at by a doctor.

    Impossible. Cathy is a respected physician. One of the best in the country. She won a national award back - I think it was in '02. I think it was Family Physician of the Year - for the U.S. She is a brilliant, careful doctor. It makes me furious that Sarah's lies have cast Cathy in a poor light.

    In fact, I ran into a friend out here (the Valley) the other day. Hadn't seen her since before Sarah was tapped to run as VP. I told her the amount and nature of Sarah's lies were becoming such that I wasn't afraid of speaking the truth anymore. She agreed but said that even more than Sarah's lies - the thing that makes her the most concerned (for the country - and she and I are both committed Evangelicals; she worked very closely with Sarah on her run for governor) is how "vicious Sarah is." How everyone in her world eventually ends up under the proverbial bus - including: hey, my whole state.

    And, I've been saying this on blogs since before she was tapped in August of 08 - I believe Sarah gave birth to Trig. I know way too many people who know her personally and knew she was pregnant. The main facets of this story that have interesting merit to me include:

    Why didn't she tell anyone - incl her family - that she was pregnant until she was in her 7th month? (except Todd)

    Why did she almost seemingly work against her body to not gain any weight? Didn't she know by not gaining the appropriate amount of weight she was putting her child at the risk of delivering early?

    Why didn't she tell her children that their new baby brother had been determined to have Down's? Why did Willow have to learn about his Down's condition when viewing him for the first time and noting this herself?

    Sarah had already lost two prior children in her second trimesters of pregnancies - why, at the age of 44, did she choose to fly to a meeting in Texas she very easily could have skipped - while she was in the 8th month of a very high risk pregnancy?

    By her own admission she began leaking amniotic fluid at 4am in Texas. She says she and Todd called and conferred with Dr. CBJ. This is impossible. This is a lie. Either she didn't leak fluid or she didn't call Cathy. Either way, she's lying. It was Chuck, standing in the hospital lobby with Sally who was holding Trig the next day - who told Channel Two News that Sarah had leaked fluid.

    This could all just be a case of Sarah, once again, trying to prove herself to her daddy as the "tough as nails woman" persona she loves to spin. What's weird, though, is that one would keep feeling the need to spin a mythology for one's father. My gosh. She was the youngest and only female governor of Alaska. Is that not tough enough for you, Sarah? Or Chuck?

    But then, who knows? Maybe she really did leak fluid while in Texas. She either lied to her father, then felt the need to cover things up; lied to her doctor, then felt the need to cover things up; or put herself, her son, and everyone else riding on those planes back to Alaska, at dangerous and unnecessary risk.

    Do you think the MSM cares? No. They're too busy fiddling with different fonts to see which one looks best to carry their headlines about "Saint Sarah" this or that. Too busy cowering in the corner while she shrills into any microphone in the land that they're "makin stuff up."

    Kettle: meet pot. Pot: meet kettle.

    Sarah and the MSM deserve one another.

    (Sorry I'm venting all over your website. I'll take my leave now. It simply scares me and should scare anyone who loves this nation that 2012 comes closer each day...)

  4. Jonathan - it seems like you are saying that even if Palin's story is a complete lie, it's not that important. Andrew, on the other hand, calls it "the most staggering, appalling deception in the history of American politics." That's a really big difference. I don't know enough about the history of American political liars to know if Andrew's ranking is accurate. But I do know, and I think you would agree, that if her story were ever revealed to be a complete fabrication it would completely destroy her career. Would you then view that as unfair, or an overreaction?

  5. I don't agree Ms. Palin's lies regarding her pregnancy are the biggest ever, that would be W. Bush's lies when in office regarding Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities.

    However I do think Ms. Palin distinguishes herself amongst all national politicians I've ever encountered, including in the history books, given the volume of lies she tells. I've never encountered one speaking engagement where she doesn't repeatedly lie. It's this aspect where the media fails though I agree with Andrew Sullivan's argument her pregnancy is news-worthy given Ms. Palin's using Trig as part of her marketing and branding strategies.

  6. Not enough Republican voters agree that "the case against her on these grounds comfortably reaches overkill without any reference to her children."

  7. I'm starting to think that her version of things is probably somewhere in the ballpark of what actually happened (fully expecting that various details were fabricated or exaggerated for effect) - and that the most likely reason for this is that Sarah didn't really want to have this baby. Perhaps she was just passive-aggressively shooting for a bad outcome by not gaining enough weight, not getting to a hospital on time, etc, etc.

    Maybe I'm wrong; but that's the only way that I can interpret the fact that she didn't prepare her other children for Trig's condition.

    I think more Evangelicals need to stand up to her...because Evangelicals are the ONLY people who will have any credibility to Palin's fan base. Everyone else is perceived as persecuting her; and my God, does that woman ever have a persecution complex....

  8. Not enough Republican voters agree that "the case against her on these grounds comfortably reaches overkill without any reference to her children."

    Hence the insane, vicious attacks on Trig and her other children from the Left and the anti-Palin Right. The ends justify the means. Thanks for clearing that up.

  9. Everyone else is perceived as persecuting her; and my God, does that woman ever have a persecution complex....

    Perceived? PERCEIVED? Look, you don't have to share a scrap of her ideology to acknowledge that there are very few politicians in the entire history of the country, and absolutely no female politicians, who have ever been subjected to more abuse and vitriol and venom than her.

  10. Ah, I go out a few hours, and all the comments pour in...

    Skookum John,

    You are wrong. Lots of pols have been subject to more abuse and vitriol and venom. I'd say Palin is clearly in the minor leagues of that, so far. As for women...she's certainly in the upper tier, but I'd say no where near Hillary Clinton so far. She's nowhere near major-league hate-objects, nowhere near an LBJ, or a Bill Clinton, or Reagan, or George W. Bush, or Obama. I mean, she's certainly unpopular, but for venom, she's not in H. Clinton's league. Or, for that matter, John McCain's.

    She is in the upper tier of ridicule, probably...not yet at Quayle's level, but she's getting there. Of course, that's the natural fate of a VP nominee.

    Anon 6:28:

    Would it destroy her career if people found out that she had exaggerated the circumstances of the birth of her child? I wouldn't think so. Some of the wilder ideas? I don't know; I don't really take those possibilities seriously, but it would depend, presumably, on what the actual truth was. I can imagine things that would end her political career, but I can also imagine things that would earn her sympathy. Beyond that, commenter Michael Heath is, I think, on the right track -- although I don't think Palin is nearly as much of a liar as Ross Perot was, FWIW.

  11. We're into multiple layers of speculation here, so I won't belabor it, but fwiw, I think you underestimate the extent to which the American public cares about certain kinds of lies. This is about something personal, familial, and easily understood. It isn't about, for example, willful misinterpretation of sketchy intelligence. This lie (assuming it is a lie) is about something that would offend mothers the world over. Because her personal narrative is in fact the only reason we know she exists, if the lie were ever exposed, she would be toast. In fact, even if she presented a host of other reasons for us to want her in office, I think she'd still be toast. That's not entirely speculation - we have evidence, and it's called "Bill Clinton." But what's interesting is that you would find her undoing in that scenario to be unfair, because you believe that these kinds of lies should not affect our votes. In Bill Clinton's case I would agree, but as Andrew has pointed out, Sarah Palin really provides no other service to the voter apart from an appealing character. Anyway, there's really no reason to speculate, because I think the truth will eventually emerge about this. Hopefully by then she will have long since moved on to hosting a show on QVC.

  12. @anonymous: "Not enough Republican voters agree"

    uhm, not enough republican voters agree that obama is a citizen and not the second coming of Hitler and Castro's Kenyan love child. or that WMD's weren't actually found in iraq. or any number of other things. you're talking about a fundamental disconnect with reality that goes quite far beyond their reaction to a single political candidate.


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