Have I mentioned recently how much I enjoy Sarah Palin? I know it’s been at least 3 weeks since I’ve done so, because I was relegated to the sad side of the digital divide when I was sans computer. Palin, the Fairy Godmother for uninspired bloggers, cooked up a trifecta of events just as I got back online. She’s so generous!
Event Number 1; property tax evasion. The Palins own property along Safari Lake in Alaska. The property is assessed as unimproved. There are in fact two house-sized “cabins” on the property as well as several outbuildings for snowmobiles—oh, excuse me, snow machines—on the property and have been for three or four years, which the Palins never reported to the real property assessor. Most politicians who get into tax trouble –and it’s a lot of them, have you noticed?—say, “Oh, gosh, I made a mistake. Please tell me what I owe and I’ll write the check now.” Not the Palins! Their contention; it’s the assessor’s job to reassess the property and not their responsibility to report any changes.
Frankly, while this makes Palin look stamp-her-foot childish and silly again, it doesn’t look like a very big scandal. Apparently, failing to report improvements until you are caught is pretty standard practice. (I did wonder why the request for a permit doesn’t flag something at the assessor’s office, but. . .)
So graded on technical merit, entertainment value and seriousness; this is about a four on a one-to-ten scale for me.
Event Number 2: Palin mocks President’s use of teleprompters while reading notes off her hand. This was at the Grand Ole Opry Tea Party event. Palin thinks that use of teleprompters somehow proves something bad about Obama (like, that he was born in Kenya? I don’t know). She would never do anything as false and insincere as use one. She reads off paper. (I like paper, so I’m with her on this one.) When she steps away from the podium to take q&a from the audiences, she uses her hand. Not only did she have notes written on her hand, she had one of them lined out! This is hilarious! Do you edit the notes you write on your hand? I’m beginning to see why Palin didn’t do well at her college in Hawaii. In that high humidity, your notes melt.
Grade: Well, in terms of seriousness, this is a zero, only because I can’t go into negative numbers, but for technical merit—extra points for the line editing—she gets a 6, and for entertainment it’s a 9. That averages to a 7.5.
Event Number 3; husband was given access to all kinds of private and confidential materials, made policy decisions and directed daily governance operations. 3,000 e-mails finally released to the media from a Freedom of Information Act request show Todd, the “shadow governor” getting confidential information about procurement processes, weighing in, in writing, about judge appointments, and directing Palin’s staff about how to handle media questions.
Everyone thought that Palin’s husband played a very big role in governing. For me, that should have been a given. Palin is open about belonging to a religious sect that requires men to lead and women to follow. If the voters in Alaska didn’t pick that up, it’s kind of their problem. It’s not merely that he directed her opinions. It’s the access he had.
Grade: This is a zero for entertainment. In fact, it’s damn scary. For technical merit, though, it’s a solid 10, merely for the governor’s office managing to obstruct a FOIA request for 16 months. Geez, I get embarrassed when I have to ask for a month on a Public Records Act request. I’m inspired now. Can I beat 16? This behavior displays arrogant, out-of-control government at its best, and Palin gets the credit because she trained these obstructionist types.
For seriousness, this is a 10. I have to agree with Republican watchdog Andree McLeod on this one. Why is it such a big deal? It’s a big deal because Todd Palin was a private citizen. Palin’s spokeperson described him as an “unpaid consultant,” and that would probably be fine, if he signed a confidentiality agreement, went through ethics training and also signed a no-conflict-of-interest document. Todd Palin apparently did none of that. It’s no different than the Governor bringing in her sister-in-law or old college room-mate and letting them read confidential information about a contract—a contract the old-college room-mate’s company is bidding on, for instance. McLeod’s question is simple, especially since she has been stalled on repeated requests to have e-mails made public—if you’ll do it for one private citizen, why not all?
Palin supporters try to compare this to Hilary Clinton being put in charge of health care in the 1990s. In fact, Clinton’s assignment was very public, as were her qualifications. Clinton had an assignment that was described and prescribed, and she had the MQs for it. Perhaps Palin announced that the “first dude” would be her advisor on judgeships, questions about government involvement in public-private businesses such as the Matanuska Maid Dairy, and would also provide confidential documents from his employer, British Petroleum, to the governor’s office. Maybe she did, but from the reaction of people, if she did, nobody remembers it. In a state where relations between elected government and energy companies are, well, delicate, the idea of a paid BP employee also being an “unpaid consultant” to the highest office in the state might make some people uncomfortable. In fact, it might make BP uncomfortable, if they didn’t know their documents were being leaked.
A solid 10. This story will probably get the least amount of play unless e-mails surface that reference Troopergate. Even though it is the most serious, it is abstract, and doesn’t play to a visual audience the way notes on your hand does. This story requires people to think about government, its role and the ethics that should bind its actions. Who wants to do that? Look, she wrote on her hand!
Anyway, with all that said and done, I’m grateful. Palin’s back with a bang. Thanks Sarah. On your behalf I’m going to go make a political donation to some liberal group, right now. I think it will be that hotbed of socialist activism, the League of Women Voters.
(I didn’t put in all the links. You can find the stories and the e-mails on MSNBC and also at themudflats.net).