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More from Palinland

[ 44 ] August 31, 2008 |

Ari and Eric have have dug up some fun details about Sarah Palin’s first few months as mayor of Wasilla. Elected to bestow “change” upon the town, Palin instead went on a rampage, demanding — a la Jimmy Carter — that her stable of city managers resign and then re-apply for their positions as a test of loyalty. She drove three septuagenarian museum curators into disgruntled retirement, and she canned the librarian and police chief, both of whom had supported her opponent, a three-term incumbent.

Obviously, the choices made by a first-term, small-town mayor in early 1997 tell us very little about Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate nearly a dozen years later. Unless, that is, you realize that what Palin was up to in early 1997 bears a strong resemblance to the road she took toward firing Walt Monegan last month. Likable though she may be, Palin has established an obvious pattern of using public office to settle private scores and to retaliate against fellow public officials who have been deemed insufficiently helpful.

More substantively, Palin’s vaunted record as a budget-trimming “maverick” and a principled opponent of federal pork is unpersuasive at best. She has never opposed federal earmarks on principle, even for the patently absurd Gravina Island bridge. And while she hacked nearly $270 million from this year’s budget, the “principles” she deployed were inconsistent and at times of an evidently provincial nature. She left most projects in the Matanuska-Susitna valley — her home region — untouched (though she dismantled a funding proposal for a recycling center); and she allowed the state to fund a bullshit “academic based” conference to highlight the unique argument that shrinking polar ice doesn’t threaten polar bears. It’s true that she eliminated funding for a zamboni blade-sharpener — a budget item that was to state political comedy what the “Bridge to Nowhere” was for the rest of the country — but to describe Palin as “anti-pork” requires that we overlook the basic point that “pork” is simply synonymous with “projects I don’t like.”

Meantime, fiscal conservatives — and anyone who doesn’t enjoy setting a pile of cash on fire — ought to be wondering why “maverick” Sarah Palin just threw away $500 million in preliminary funding for a natural gas pipeline that will never actually be constructed. But this, too, is being held up as evidence that Palin is “standing up” to the corporate fat cats, an admirable gesture only if you believe that mavericktude requires blowing half a billion dollars for no substantive gain.

Of course, I realize that almost none of this will alter the mainstream press narrative about Palin and her spot in the race. Friends of mine who work in state government are confident that the national press is not going to tip over for Palin the way the local media have; I wish they were right, but so far, my skepticism has been amply rewarded. The concrete is drying on the “maverick” label; it’s going to be mooseburgers, go-go boots, hockey and Down Syndrome from here on in.

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  1. Rune says:

    While her dubious history in Alaska may not get much MSM play, Palin still looks like a disastrous and “game-changing” choice for McCain.
    In a rare showing of common decency (or fear of adverse PR, more likely), the RNC will curtail its celebrations for a couple days to see what Gustav does in the Gulf. Unfortunately, the delay also gives the party some time to reflect on the Palin choice and look for a face-saving way to find someone less problematic.
    The biggest danger for now, it seems, is that Biden could spout off a sexist comment or two and offend voters who are merely skeptical — rather than appalled like the rest of us — about Palin.
    To the Nixonian question “will they buy it in Peoria?”, the tentative answer seems to be “not likely.”

  2. phil says:

    Apparently she allowed the road to the bridge to nowhere to be built, since rejecting those funds would have just sent them back to Washington.

  3. DocAmazing says:

    The rumor mill is picking up steam: baby Trig may have been named for the second-hardest thing a seventeen-year-old girl had to deal with. True or false, that’s going to hang around like a bad smell.
    That’s something to scrape off her go-go boots.

  4. DrDick says:

    Thanks for the insight from on the ground in the land of the Ice Maiden.

  5. aimai says:

    I go back and forth on this one. I think the right thing for Obama and Biden to do is just what they do in tonight’s sixty minutes interview–”nice mommy, up and coming public servant…so what?” But the right thing for the rest of us to do? I say go viral with rage and contempt. AT the same time I find it hard to believe that the press which loved mccain’s maverickiness is so far lost to tacky flat earthers in snowmobiles that they will extend to Palin the same worshipful treatment McCain receives. That means she won’t be teflon the way he has been. Every gaffe and every crude little gesture and abuse of power on the national scene during the campaign is going to be magnified, not buried. I just wish the general election season were longer because we can look for her to be forced to rush back to alaska to hide if her prime time behavior matches her alaskan behavior and the press are paying attention.
    aimai

  6. Mike says:

    All else aside, if a Down’s mother might be 44 or 17, which way would you bet, Doc?

  7. Matt Weiner says:

    In the interest of complete correctness, it looks as though Palin threatened to fire the Wasilla librarian but she kept her job.
    …I think the viral with rage and contempt thing might be called for — she’s lied about her signature issue and about her abuse of power, and she’s also never expressed an opinion on foreign policy (unlike Obama, who has been actively opposing the war for five years) — but the Trig thing makes me very queasy. Just from a political standpoint, the story of W’s skipping his National Guard service blew up in our faces, and that was much more well established than this and also much, much more contemptible on W’s part. Certainly anyone who’s anywhere near an official position shouldn’t touch that one until it’s locked down.
    (Incidentally, the answer to Mike’s question is: depends on the priors.)

  8. I dunno. I think, as Quayle’s did years ago, Palin’s celebrity will diminish soon, and the VP candidates will move to the background, just as Bentsen and Quayle did. If it were up to me, any attacks on Palin would always be formulated as attacks on McCain. Sure, it matters if Palin is a liar and a nutjob, but even more so because John McCain picked this liar and nutjob. Á la: “In choosing someone so vastly unqualified to be Vice-President for the most cynical of political reasons, John McCain once again has shown that ‘putting the country first’ is nothing more than a slogan for him and his party.”
    Or “John McCain can’t stop lying about his own policies, he can’t stop lying about Obama’s policies, and now he can’t stop lying about the record of his own pick for Vice-President. It’s clear that John McCain would rather win an election than put the country first.”
    But maybe this is why I’m only a blog commenter and my bank account is bereft of campaign lucre.

  9. Matt Weiner says:

    By priors I mean prior probabilities. And this isn’t mostly directed at Mike — more at the people who point out that more Down syndrome kids are born to mothers under 40 than over, which is true but not relevant in this case.
    I think phil has the right approach here.

  10. DocAmazing says:

    Hard to use the statistics like that. Advanced maternal age is a risk factor for Down’s; to a lesser extent, so is maternal youth (i.e., teen momhood). Having said that, trisomies like Downs happen when they happen–eight-tenths of babies with Downs are born to mothers under 35.
    This is like betting on dice which are fixed, but not fixed very well. Even leaving aside the question of young Trig’s maternity–and I really don’t care who his mother is, just that he’s properly cared for–taking a long flight after rupture of membranes en route to an area where a lower level of neonatal/perinatal care is available speaks to abysmally poor judgment, as does abstinence-only sex education in a small town where copulating is one of the very few activities available on a Saturday night.
    No, the real question before us is: does this make for high-quality ratfucking?

  11. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    If it were up to me, any attacks on Palin would always be formulated as attacks on McCain. Sure, it matters if Palin is a liar and a nutjob, but even more so because John McCain picked this liar and nutjob.
    Agreed. And actually the attacks on McCain should focus on the fact that he had no idea what sort of a candidate Palin would be because he hardly knew her.
    This choice speaks badly of McCain regardless of how serious the ethical questions about her turn out to be.

  12. stickler says:

    If the rumors about the baby’s parentage turn out to be true, though, imagine how this campaign is going to look in five or ten years. No vetting, obscure choice, bizzarro scandal just after Labor Day. Along with a probable hurricane impact on the day the GOP is supposed to be starting its convention…
    History books might make McCain’s campaign out to be unluckier than McGovern’s was. And Obama is no Nixon.
    The Democrats, I agree, should just let things play out for a while. Don’t attack Palin, keep up the gentle attacks on McCain’s age and judgement, and watch the Straight Talk Express explode all on its own.

  13. mjd says:

    I remain convinced that she wasn’t vetted. No one from the McCain campaign will say they vetted her – just vague statements that someone vetted her. I really think they’d settled on Romney and then freaked out. When she has to postpone campaign events to be deposed that will be priceless.

  14. Matt Weiner says:

    Aw yeah, the discussion is getting diverted into a debate over epistemology!
    As I see it, Doc and Bob are both right here (taking Doc’s word on the frequency of trisomy); definitely Bob is right that you can’t just port the probabilities back to the single case. The differing probabilities are part of the evidence here, but there’s a lot of other evidence, which I’m in no position to evaluate, and the other evidence is going to do most of the work here. It’s not just betting on dice that haven’t been fixed very well, it’s trying to figure out how someone bet from whether they won, given that the dice haven’t been fixed so well.
    That said, I think the important point is that this doesn’t seem like high-quality ratfucking to me. Though how would I know?

  15. McKingford says:

    I remain convinced that she wasn’t vetted.
    I think that is becoming increasingly obvious. The Huffington Post has a story about how when the Dems sent an operative to do research from her local paper (the archives aren’t available online), he was told nobody had been there before him.
    It struck home with me when I was watching some of her “acquaintances” giving media appearances about her background. Part of basic vetting is collecting the names of reliable and media savvy people who you can use to put the media in touch with once the selection is announced. Well, the people from back home that they were interviewing looked like they had never been on camera before – barely able to speak coherently, giving “yes”/”no” answers to questions, not looking into the camera, etc.

  16. Jim Harrison says:

    Is Palin opposed to birth control? The question I’d like answered is not why she gave birth to a Down’s Syndrome kid but why a 44 year old who had already had four children got pregnant again.

  17. Rob says:

    It would be an insult to such a fine American to assume that she required vetting…

  18. McKingford says:

    Re: the baby
    It seems like the issue of maternity is a no-go politically, but I have to say the two things that really stuck out were the picture of her from Super Tuesday (where she definitely does *not* look pregnant, let alone on the verge of giving birth), and the almost unbelievable fact that she would fly home from Texas *after* her water broke.
    But the question I wouldn’t mind hearing other people (especially women) answer is how appropriate it is for someone nursing a 4 month old Down Syndrome baby to be engaged in a national campaign (let alone take the reigns of the VP office). Is is sexist to raise the issue? I come from a country where we pay employment benefits for a year after a woman gives birth, so it seems like a pro-family person would want to avail themselves to such things. And it isn’t simply that she has kids, but that she has a breastfeeding infant who happens to also be a special needs child. How do you reconcile flying around the country nonstop for 2 months, making multiple appearances a day with that? So to me, it’s more a timing issue, but I’d be interested in what others have to say.

  19. mjd says:

    Rob’s right – but it’s an insult to McCain to think his Maverick gut instinct isn’t enough. I mean he met her once before.

  20. Dr Zen says:

    Meh. She is Robyn to his Batman. They are selling the pollies who are going “she’s a clown” as bitter good ol’ boys whose snouts she smacked out of the trough. Yeah, she is a clown, and yeah, the liberal blogosphere is going nuts, but it will die down, and she’ll be a net gain. She’s there to help with the base, not to convince you guys. And the base doesn’t care about irresponsibility. If they did, would McCain even be close to a shot?

  21. Mike says:

    eight-tenths of babies with Downs are born to mothers under 35
    And the proportion of all babies born to women under 35 is of course higher still.
    Anyway, that was a minor point, the major ones being:
    1. At this moment, the rumor is about as well-founded as that of Obama being a Muslim.
    2. Even if it’s true, it doesn’t reflect badly on Palin.
    But if you don’t mind spreading unfounded rumors pointlessly, carry on.

  22. Mike says:

    It does occur to me that the GOP vice-presidential candidate’s having a developmentally disabled child is somewhat reminiscent of 1980.

  23. Matt Weiner says:

    I wouldn’t mind hearing other people (especially women) answer is how appropriate it is for someone nursing a 4 month old Down Syndrome baby to be engaged in a national campaign (let alone take the rei[]ns of the VP office).
    My two cents: I don’t want to say “Being a new mother disqualifies you from job X” or to tell other people how to raise their children — the willingness of people to kibitz on mothers is unlimited, and it’s a bad thing.
    Well I do want to tell Sarah Palin she shouldn’t fill her children’s heads with creationism, Republicanism, and abstinence education, but I’ll have no luck there. You know what I mean, anyway.

  24. aimai says:

    demoisnedem has a good post up at kos from her readings around the christanist/momist sites and they are not happy about the pick because they really, viscerally, disagree with the notion that women work outside the home at any point in their children’s youth–and Palin has five under seventeen–let alone while nursing a four month old.
    But what makes you think she’s “nursing?” That’s a radical, leftist, laleche league sort of thing to do. I doubt if she is nursing him, probably bottle feeding.
    This is all so very complicated, socially, morally, culturally. If (absent the other shit that has gone down) it had been Elizabeth Edwards who was up for VP and she suddenly got pregnant, decided to keep the baby, learned it had downs and went through with the birth and still wanted to campaign for the VP slot I’d be cheering her on. I personally don’t have any problem with Palin leaving Trig to campaign. I certainly don’t have an trouble with her keeping the baby despite his health problems. But as a mother I do have a problem with the “flew eight hours after her waters broke”. That was a fantastically stupid and dangerous thing for her to do, both for her and the baby, and the reason given (to get back to alaska so the baby could be born there?) is just nuts. Its an insult to our intelligence to assert that that is why they chose such a risky course. Or its an insult to their intelligence to argue that that was really the reason they did it.
    aimai

  25. McKingford says:

    It’s true that she eliminated funding for a zamboni blade-sharpener
    And she calls herself a hockey mom…

  26. McKingford says:

    aimai, your comment allows me to put mine in better context. On the issue of nursing, I took special note when I read some media account that she was, in fact, breastfeeding (as lefty as it seems). But I want to be clear that it isn’t having all those kids that is my issue (although it certainly makes it even *more* difficult to cope with running a national campaign and nursing a special needs infant) – it’s simply the timing. If she had 8 kids, and her youngest was 3, I wouldn’t think twice.
    The Edwards case is similar in that I really think we under played how significant it was that John Edwards was running for president knowing his wife would likely make him a widower while he was in office. From all accounts Elizabeth is his confidante and closest advisor; I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through the loss of someone that integral to him while running the most difficult job in the world.

  27. Mike says:

    five under seventeen
    Nitpick: four seventeen and under. The fifth is 19 and headed for Iraq.
    (I suppose it’s hardly worth pointing out that many of the people who don’t think mothers should work outside the home applauded the welfare reform that insists on it.)

  28. Matt Weiner says:

    It does occur to me that the GOP vice-presidential candidate’s having a developmentally disabled child is somewhat reminiscent of 1980.
    Win.
    I agree with you about this rumor, but I’m here for the epistemology so I want to point out that “Most births are to women under 35″ doesn’t really make the point here. Think of it this way: If you were told nothing about a baby but that it had been born, and were asked whether it was more likely to have been born to a woman under or over 35, the answer would be “under.” If all you were told was that it had Down syndrome, “under” would still be more likely than “over,” but not as much more likely. (I don’t know what the numbers are for 17 vs. 44.)
    But this is all kind of silly, because we have lots more evidence — for instance, that most babies are born to the women who they’re supposed to have been born to. And you have to evaluate based on the whole evidence.
    It’s also silly because, as you’ve pointed out, the whole question is kind of silly, and it isn’t effective ratfucking. More “she was still for the road to nowhere,” please.

  29. Jon H says:

    Regarding the baby parentage thing, it arguably raises an even stronger case against her if Sara Palin *is* the mother.
    The story about her water breaking in Texas, after which she gave a political talk, then got on a plane to Alaska, then drove to small hospital in Wasilia to have the kid, is just *insane* if true.
    To be blunt, if it’s true, then it raises the question of whether she did that in hopes that God would be her abortion provider. At the very least, her judgement sucks.

  30. Jon H says:

    Mike wrote: “2. Even if it’s true, it doesn’t reflect badly on Palin.”
    Her shame-driven response to her daughter’s pregnancy is why it reflects badly on her.
    How many girls are driven by shame into getting abortions?
    As a pro-life politician, the shaming doesn’t reflect well on her. Nor does it look good that her apparent favored policy in response to teen pregnancy is ‘pretend it never happened, lie if necessary’.
    Think how much better would it have been had she publicly supported her pregnant daughter, kept her in school, and then adopted the baby.
    She could have been a *real* role model.

  31. Jon H says:

    That said, I wouldn’t want the Obama campaign or their surrogates to touch the baby thing with a ten foot pole.

  32. lt says:

    Jim Harrison -
    It’s nobody’s business how many kids she has. Pro-choice is pro-choice. I’ll fight like hell to make contraception available but people have the right not to use it. Leave hypocrisy to the other side.

  33. Jon H says:

    McKingford wrote: “But the question I wouldn’t mind hearing other people (especially women) answer is how appropriate it is for someone nursing a 4 month old Down Syndrome baby to be engaged in a national campaign (let alone take the reigns of the VP office).”
    I expect it’d be far easier now than when he’s older and more mobile. She can just tote the little guy around, or have an aide carry him.
    While there’s a lot of travel, it’s as a VIP, in limos and SUV convoys and private jets and private coaches. Lots of people around to handle the details and luggage.

  34. lt says:

    And talking about whether she should be doing this or that with small kids is a bad idea too. Stick to the issues and experience. Really, how hard is this?

  35. Barryaran says:

    I’m not sure why people believe, if the rumors about the baby are true, that it must be Palin who wanted to keep the secret. It’s just as possible that it was her daughter who didn’t want it known, in which case Palin’s act would be selfless, rather than selfish.
    I also think it’s pretty much none of our business. It’s legitimate to point out that it was her choice to have a child with Down Syndrome, but that she doesn’t want other women to make their own choices. It’s fine to observe that the sensible response to having your water break a month early does not involve flying 11 hours to a location with less-sophisticated medical facilities. But these other speculations involve a teenager who’s not running for office, and actions that don’t contradict Palin’s anti-abortion stand. I think pursuing them would be both unkind and ultimately ineffective.

  36. Jon H says:

    ” It’s just as possible that it was her daughter who didn’t want it known, in which case Palin’s act would be selfless, rather than selfish. ”
    Then I’d certainly hope the woman wouldn’t put herself forward for VP, with this waiting to be uncovered.

  37. Mike says:

    Think how much better would it have been had she publicly supported her pregnant daughter, kept her in school, and then adopted the baby.
    She could have been a *real* role model.

    Yeah, parade her daughter’s [1] pregnancy in public to make a political point. That would really be admirable.
    1. Hypothetical at this point, of course.

  38. McKingford says:

    And talking about whether she should be doing this or that with small kids is a bad idea too. Stick to the issues and experience. Really, how hard is this?
    To be clear, I never meant it as a talking point or a political issue. I was genuinely interested in simply hearing what people (especially women – and especially women who’ve had children) thought about the wisdom of embarking on a hellacious national campaign with a nursing Down Syndrome infant.

  39. Kathleen O says:

    McKingford wrote: “But the question I wouldn’t mind hearing other people (especially women) answer is how appropriate it is for someone nursing a 4 month old Down Syndrome baby to be engaged in a national campaign (let alone take the reigns of the VP office).”
    I’m a mother of a grown daughter. My opinion is that should be her choice about how she juggles her family with her candidacy. She is totally unqualified to be Vice President and I think her “religical” beliefs are abhorrent. She will make a horrible vice president but that has nothing to do with her family responsiblities. I didn’t fault John and Elizabeth Edwards’ decision that he should campaign after she was diagnosed with cancer a second time and I can’t fault Sarah Palin’s decision either.

  40. homunq says:

    I know I am way way late to this thread, but to me the two most damning things about her are “polar bears are not endangered, as my doctorate in outofassology tells me” and (in wasilla) “Cut taxes!!!!!! (but raise regressive sales tax more)”

  41. Mike says:

    Yeah, parade her daughter’s [1] pregnancy in public to make a political point. That would really be admirable.
    1. Hypothetical at this point, of course.
    Mike | 09.01.08 – 2:14 am | #

    And surely Palin’s cares too much about her kids to do anything like that. By the way, I use this same power of prescience to pick stocks, and yes, I do live in a cardboard box.

  42. sukabi says:

    On the practicality of nursing a 4 month old while on the run…
    I had 2 children, nursed them both, they never had a bottle.
    If that is all you’re doing to feed them, and from birth to about 4 months doctors recommend that they only be breastfed and to not introduce cereal or other foods prior to that, the baby wants and needs to be fed every 2 hours.
    So if Ms. Palin is breastfeeding then she needs to either have Trig with her, or have a pump with her so she can express her milk, every 2 hours, otherwise her body will quit producing enough milk to feed her baby.
    I have no idea what special treatments Trig requires due to his condition, but I don’t imagine they are any less time consuming.
    Successful breastfeeding requires the mother and baby both to be relaxed. I can’t imagine that running on any Presidential ticket is a relaxing affair or provides for much privacy. Being part of the McCain campaign would be like being dropped into a blender in hell.

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