Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sarah's interview with Charlie Gibson of ABC News

Much commentary far and wide, of course. Below is a comment from Nick Ragone, a presidential historian and a regular contributor to Fox News and Fox Business News, as well as the Ralph Bailey radio show and Real Simple Magazine.

For the Obama camp, Sarah Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson had to be deflating. They needed her to stumble -- badly -- and she didn't. In fact, quite the opposite: she looked resolute, confident, and in command of the subject matter. It mostly focused on foreign policy -- her supposed weakness -- with a little bit of religion thrown in for good measure. Bonus points for quoting Lincoln.

Was she brilliant? no. But she didn't have to be brilliant. She simply needed to avoid a Dan Quayle moment. Her strength is on the stump, talking directly to voters, and energizing the base. Irrespective of what McCain campaign manager Rick Davis thinks, she needs to go through this one-on-one vetting process -- I think the public would be outraged if she didn't -- but it will never be her strength. But it's not Obama's strength, either. He tends to stammer and stumble when he's off script, like he did during the debates against Hillary. In that sense, he and Palin are a bit alike.

Team McCain knows that, and that's why they're carefully selecting the outlets and the formats for Palin. I'm not sure we'll see her on Meet the Press or This Week with George Stephanopoulos, but we'll probably see her do a morning show or two, and perhaps some local market interviews. If Obama wants to derail the Palin express, their only real opportunity may come during the Vice Presidential debate. And the stakes get even higher.



Running Alaska

One rap on Sarah Palin's qualifications to be Vice President is that she governs one of our least populated states, with a budget of "only" $12 billion and 16,000 full-time state employees. On the other hand, it turns out that the Governor's office in Alaska is one of the country's most powerful. For more than two decades Thad Beyle, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, has maintained an index of "institutional powers" in state offices. He rates governorships on potential length of service, budgetary and appointment authority, veto power and other factors. Mr. Beyle's findings for 2008 rate Alaska at 4.1 on a scale of 5. The national average is 3.5.

Only four other states -- Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia -- concentrate as much power in the Governor's office as Alaska does, and only one state (Massachusetts) concentrates more. California may be the nation's most populous state, but its Governor rates as below-average (3.2) in executive authority. This may account in part for Arnold Schwarzenegger's poor legislative track record. The lowest rating goes to Vermont (2.5), where the Governor (remember Howard Dean) is a figurehead compared to Mrs. Palin.

In Alaska, the Governor has line-item veto power over the budget and can only be overridden by a three-quarters majority of the Legislature. In 1992, the year Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected President, his state budget was $2 billion and among the smallest in the country. Compared to that, Sarah Palin is an executive giant.



Library lies


Sarah Palin seems like a perfectly normal person, but partisans both in and out of the media have been busily trying to depict her as some sort of religious nut. Among other things, Palin's opponents claim that as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she was a "book banner"--which is to say, that she sought to have books removed from the local public library. This claim has been debunked--but not before it has spread all over the Internet with the help of some in the mainstream media.

The book-banner tale seems to have originated in a widely circulated Aug. 31 email from Anne Kilkenny, who is not a "South Park" character but a Wasilla resident and harsh Palin critic:
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.

On Sept. 2, Time magazine repeated the tale, attributing it to John Stein, Palin's predecessor as mayor, whom she defeated in the 1996 election:
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.

The same day, Blogress Jessamyn West, a Vermont librarian, posted the Time story to her site,, and added that "Mary Ellen Baker resigned from her library director job in 1999."

A reader of the blog named Andrew AuCoin then posted "the list of books Palin tried to have banned"--90 of them in all. Another reader, Charlie Brown, noticed that the list actually seemed to originate at this page--where it appears under the headline "Books Banned at One Time or Another in the United States." But the phony list was already making its way around the Internet. On Sept. 6, a reader forwarded it to us, having received it from a friend, who received it from another friend, who received it from her mother, a librarian.

As it turns out, not only was the list a fake, but when the Anchorage Daily News investigated the story, it found no evidence that Palin had ever sought to remove books from the library. Baker (who was then named Emmons) did tell the local paper back in 1996 that Palin asked her, in the Daily News's words, "about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose." Emmons "flatly refused to consider any kind of censorship."

Kilkenny makes an appearance in the Daily News story, quoting Palin as asking Baker at a City Council meeting, " 'What would be your response if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?' " Baker's response was firm and negative, according to Kilkenny, who acknowledges that Palin did not cite any specific books for removal.

The chairman of the Alaska Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee tells the Daily News that there is no evidence in her files of any censorship at the Wasilla library. As for Baker's resignation, it appears to be unrelated to the putative censorship:
Palin told the Daily News back then the letters were just a test of loyalty as she took on the mayor's job, which she'd won from three-term mayor John Stein in a hard-fought election. Stein had hired many of the department heads. Both Emmons [i.e., Baker] and Stambaugh had publicly supported him against Palin. Emmons survived the loyalty test and a second one a few months later. She resigned in August 1999, two months before Palin was voted in for a second mayoral term.

Yet the myth that Sarah Palin is a "book banner" has taken hold, at least on the left. It shows up, for instance, in two Salon articles (here and here) today.




A good comment: "I am a 71-year-old senior citizen, still working and owner of a small business and a pro-choice Republican. Sarah Palin knocked my holy socks off! Who is this woman? I believe her. I like her. Wait a minute. I think I love her!"

Iran's Role in 9/11 Attack: "In an auspicious passage that went virtually unreported at the time, the 9/11 Commission revealed in July 2004 that they "now have evidence suggesting that 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi `muscle' operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001." The "muscle" operatives were the 9/11 hijackers who overpowered airline crew members, slit their throats, and terrorized passengers so the al-Qaida pilots could seize control of the airliners and fly them into their targets. The Commissioners concluded that there was "strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al-Qaida members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment: said...

Wow. That James Taranto article very closely tracks my own regarding Sarah Palin and false claims of censorship. Of course he did not see my blog post, but I feel great to see someone else see it exactly as I do, even citing to the exact same sources.

See "Sarah Palin Outed by Library on Rhetorical Question About Censorship; An Investigation of Library's Action May Be Warranted," by me, 31 August 2008.

James Taranto should also cover how the American Library Association then spread the rumors in a fashion that the ALA itself admits violated its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.