Monday, July 13, 2009

The birth of a lie

[Update at the bottom of the post.]

I often find myself wondering where some of the lies about Sarah Palin come from. I’m in the middle of tracking down where the rape kit slur started and how it grew but I think we’re seeing the birth of a new lie right now:

Sarah Palin quit as mayor of Wasilla before finishing her second term.

A brief background: Palin’s last term as Mayor of Wasilla would have ended October 7, 2002. Wasilla elections are held the first Tuesday in October; in 2002, this would have been October 1. The mayor takes office the following Monday; in 2002, this would have been October 7. So the story is that Palin did not remain in office until her successor, Dianne Keller, took over on October 7, 2002. This is a lie.

The earliest statement of this I’ve found so far was in a comment on Wonkette, posted by Alaska Girl on July 4, at 1:26am:

She didn’t finish her term as mayor, stepping down to run for Lt. Governor.

Wonkette promptly promoted it to “Comment of the Day”. By July 6, this lie had shown up at Celtic Diva as a post (which said it was “absolutely correct”) and at an Atlantic blog as a comment (this is where I first saw it).

By July 7, Paul Begala had a commentary up at CNN in which he says:

The speculation is that, rather than returning to being a private citizen, Palin aspires to the presidency. Good luck. She quit her job as city councilwoman to run for mayor of Wasilla. She quit her job as mayor of Wasilla to run for lieutenant governor. She quit her job as the head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to run for governor. And now she's quitting her job as governor to ... be a private citizen? Right.

The Begala article has been reproduced far and wide: searching for keywords from his article returns 529 hits in Google. Today, July 12, I heard Nina Totenberg repeat this lie on Inside Washington, a show which was apparently taped on July 10. (The transcript is not yet up; the video is accessible here. I cannot access it - no Microsoft viewer - but Totenberg’s comment came near the end of the show.)

As far as I know, Palin stepped down as councilwoman after she was elected mayor: running for a higher office while already holding office is a very common practice. I believe our current President did that himself recently. There is no evidence she resigned her position on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to run for Governor: she resigned in 2004 and was elected Governor in 2006. Clearly she has resigned as Governor. However.

Sarah Palin did not quit her job as mayor of Wasilla to run for Lieutenant Governor.

Palin ran in the Republican Primary for Lieutenant Governor in 2002, lost, and finished her last term as Mayor (term limits prevented her from running for a third term). Even if she had won the primary and gone on to win the Lieutenant Governorship, she would have been able to finish her term as mayor which ended in October of 2002 before being sworn in as Lieutenant Governor in December of 2002.

Determining that Sarah Palin did not leave early as Mayor of Wasilla simply took a search of the Anchorage Daily News. Behind the fee-to-read wall are 5 articles about the 2002 Wasilla mayoral race. One, dated October 1, 2002, is about the process of counting the votes. Three others are virtually identical (emphasis mine):

Author: S.J. Komarnitsky
Anchorage Daily News

Date: October 2, 2002
Publication: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Page: A1

Word count: 578

Wasilla chose a city council member as its new mayor Tuesday, while Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents filled two positions on the Assembly.

The races were among a string of city and boroughwide contests in Mat-Su.

In Wasilla, Dianne Keller will take over the city's top job from outgoing Mayor Sarah Palin, who could not run again because of term limits. Keller beat three other candidates, including Palin's stepmother-in-law, Faye Palin, to take the [Read article (fee)]

The fifth article begins this way:

Author: Commentary
Date: October 7, 2002
Publication: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Page: B3

Word count: 348

Thank you, Wasilla, for allowing me to be your mayor. I have cherished this time of serving you and now look forward to working with our new mayor as Dianne Keller helps guide Alaska's fastest-growing community.

Best wishes to the Keller administration. I am confident we'll see invigorated, courageous leadership in pursuit of a larger vision for our community. The Valley is on the cusp of reaching so much potential. We can reach it with the perseverance of residents [Read article (fee)]

This is not rocket science; it’s basic due diligence. One of the most amazing things about the Sarah Palin phenomenon has been how eager those who oppose her are to believe virtually anything without making the slightest effort at verification. Apparently Mark Twain was correct:

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.


Update, July 13, 2009, 11:15am: I’ve now paid to read the Anchorage Daily News articles behind the fee-to-read wall and they make it clear Sarah Palin was mayor when Dianne Keller took office on October 7, 2002. I’ve also found an article in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman that begins:

When Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin dismissed deputy administrator John Cramer last month she said that Cramer was let go so the next administration could have a smooth transition when the next mayor takes control after Tuesday's election.

The date of the article is September 30, 2002.

Odd that it is this little lie that puzzles me most, that angers me most. Perhaps it is because it is such a pointless lie: the election is over, the other guys won. It serves no rational purpose. It is simply a cruel and dehumanized vandalism:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.


bluelyon said...

Yep, they just cannot leave her alone. Violet Socks, over at The Reclusive Leftist doesn't get it either. She's come with a term that seems to describe well the vitriol directed first at Hillary and then Sarah: Designated Hate Receptacle.

I've defended Sarah on my blog for months and some of my Dem readers take me to task for it. What they cannot see, and it is as frustrating as hell, is that I can have no problem disagreeing with her politically while at the same time calling out the lies and misogyny.

But I guess, this is what happens when one sees politics as some sort of football game writ large, rather than the actual life and death (sometimes literally) thing that it is.

bluelyon said... commas are all out of whack in my comment above. Please forgive. It is 5:14 am and I've not finished my first cup of coffee.

Elise said...

I read Reclusive Leftist pretty regularly - I think that may be where I first found a link for your blog. She was such a relief - feminists who don't think sexism is fine if the target is someone you don't like. I also liked Anglachel on Hillary and Palin and I'm very sad she's not blogging any more.

A lot of what freaks me out about the Palin-bashing is that those doing the blogging simply don't care - perhaps don't even acknowledge - that there are living, breathing human beings on the other side of the hate. That fits in with your comment about it being viewed as a football game - although perhaps a video one where those doing the bashing can convince themselves that "No real people were harmed during the execution of this attack." I can't stand Obama's policies or his tactics but it would never even occur to me to make a racist comment about him much less to badmouth his children.

It's all very puzzling and distressing and I'm afraid I'll be long dead before we're far enough in the future for some sociologist or political scientist to take an objective look at what the heck happened during the campaign of Aught-Eight.

(I failed comma-using in high school - I tend to just toss them around like confetti. One of my English teachers told me to only use a comma if I could tell her the rule that justified using it. That resulted in writing with no commas at all. Very terse. Short sentences. No lists.)

cokaygne said...

I disagree thoroughly with Palin's politics, as far as I know them, but agree completely that she has been subjected to incredible abuse by the media and the political class.

I have two very good friends in politics.

One of them urged me to get on to a Town Commission, but I begged off because I hate all the ad hominem stuff that goes on even in the small town where I live. She lost her bid for reelection after a local newspaper ran editorials about her desire to get meeting agendas by snail mail rather than email.

The other friend is a state representative and a liberal democrat. She had a well-financed primary challenge, in a Republican town, put up by the unions because she did not toe their line. Those boobs spent working people's in a failed attempt to have one less democrat in the legislature just so they could teach her a lesson.

Politicians are good people and generally honest, but, with the exception of my friends and a few others like Joe Lieberman and John McCain, they are failures because they want to be liked more than anything else, and they are not very bright.

I voted for Obama and really had hopes for him, but now see him as a failure because he cannot say no to the idiots in Congress. Even though I disagree with her about so much, I could almost support Palin in 2012 just to piss off all the venal know-it-alls in the media.

Elise said...

I could almost support Palin in 2012 just to piss off all the venal know-it-alls in the media.

Some days I think that reason makes more sense than most. Somewhere I read someone who said something like, "I guess I'm sort of pro-Palin but mostly I'm just really, really anti-Palin."

As for Obama, I never cared for him but I thought he would be more effective than he has been. It's been a surprise to me that he hasn't taken more control of the issues that are important to him.

As for your refusal to serve on the Town Commission, it's certainly understandable but it is a shame. If things keep on this way, we'll end up in a situation where the only people who are willing to go into public life are the very people who probably shouldn't.

Just Me said...

'As for your refusal to serve on the Town Commission, it's certainly understandable but it is a shame. If things keep on this way, we'll end up in a situation where the only people who are willing to go into public life are the very people who probably shouldn't.'

I think it's already headed that way.