Saturday, July 04, 2009

Cunning, Crazy, Or Crooked?

The American press was gifted with a new distraction, for which I am very grateful. I was getting tired of the wall-to-wall coverage on the death of Michael Jackson. Still, the traditional media coverage of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's stunning announcement that she was not only not running for re-election in 2010, but also resigning in three weeks has been a bit, well, puzzling. Maybe a better word would be "incomplete."

I guess soon-to-be-former-Governor Palin was counting on that, hence the choice to deliver the news on a Friday afternoon preceding a holiday. That's get away time for reporters, just as it is for most of the rest of us. As a result, all of the stories from the mainstream news sources pretty much sounded alike.

Here's a sampling I did from the US press.

First, the Washington Post:

Sarah Palin, the Republican Alaska governor who captivated the nation with a combative brand of folksy politics, announced her resignation yesterday in characteristic fashion: She stood on her back lawn in Wasilla, speaking into a single microphone, accompanied by friends and neighbors in baseball hats and polo shirts.

The announcement that she will step down by the end of July stunned the political establishment, fueling speculation about why she is leaving office with 18 months left in her first term and whether her future will include a run for the presidency. ...

The state of Alaska has spent almost $300,000 investigating ethics complaints against Palin and her staff, including her firing of a public safety commissioner who had refused to dismiss a state trooper involved in a messy divorce with the governor's sister.

Palin said she and her husband, Todd, have spent $500,000 "just to set the record straight." She has been the subject of 15 ethics probes, 13 of which have been resolved by the state Personnel Board with no findings of wrongdoing. The other two are pending. One of the resolved complaints led to Palin's agreement to reimburse the state $8,100 for costs associated with trips she took with her children.

And the AP, as published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Supporters and critics alike say the former GOP vice presidential candidate's resignation, announced Friday afternoon and effective July 26, is an inexplicable move for a high profile Republican widely seen as a contender for a White House run in 2012. A half-term governor campaigning for president?

The AP report also mentioned the multiple state ethics probe, as did the Boston Globe, which included the geese part of the story:

Sarah Palin, the Republican Alaska governor who captivated the nation with a combative brand of folksy politics, announced her resignation yesterday in characteristic fashion: She stood on her back lawn in Wasilla, speaking into a single microphone, surrounded by friends and neighbors in baseball hats and polo shirts. Noisy geese interrupted the speech.

It's nice that our reporters are taking note of what soon-to-be-former-Gov. Palin's neighbors wear to such announcement, eh? Too bad most of them didn't bother to check further into why the decision was made. In about half of the articles I surveyed, that issue never even came up, and in the rest, the issue was raised, and just left hanging.

Here's the NY Times version:

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska abruptly announced on Friday that she was quitting at the end of the month, shocking Republicans across the country and leaving both parties uncertain about whether she was leaving national politics or laying the groundwork for a presidential run. ...

The way Ms. Palin presented her decision seemed to leave open the possibility that she had been motivated by any one of a number of reasons, including being sick of politics and wanting to get out or taking pre-emptive action in anticipation of some embarrassing disclosure.
[Emphasis added]

At least the Los Angeles Times was a bit more explicit:

She said her decision to step down with 18 months left in her term had been some time in the making, though she never clearly spelled out why. She did not take questions. ...

Walking away from a job like governor for any reason besides poor health, scandal or political promotion is highly unusual, and Palin's action raised questions of whether some damaging revelation was in the offing.
[Emphasis added]

The online version of the Los Angeles Times has blogs, and one of them, "Top of the Ticket" was even more direct, but it still didn't provide any answers or any evidence that something else was afoot:

Professionals watching a withdrawal like this conventionally and immediately wonder, what bad news don't we know about her that's about to come out? Is there some scandal, indictment or personal revelation that would cause her to step down even before its announcement? Friday, especially a pre-holiday Friday, is usually a time to announce what you don't want heard much.

OK, so it's just a blog, and we don't expect much real, hard news from blogs, right? That's the province of real journalists, the kind with reliable sources they can check in with, and then cross-check with other reliable sources for confirmation. Just for fun, I did some perusing of blogs on the issue.

Here's Brad Blog:

"FURTHER UPDATE: Okay, I've now been able to get independent information from multiple sources that all of this precedes what are said to be possible federal indictments against Palin, concerning an embezzlement scandal related to the building of Palin's house and the Wasilla Sports Complex built during her tenure. Both structures, it is said, feature the "same windows, same wood, same products." Federal investigators have been looking into this for some time, and indictments could be imminent, according to the Alaska sources."

And Think Progress:

Max Blumental reports on The Daily Beast that Sarah Palin may have quit her job today because she was trying to avert a major, yet-to-be-disclosed corruption scandal. The gist of the rumor is that an Alaska building company called Spenard Building Supplies (SBS) was awarded a contract by Palin to build a hockey arena in Wasilla, AK, and in return, SBS helped construct Palin’s home ...

And Fire Dog Lake:

Update: This just in my inbox, from a source connected sometimes to CNN:

"Here's a quote I got from law enforcement here in Alaska yesterday afternoon regarding Palin "a criminal indictment is pending authorization."

Those silly bloggers, pretending to be real news hounds by calling people close to the issue to track down the story!

Are they right? Is soon-to-be-former-Gov. Palin about to be indicted? It's hard to tell at this point, but if the bloggers cited above are right, and I have a strong hunch that they are, then our glorious mainstream media blew it, whether intentionally or unintentionally in the rush to start the holiday weekend. Regardless of the reason, the press let us down.

But even if the bloggers are wrong, the media still blew it by not doing the job they were hired to do. I don't much care what Sarah Palin's friends and neighbors wear to hastily called press conferences. I do care why someone who could have been Vice-President and might be a candidate for President in 2012 suddenly walks away from her current elected office. Twenty-fours have elapsed since that press conference and I don't see much in the way of further information.

It must be a holiday.



Anonymous Jesus X. Crutch said...

Good post Diane, I liked this part:"same windows, same wood, same products.", hello smoking gun.

5:12 PM  
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