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Daily Howler: How weird! Palin spoke one way in Dayton--and another way up in Fairbanks
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ONE WAY IN THE LOWER 48, ANOTHER WAY IN ALASKA! How weird! Palin spoke one way in Dayton–and another way up in Fairbanks: // link // print // previous // next //

JUST TRY TO PUT LIPSTICK ON THESE LOSERS: Important note: This item involves the press corps’ competence, not its courage or political orientation.

The sheer ineptitude of the upper-end press corps remains a sight to see. In this morning’s New York Times, an editorial tries to discuss Palin’s claims. But the hapless editors typed this:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (9/11/08): [It was] vexing to read the disclosure by The Washington Post that Governor Palin billed Alaska taxpayers for more than 300 nights that she spent at home in her first 18 months in office...[V]oters ought to hear the candidate answering such questions, not for purposes of petty quibbling, but to help fill out their skimpy sense of who Ms. Palin actually is.

She could explain, as well, why she was for the Bridge to Nowhere when it was first proposed and reversed field once it became a symbol of legislative abuse. Even then, the governor helped cycle the $223 million in federal pork to other state needs.

Palin’s claims about the Bridge to Nowhere have been widely discussed for almost two weeks. But in that highlighted passage, the New York Times still has its basic chronology wrong. As all sentient beings must know by this time, the project “became a symbol of legislative abuse” shortly after it was proposed, in the fall of 2005. In response to that public firestorm, the Congress rescinded its “Bridges to Nowhere” earmark in November 2005. We explained this fact at the start of last week, linking to the detailed New York Times news report from November 2005 which explained these elementary facts. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/1/08.

Boys and girls, let’s say it again: The bridge became a “symbol of abuse” in the fall of 2005. For better or worse, Palin didn’t “reverse field” on the project until September 2007, almost two years later; the project was under debate in the state of Alaska until that time. But so what? Even now, the editors of the New York Times can’t explain the simplest facts about this widely-discussed issue.

But then, it’s hard to find an upper-end journalist who can explain this bone-simple chronology. On Sunday, the super-foppish Michael Dobbs discussed this for the Washington Post, in his ironically-named “Fact-Checker” series. Uh-oh! Dobbs, who may be the world’s dumbest human, also got the basic facts wrong:

DOBBS (9/7/08): The Republican vice-presidential candidate is overstating her opposition to earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere. Palin endorsed the the bridge from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Gravina Island while running for governor in 2006. She only decided to kill the bridge project in 2007 after Congress voted to remove the $223 million earmark, and allow Alaska to use the money for other purposes.

That can all be defended as technically accurate (but only barely). But Dobbs quite plainly gives the impression that “Congress voted to remove the $223 million earmark” at some point after Palin became governor—it would seem, in 2007. That, of course, is baldly wrong. But then, this bungled chronology also drove that gruesome Wall Street Journal report by hapless Elizabeth Holmes:

HOLMES (9/9/08): Gov. Palin, who John McCain named as his running mate less than two weeks ago, quickly adopted a stump line bragging about her opposition to the pork-barrel project Sen. McCain routinely decries.

But Gov. Palin's claim comes with a serious caveat. She endorsed the multimillion dollar project during her gubernatorial race in 2006. And while she did take part in stopping the project after it became a national scandal, she did not return the federal money. She just allocated it elsewhere.

Holmes’ statements are also technically accurate. But she too conveys the clear impression that the project “became a national scandal” after Palin took office. Again, this is flatly inaccurate. Boys and girls, can we say it again?

  1. The bridge “became a national scandal” in the fall of 2005.
  2. Palin was elected governor in November 2006.
  3. As governor, Palin stopped the project in September 2007.

It’s hard to imagine a simpler chronology. But in the mahoganied world of the upper-end “press corps,” the hockey mom’s tale has now gone for the hat trick. In just the past six days, the Post, the Journal and the Times have all managed to bungle these bone-simple facts. Almost surely, those are our three most important upper-end newspapers.

Go ahead! Just try to put lipstick on those pigs! As we said at the start of this item, this involves the competence of the upper-end press corps—not courage, not political orientation. But when a nation’s press corps is so cosmically hapless, that nation can’t succeed. For example, do you now understand why people this dumb couldn’t untangle those claims about Candidate Gore?

Your upper-end press doesn’t have much courage, and many members are deeply dishonest. But there’s something else we all must know: These palace-dwellers are dumb to their core. It gets like that inside Versailles, where lipstick gets smeared on the darlings.

FROM THE LIPS OF THE PIGS TO YOUR EARS: Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! On Tuesday, we shuddered as Sebastian Mallaby blubbered and wailed about Saint John McCain, claiming that the famous straight-talker was once a very great man (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/9/08). Yesterday, it was Josh Marshall’s turn to insult your intelligence, sadly linking to Andrew Sullivan to help Sully stage a good cry. (For Josh’s post, click here.) Poor Sully! Like Mallaby, he was having a good solid cry about a famous saint’s lost greatness. In this, the start of his blubbering post, he and Josh treat you like fools:

SULLIVAN (9/10/08): For me, this surreal moment—like the entire surrealism of the past ten days—is not really about Sarah Palin or Barack Obama or pigs or fish or lipstick. It's about John McCain. The one thing I always thought I knew about him is that he is a decent and honest person. When he knows, as every sane person must, that Obama did not in any conceivable sense mean that Sarah Palin is a pig, what did he do? Did he come out and say so and end this charade? Or did he acquiesce in and thereby enable the mindless Rovianism that is now the core feature of his campaign?

So far, he has let us all down. My guess is he will continue to do so. And that decision, for my part, ends whatever respect I once had for him. On core moral issues, where this man knew what the right thing was, and had to pick between good and evil, he chose evil. When he knew that George W. Bush's war in Iraq was a fiasco and catastrophe, and before Donald Rumsfeld quit, McCain endorsed George W. Bush against his fellow Vietnam vet, John Kerry in 2004. By that decision, McCain lost any credibility that he can ever put country first. He put party first and his own career first ahead of what he knew was best for the country.

What a perfect pile of crap! It would take a gang of Texas wranglers to put some rouge on these pigs.

First, please spare us the scripted palaver about always thinking McCain was so decent and honest. When people report this about themselves, they are, in effect, admitting that they’re too goddamn dumb to do politics. Let’s get real: In his initial run for the White House, McCain gained his reputation for probity by riding reporters around on his bus, telling them jokes about stripper ex-girl friends—and insisting to scribes that he thought they were smart. Plainly, the man was a liar! He constantly dissembled about his opponents; he rarely knew whereof he spoke when he was forced to talk about something other than Marie the Flame. Always knew he was decent and honest? Who was running his South Carolina campaign, at a salary of $20,000 per month? For brevity’s sake, it was the man described by Bob Herbert in this New York Times column:

HERBERT (2/21/00): As for inclusion, which is something Mr. McCain says he is for—well, he took a hit on that yesterday, too.

Mr. Russert asked him about Richard Quinn, who was Mr. McCain's chief strategist in South Carolina. Mr. Quinn is editor in chief of the rabid Southern Partisan Quarterly Review, a neo-Confederate magazine that ritually denounces the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Russert asked Mr. McCain about an article written by Mr. Quinn that said: "What better way to reject politics as usual than to elect a maverick like David Duke? What better way to tweak the nose of the establishment?"

"First of all, I haven't seen the whole article and I wouldn't see the whole article," said Mr. McCain, suddenly sounding as if the Straight Talk Express had veered off the road.

Mr. Quinn, he said, was a man of integrity who didn't agree with the more repulsive views in his own magazine.

You believe that, don't you?

“You believe that, don’t you?” asked Herbert. Well guess what? Marshall and Sullivan and Mallaby did! Let’s state the obvious: Saint McCain had hired Quinn to appeal to the race bloc in Palmetto State GOP politics. In USA Today, Jim Drinkard reported more about this greatest saint’s Palmetto brain trust:

DRINKARD (2/8/00): In the northern part of the state, McCain counts among his supporters Ed Walker, a prominent figure in the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization and an ardent [confederate] flag proponent. Walker's son Trey is also a $14,000-a-month consultant to the campaign, according to McCain's campaign-finance records.

Duh. Almost surely, McCain was trying to buy influence within this particular bloc. Trust us: If Richard Quinn had run Bush’s campaign, his name would still be famous today. But insider hacks were on Saint McCain’s side. In that interview with Russert, McCain put lipstick on the dude he was running with then—and press corps pigs let him do it.

(For the record: Quinn was profiled in much greater detail by the Times and, especially, by The New Republic. Everybody knew about this—and knew they should get out the rouge.)

Spare us when these rouged-up pundits blubber about how great this man was. And by the way, Sullivan plays you for fools (with Josh’s endorsement) in that laughably dishonest passage about McCain’s vile endorsement of Bush. You know—the endorsement where McCain “chose evil?” According to this lipsticked lizard, McCain “lost any credibility that he can ever put country first” when he endorsed his own party’s nominee. But Sullivan, an independent, explained at the time that he himself was torn about who to endorse. Across the pond, in the Evening Standard, Sully offered this assessment of Bush on the day of the election:

SULLIVAN (11/2/04): The phrase "lesser of two evils" often comes up at this time every four years, but, for this election, I think it's too cynical a formula.

Neither George W Bush nor John Kerry can be credibly described as "evils".

They are both second-tier politicians, thrust into the spotlight at a time when we desperately need those in the first circle of talent and vision.

“I’m switching, sadly, to Kerry,” said Sullivan’s headline. In Time, meanwhile, the lying b*stard had offered this vexed assessment:

SULLIVAN (11/1/04): With Bush and Kerry, There a Lot to Be Confused About

Why is this election so hard for so many people? Here's one theory. It's not so easy to tell who's the liberal and who's the conservative anymore. You want a candidate who pumps unprecedented amounts of money into agricultural subsidies, uses tariffs to protect some American industries and adds a whole new entitlement to Medicare? That would be the, er, Republican, George W. Bush.

You want a future President who will be hard nosed about committing U.S. troops abroad, wants to balance every new spending item with a tax hike or a spending cut elsewhere and backs states' rights on social issues? Then go ahead and vote for the, er, Democrat, John Kerry.

You think there's too little federal control over education? Vote Bush. Want to expand health-care coverage primarily through the private sector? Vote Kerry.

Confused yet? You're not the only one.

Sully failed to state a personal choice—and ditto when he took part in a Reason piece entitled, “Who’s getting your vote?”

SULLIVAN (11/1/04): Sullivan, a senior editor at The New Republic, blogs at

2004 vote: I can't vote because I'm not a citizen. So I can only "support" candidates, and I'm not supporting anyone in this election.

2000 choice: Bush.

Most embarrassing choice: I'm unembarrassed by all my choices.

Today, this lying bastard pleases the rubes, asserting that McCain—a Republican—“chose evil” when he supported Bush. He forgets to say that he himself refused to state a choice.

It’s hard to find lipstick for pigs like these—for Sullivan, endlessly playing us rubes; for Marshall, his endless enabler. In today’s first items, we talked about competence. In this one, we speak of bad character.

ONE WAY IN THE LOWER 48, ANOTHER WAY UP IN ALASKA: Sarah Palin was really feeling it during last week’s convention address! Needless to say, she was deeply troubled by two-faced two-timers. And she was doing something else—working in the requisite reference to a certain famous Gomorrah. Palin, of course, comes from a small town, which means she’s more moral than you are:

PALIN (9/3/08): I might add—I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they're listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening.

(Cheers, applause.)

No, we tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.

(Cheers, applause.)

Yeah, well guess what? Here at THE HOWLER, we “logic dads” tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about themselves one way in St. Paul and another way in Fairbanks! We refer, of course, to Palin’s speech when she arrived in Fairbanks last night.

The speech was broadcast on CNN. At one point, the pit bull in lipstick rattled her vast achievements. But omigod! Do you notice something the hockey mom absent-mindedly forgot to shout out?

PALIN (9/10/08): As governor, we took on the old politics as usual and the old oil monopoly, undue influence that had controlled our state, it's broken. And the ethical standards that had led to closed doors and closed door dealings and self interest, it's gone. Even the state's luxury jet—it's sold. Hopefully not sounding hypocritical as you watch me walk off that [pointing to McCain campaign jet].

And then there is the nearly $500,000 million in unnecessary spending that we vetoed. We had to do these things to put Alaska on a right fiscally conservative track. We're going to have to do this in D.C.

We suspended the state fuel tax. People around the nation are asking about that also, and returning that chunk of the state surplus straight back to you, the Alaskan people. You know, that's kind of unheard of in other states. But we believe, you believe that you can spend that money better than government can spend it for you.

So here in Alaska we are giving money back to the hard-working Alaskans. And in these tough times John McCain and I are ready to do the same thing across our country by giving tax relief to all Americans.

Huh! The hockey mom mentioned that famous state jet, the way she always does down here. (Though she oddly forgot about eBay.) But how weird! Once she got back to Fairbanks, she omitted her heroics in “telling Congress thanks but no thanks” about that “Bridge to Nowhere!” When she speaks in St. Paul or Dayton, it’s the pit bull’s greatest achievement. But when she finds herself in Fairbanks, she keeps her lip-sticked trap shut!

What follows is speculation, of course. But it’s fairly obvious why the “Bridge to Nowhere” heroics got disappeared. (Here at THE HOWLER, we stayed up to watch the hockey mom speak just to see how she’d handle this topic.)

Why would the Lipsticked One forget to tell her most famous tale? Duh! In Alaska, they know how this thing went down; they understand the exaggerations involved in the hockey mom’s tale—and some Alaskans didn’t agree with her decision in the first place. Indeed, when Palin began to tell her tale to us stone rubes in the Lower 48, some Alaskans voiced surprise at the very language she was using. Two days after Palin debuted, Tom Kizzia described the problem in the Anchorage Daily News:

KIZZIA (8/31/08): But Palin was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it.

The Alaska governor campaigned in 2006 on a build-the-bridge platform, telling Ketchikan residents she felt their pain when politicians called them "nowhere." They're still feeling pain today in Ketchikan, over Palin's subsequent decision to use the bridge funds for other projects—and over the timing of her announcement, which they say came in a pre-dawn press release that seemed aimed at national news deadlines.

"I think that's when the campaign for national office began," said Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein on [August 30].

Meanwhile, Weinstein noted, the state is continuing to build a road on Gravina Island to an empty beach where the bridge would have gone—because federal money for the access road, unlike the bridge money, would have otherwise been returned to the federal government.

In fact, the “Bridge to Nowhere” was never as stupid as Lower 48 journalists made it—nor did the bridge go to “nowhere.” In reality, the bridge would have gone from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, where only a handful of people live—and where the Ketchikan airport is found. (Scribes in the Lower 48 typically deep-sixed that latter fact; it made the story better. The island is also the only place where Ketchikan, a mountain-blocked town, will ever be able to expand.) For these reasons, use of the term “bridge to nowhere” was and is tricky within the state; before she came to the Lower 48, Palin would criticize such lingo. Last Sunday, the Daily News published a letter on the topic:

Ask Ketchikan Voters about Palin

...There was hypocrisy contained in Palin's claim to have told Washington "Thanks but no thanks for that Bridge to Nowhere," when she went to Ketchikan during her run for governor and told the people there she felt their pain at being told they were nowhere and that she and they would "make a good team as we progress that bridge project." When Congress removed the earmark language for the bridge but left the money, Palin used it elsewhere and has yet to go back to Ketchikan to explain her decision to the people as promised.

There’s no way that Palin could tell her tale in Fairbanks the same way she told it in Dayton. That’s why we stayed up to see what she’d say. Her solution? Say nothing at all!

Weird, isn’t it? Down in St. Paul, she made it clear; the lipsticked lady simply despises pols who say it two different ways in two different locations. Why, she even forced herself to deride San Francisco in the process! But when she got to Fairbanks last night, her “bridge to nowhere” bluster ended. How weird! She still told them about that state jet. But her most famous story was nowhere.

By the way: In the Lower 48, Palin always says she took on “the good old boys.” On Tuesday, she said it this way in Lebanon, Ohio—and in Lancaster, PA. But in Fairbanks, where those boys still live and have friends, she said she took on “the old politics as usual” (see text above).

Since Palin comes from a small town, we know our impression is wrong. But how strange! It almost seems like the small town pit bull “talks to us one way in PA and another way in Alaska.”

HER FOUR PENS: Charlie Gibson seems like a nice guy—much more decent and unassuming than his peacock-style, multimillionaire peers. He plainly isn’t a movement conservative, despite the impression some folk got from his embarrassing performances during this year’s Dem debates.

But like so many of his colleagues, Gibson just isn’t that sharp. For the record, he graduated from Sidwell Friends (DC), then from Princeton; we assume his IQ is more than OK. But life in the multimillionaire lane leaves them all a bit dull, and so it seems with Gibson. Example: In Howard Kurtz’s Reality Show, Gibson is quoted, at several points, marveling at Diane Sawyer’s brilliance. Here’s Howie, inside Gibson’s mind:

KURTZ (page 196): Reading Diane was not the easiest thing in the world, Gibson felt. She had one of the fastest minds of anyone he had ever met, an intelligence that operated at almost warp speed. She was like a chess grandmaster, always nine moves ahead of him. She could claim to be burned out and then be a ball of fire the next day.

Good God—there’s truly no hope! (So you’ll remember, Sawyer’s greatest journalistic scoop came when she asked Marla Maples if sex with The Donald was the best she’s ever had.) On page 218, Kurtz described the way the pair worked together at Good Morning America: “Sawyer often looked to Gibson for guidance when she lost her place in the show and papers were being thrust at her from every direction. Gibson was dazzled by the quickness of her mind. He felt that they had forged a mutually dependent relationship.” But Gibson’s attitude was understandable. On that same page, Kurtz describes the first time ever Charlie looked on her face, back when Sawyer worked in the Nixon White House. Gibson could tell how brilliant she was because she was “taking notes with four different colored pens. The woman, apparently, was well organized.”

In fairness, Gibson’s high character shines through in Kurtz’s reporting, as does that of his lipsticked consort. Just consider the mature way these mastodons acted when ABC wanted to hook them up, back in 1999:

KURTZ (page 218): Neither of them, for the moment, was ready to take the leap. They wanted assurances that [David] Westin would pour more resources into GMA and that they would be able to shape it into a newsier program. Salaries were not an issue: Sawyer was already making $7 million a year, and Gibson about $3 million. Neither asked for a nickle more.

Not even a nickle more! What can we say about that kind of decency? Kurtz marvels here at a key fact: As late as 1999, Charlie Gibson was willing to work for as little as $3 million! It’s almost like stealing to watch him!

This culture makes the best of them dumb; if you doubt that, just reread those “Bridge to Nowhere” chronologies in today’s first item. Your press corps is profoundly incompetent; and, in fact, it get less competent the higher up the ladder you go. Or watch the questions Charlie asks when his interview with Palin starts airing tonight. Here at THE HOWLER, we’d love to see the pit bull questioned about her self-glorying “Bridge to Nowhere” tale. When did you “tell the Congress thanks but no thanks?” we’d like to see her asked. When did you “tell the Congress” that “if our state wanted a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves?” Rubes down here in the Lower 48 have been offering [cheers, applause] for that tale for almost two weeks. We’d love to see the lipsticked lady explain when she did these bold things. More specifically, we like to hear how this fits with her statement in September 2007, when she formally killed the project. The project was dead because Congress wouldn’t give her more money, the hockey mom glumly said.

It’s like she said one thing in Juneau—and another thing here with us rubes.

We’d love to see her asked such questions, by a capable person. But Charlie was dazzled by Sawyer’s four pens. We hear hockey moms can use five.