Conservative female politicians are apparently the only big-game that environmentally-sensitive liberals still feel OK about hunting down. Last month, Sarah Palin stepped down as Alaska Governor under pressure from mounting legal bills (over $500,000) arising out of largely partisan and frivolous ethics complaints, apparently filed in order to drive her out of office.
The complaints against Palin were largely filed after she was named running-mate of Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, and most of them were resolved in her favor.
Even the investigator was sympathetic and suggested that "Alaska lawmakers may need to create a law that reimburses public officials for legal expenses to defend complaints that end up being unfounded." (Rachel D'Oro, AP, July 21, 2009).
The DC lawyer who set up the Palin fund said the ethics committee's finding was "crazy." "Anybody can keep filing ethics complaints and drive someone out of office even if you're a nut." (D'Oro, July 21, 2009). The premature publicizing of the finding might also have jeopardized the investigation.
As for the substance of the charges — cashing in on your office?
Why it's a time-honored tradition when it's done by the sainted William Jefferson (you know, the guy who assaulted a couple of women, bit one on the lip until she bled, sodomized the barely-adult daughter of a loyal Democrat donor and then tried to trash her as a stalker, besides causing unaccountable career-implosions, jail-time, near-death experiences, and gory suicides for anyone foolish enough to tangle with him on his carnival cruise to political glory).
But let an evangelical mother of five from a small-town try to pay for her legal troubles, and the media is on the case.
This is only the tail-end of sustained and malicious media-targeting of private behavior that has little relevance to Palin's public actions.
First, there was Palin's baby...then it was her unwed daughter's baby...then the Palins were rumored to be divorcing....
Where do standards of decency and privacy go when the target is a conservative? Journalists seem to be scrambling to nose around in conservative dirt like pot-bellied slum-kids licking candy-wrappers from the trash, dead sure that deep inside there's some juicy stuff left over for them.
The Sarah-sanctimony isn't unique. Earlier in the summer we had all that prurient self-righteousness oozing around the hacked emails of a gringo governor to his favorite Latina, at all other times a favored political species. Maybe Ms. Chapur would have had better luck if she'd gone up for the Supreme Court, and Ms. Palin should have got herself a sugar-daddy on the banks of the Rio dela Plata.
Meanwhile, the last time I looked, hacking was a federal offense punishable with up to twenty years in prison, but when did that ever stand in the way of the Pulitzer of some pen-pushing peeping Tom with a newspaper to sell and idiots to titillate? And lest we forget, the King David of South Carolina only blew a measly eight grand of the state's purse on his Argentine crumpet. The sages at the Treasury and Federal Reserve have blown twenty TRILLION (and counting) of public dough on schemes far less doable than Ms. Chapur.
But, whine the people's pundits, didn't Mark Sanford actually shake his finger at the martyred William Jefferson in his time of trouble? — oh, the hypocrisy!
Hypocrisy? First, there's the semantic point that failing to fully live up to moral standards you profess isn't hypocrisy, it's human weakness. Then there's also the little matter that a lifetime of assaulting women and harassing female associates is closer to dementia than it is to dalliance. It makes for as open and shut a case of sexual pathology as it's possible to find outside a psychiatric clinic or a Hannibel Lecter film.
L'affaire Chapur was adult love and a head-ache only for the Sanford family. It was, in out-of-fashion language — none of our business. The public money involved was too petty to require a public scandal, except for people who wanted one out of nastiness. The Clinton burlesque could also have been handled much more discreetly and compassionately by the press, but it was sexual harassment and a national-security problem.
But don't let that little bit of guano smear the granite profile of Bubba under whose bibulous nose the greatest heist in financial history unfolded with the measured steps of a minuet.
And what were the great illiterati doing then? Why, they snored through it all, sated on warmed-up left-overs from Camelot. High on the hooch of the new economy, how could they tell that the tale of Bill-and-Hill was less Arthurian myth than Arkansan grift, less gilded sin than gelded spin?
Simply put, Mark Sanford's behavior was not ideal, but it was ordinary.
Bill Clinton's was pathological.
And Sarah Palin's offenses in office — real or imagined — are trivial next to what we've seen daily for several years...make that decades... from the Treasury Secretary, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the rest of the heavenly bodies eclipsing life on planet America.
[And to all the people who complained that we had a two-party monopoly, how d'you like your new one-eyed despot?]
Some journalists seem to find it easier to beat up on a small-town mayor than to grow the cojones needed to take on the treacherous billionaire bankers chewing up the system.
That says a great deal about the bully culture we live in.
The bullies strain at Republican gnats only to swallow Democrat camels. They cross land and sea to make one convert to freedom...and he ends up twice the child of hell they are.
In an August 3 piece in Salon magazine, even the usually well-modulated voice of Professor Juan Cole, shot up a few octaves. He compared Sarah Palin to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, and came out in Ahmadinejad's favor. Now, according to some people, Ahmadinejad stands guilty of anti-Semitism. I don't know if that's true or not. But that's what the establishment media seems to think. So, if the same media thinks Palin is worse than Ahmadinejad, then what it's saying is that to liberals, being a conservative small-town mother is more dangerous than being anti-Semitic.
Palin and the Iranian president are both dangerous populists, writes Cole. They blame their failures not on their own loose lips (Palin's stutterings on the Katy Couric show and Ahmadinejad's alleged anti-Semitism), but on media conspiracies against them.
Of course, there's no real reason why both things couldn't be true. Palin could have her short-comings, and she could still be the victim of a hatchet-job by the media. But measured logic is not the style of the Sarah-phobics.
Here's Cole again on the Irani-Alaskan Axis-of-Medieval:
"Both politicians 'encourage a political style of exhibitionism, disregard for the facts as understood by the mainstream media, and exaltation of the values of people who feel themselves marginalized by the political system....'"'
Dear me. Tut-tut. Political exhibitionism, eh? And that wouldn't be something ever committed by Barack Obama now, would it — he with the near-halo on every magazine cover, who dubbed himself a voice for people marginalized by the system — or so I recall — in his celebrated Getty- er- pre-election speech on race?
As for "facts as understood by the mainstream media," since when are facts determined by how journalists understand them? Isn't that just what some guy called Donald Rumsfeld said not so long ago and got these very same journalists lathered up at his solipsism?
I'm no fan of Sarah Palin.
Anyone who has five children at home and hankers for high office has her priorities confused. If a real feminist was needed on McCain's team, Todd was the Palin they should have picked. And no, the photogenic governor doesn't have the experience needed to take on DC. No more than our genial President himself.
But by trashing Sarah Palin in such a rancid, racial, and bigoted way, the media did itself no good, and turned her into an instant symbol of the double-standards practiced by this country's political elites toward outsiders.
Whatever you think of the moose-hunting mayor, she isn't an insider, and it was insiders who dragged America through the mud over the last two decades. That makes her — one way or other — a voice for ordinary people, one of us. The persistent trashing of Sarah Palin is a trashing of ordinary Americans.
August 7, 2009
Lila Rajiva [send her mail] is the author of the ground-breaking study, The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media (MR Press, 2005), and the co-author with Bill Bonner of Mobs, Messiahs and Markets (Wiley, 2007). Visit her blog. All responses to email are posted at my blog in the comment section after the relevant article, with personal information omitted to ensure privacy.
Copyright © 2009 Lila Rajiva