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Palin is getting in her own way

She doesn't look any better when she blames the monstrous 'mainstream media' for problems that are largely of her own making.

January 14, 2009|JAMES RAINEY

Sarah Palin said she'd prove all her doubters wrong. She'd stick to her job running Alaska, she said after the election. She'd do top-notch work. And she'd steer clear of those nasty national politics.

It just might work one day, if the good governor can get a grip on her other self, the one that can't resist pontificating, ducking responsibility for her own stumbling statements and taking off after that Great Satan, the media.

Gov. Palin would have been fine in an interview last week if she had stuck to a few legitimate complaints, including one about a thinly substantiated story on how investigators purportedly delayed a drug probe to help her politically.

But instead, she let her mouth run -- tarring the mythical, monolithic "mainstream media," chastising reporters for merely asking questions and floating the preposterous suggestion that underhanded editing made her look bad in her cringe-inducing interview with Katie Couric.

The aw-shucks smile and flashing eyes could not disguise her intent in this latest outburst -- repel, redirect and rewrite (history, that is).

Ironically, it was not an alleged liberal meanie, but certified conservative and Palin fan John Ziegler, formerly a KFI radio host, whose interview raised these revelations.

Ziegler interviewed Palin for his forthcoming film, "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected," and posted video excerpts. Among the lowlights: Palin's barbs at Couric and her unsubstantiated claim (a "sad state of affairs") that mainstream media outlets "rely on anonymous bloggers for their hard news information."

Palin has some legitimate gripes, including one about a newspaper report that suggested that political considerations led state authorities to delay their investigation of Sherry Johnston.

Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, the 18-year-old fiance of Palin's daughter Bristol and father of the teenage couple's newborn son.

The Anchorage Daily News printed Jan. 4 that a drug investigator told co-workers that authorities delayed serving a search warrant on Sherry Johnston, accused of selling the painkiller OxyContin, until after the presidential election. A union of public safety employees supported the claim.

But union officials quickly backed down, which the Anchorage paper appropriately reported. Across the country, many papers (including the L.A. Times) had carried at least a paragraph or two on the original story. But I couldn't find any that ran the corrective piece.

That's wrong, especially since the allegations came from the politically freighted union, which was at the center of allegations that Palin intervened in an attempt to have a state trooper disciplined.

But in her other claims, Palin overplayed her hand.

She accused the mainstream media, for example, of relying on those "anonymous bloggers" to write their stories, when most actually run in the other direction.

After the video spread to YouTube, the governor's office elaborated, charging that "bloggers, the Atlantic magazine and even the Anchorage Daily News continue to give credence to the sensational allegation that the governor's child, Trig, is not hers."

Yes, some Internet scribes and the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan continue to raise questions about Trig's birth. But the nation's most influential and biggest news organizations have paid little or no attention to the story since John McCain selected Palin as his running mate.

At the Anchorage paper, Executive Editor Pat Dougherty actually has taken considerable flack for failing to prop up the phantom birth theories, which he called "nutty nonsense." (Dougherty told me that a Daily News reporter noticed Palin's weight gain and thought she might be pregnant, and that Palin's doctor told the newspaper that the baby was the governor's.)

But claims that Trig was actually Bristol's child would not go away, so Dougherty assigned a reporter to do a story on the persistence of the rumors -- a piece that never appeared because the governor's office would not cooperate and the paper found that it "didn't have enough of a story to accomplish what we had hoped," Dougherty said.

This may be new territory to Palin, who got used to waves of adulation in her early days in the governor's office and after she got the nod from McCain. But public officials have to expect to confront probing reporters.

Barack Obama had to listen to charges that he was not born in the U.S. His wife, Michelle, faced Internet-driven allegations about a video that supposedly would show her ranting against "whitey."

Reporters investigated those claims and knocked them down. As Dougherty said: "We decide what to print on the basis of the answers we get, not the questions we ask."

Palin is something worse than naive to think she can prevent the questions from even being asked.

I'm getting tired, too, of public figures like the governor -- so outraged about slights on their own honor -- who think nothing of besmirching the reputation of newspeople who at least try to get it right.

In her attempt to slime Couric, Palin said: "I never saw the interview after Katie edited it, they spliced it together, did whatever they did and then aired it -- never saw how it came across. But my understanding is that . . . so many other topics that were brought up certainly weren't, uh, portrayed as accurately perhaps as they could have, should have been after that interview."

Got that?

No amount of editing produces a statement that rambling and marginally coherent. If the governor wants the media to convey her thoughts clearly and concisely, perhaps she should do the same.

--

james.rainey@latimes.com

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