Perhaps sensing that the liberal media’s attack template of Sarah Palin as lightweight rube had not made a discernible difference in the campaign polling numbers – and may in fact have driven swing voters to the McCain-Palin ticket – The New York Times appeared to be trying a different tack last weekend.
In Sunday’s edition the paper featured a seemingly interminable (better than 3,100 words) front-page piece, titled “Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends, Lashed Foes,” by a trio of reporters designed to present Palin as a Machiavellian schemer of Nixonian proportions – a master manipulator of the tools of her office who rewards friends, punishes foes, and does it all in a cocoon of near-impenetrable secrecy.
The writers made a perfunctory early attempt at even-handedness, acknowledging in their 10th paragraph that “Ms. Palin has many supporters….In Wasilla, many residents display unflagging affection, cheering “our Sarah” and hissing at her critics,” but then spent the next several dozen paragraphs painting her as a steely and determined pol with a penchant for operating under the radar.
Hardy readers who made their way (and how many did?) to the 67th paragraph of the piece finally came upon a break in the clouds, a brief acknowledgment that Palin is a highly popular governor with some impressive achievements:
“To her supporters – and with an 80 percent approval rating, she has plenty – Ms. Palin has lifted Alaska out of a mire of corruption. She gained the passage of a bill that tightens the rules covering lobbyists. And she rewrote the tax code to capture a greater share of oil and gas sale proceeds.”
But, predictably, the article quickly reverted to type, complaining that the bloom is off the reformer’s rose thanks to the “troopergate” scandal and accusations that she “improperly cull[ed] thousands of e-mail addresses from a state database for a mass mailing to rally support for a policy initiative.”
In a spot-on dissection of the article on Commentary’s Contentions blog, Jennifer Rubin wrote:
In just the first few paragraphs you have testimony that she was “effective and accessible.” So where are we going here? Well, despite the testimony that she was “accessible,” others find her “secretive” and inclined to put a premium on “loyalty.” The evidence? The Governor’s office declined a request for e-mails that would have cost over $400,000. Proof positive. Oh, and the records sought (about polar bears and such) were in fact obtained.Then there is the “she blurs personal and public behavior” charge. The evidence? A phone call from Todd Palin to a state legislator about the latter’s chief of staff, which Palin denies was mentioned. Pretty thin gruel.
Next we have her tenure as mayor, where again all heck breaks loose because – are ya sitting down? – she brought in her own team. No! Unheard of…. Next she’ll be firing the town museum director. Oh no– it’s true! Palin says (“Oh yeah, she says,” you can hear the Times reporters hrrumphing) she was cutting the budget.
This is pathetic, really. Is there something illegal here? Is there something nefarious? What is the point?
The next offense: while she was mayor city employees were told not to talk to the press. The horror! Might there have been a procedure, a public affairs or press person for that? We don’t know and the Times doesn’t tell us….
Then on page four of this eye-popping account, we learn as Governor she had the temerity to have ”surrounded herself with people she has known since grade school and members of her church.” No! She hired people she knew? And people she trusted because she had just run against a hostile machine of her own party? The Lieutenant Governor offers up that they were “competent, qualified, top-notch people,” but are you going to believe him?
Rubin had more, but you get the point. The Times article was a classic case of a hit piece gone awry – the paper had designated a huge chunk of space to fill with what the editors obviously hoped would be a treasure trove of Palin’s misdeeds or worse, and in the end all the writers could come up with were the typical if often jejune machinations of local government.
It’s hard to see this line of attack resonating with voters who aren’t already anti-Palin, but it’s remarkable that after attacking her for days on end in its news pages and editorial columns as a Dan Quayle in pumps, The New York Times would now have you believe Sarah Palin is in fact a cross between G. Gordon Liddy and Dick Cheney.