Update on the Underwear Audit

Sarah Palin engaged in a bit of parsing when asked last week whether RNC lawyers were coming to audit the clothes she scammed the RNC out of. Rather than denying the claim outright, she insisted the RNC lawyers weren’t coming to her house. [exchange starts at 3:00; my transcription]

Reporter: Does the RNC have lawyers coming up to look at the clothes, inventory the stuff?

SP: The RNC’s not coming up, nobody’s coming up to look at anything. There is an inventory of clothes being done so that the RNC is held accountable for all the dollars that were spent, but … Who said that attorneys were coming up to my house to pick up clothes?

Reporter: I think the NYT reported that, the LAT.

SP: The NYT evidently is wrong, because it’s not … it’s not happening. Nobody’s told me that they’re coming to my house to look through closets … to look through anything. [my emphasis]

Note how far Palin’s parse–"coming to my house"–is from what the NYT said.

Republican National Committee lawyers were likely to go to Alaska to conduct an inventory and try to account for all that was spent.

And from what the LAT said.

Reporting from Phoenix — Sarah Palin left the national stage Wednesday, but the controversy over her role on the ticket flared as aides to John McCain disclosed new details about her expensive wardrobe purchases and revealed that a Republican Party lawyer would be dispatched to Alaska to inventory and retrieve the clothes still in her possession.

This is a classic Palin denial: denying something that was not alleged (except, arguably, by my pithy title), while not denying the main point of the allegation.

And, as it turns out, Palin and the RNC are still haggling over what is where and who owns what.

Palin and John McCain’s campaign faced a storm of criticism over the tens of thousands of dollars spent at such high-end stores as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus to dress the nominee. Republican National Committee lawyers are still trying to determine exactly what clothing was bought for Palin, what was returned and what has become of the rest.

Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, said his daughter spent the day Saturday trying to figure out what belongs to the RNC.

"She was just frantically … trying to sort stuff out," Heath said.


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The New Landscape in Alaska for the Wasilla Wonder

Back when I argued that Palin would probably not be the Republican candidate for President in 2012, I noted how much the landscape had changed for Palin in Alaska.

That’s true, first of all, because the exposure of the campaign will bring some unanticipated setbacks to her.

[snip–note, I cut out a prediction that the personnel board investigation might be damning, which turned out to be dead wrong]

At the very least, her claim to be a reformer in Alaska won’t fare well.

Then there’s the fact that she’s got at least two more years as governor before 2012–and there is no evidence that she is any more competent at governing than George Bush. So long as oil prices remain where they are, she’s going to have a difficult time meeting the increased needs of an inflation-wracked Alaska.

Here’s a really good inventory of the ways in which life for Sarah will change in Alaska. My favorites:

4 The Legislature

Palin’s two-year record was much dissected during the presidential campaign. Some Alaska lawmakers complained she was disengaged at times. Democratic allies who helped with her priorities are now unhappy with her new national partisanship and the campaign’s meddling in Troopergate. Her unhappiest critics have been Republicans who resented how the "maverick reformer" painted dissenters as part of the "good old boy" network.

Back in Juneau, she’s likely to face a new source of friction: budget-cutting tensions due to declining oil revenues.


Palin also has work to do with some of her constituents. Big anti-Palin rallies in Anchorage during the campaign were unprecedented — Frank Murkowski never stirred that kind of passion. Coming home to vote in a Carhartts jacket shows she’s thinking along those lines. (Or was she buffing her small-town, anti-fashion image for a national crowd? More second-guessing.)

5 The natural gas pipeline

With the nation sliding into recession and state oil revenues plunging, the gas line seems more important than ever to Alaska. Crossing the next big pre-construction hurdles would give Palin a big achievement to trumpet.

But there are plenty of perils in the next two years. The looming challenge involves the so-called "open season" — persuading the oil companies, through tax incentives, legal pressure or superior poker strategy, to commit to ship their gas reserves through the line.

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Steve Schmidt Doesn’t Blame Palin

picture-56.thumbnail.pngWell, to his credit, Steve Schmidt isn’t blaming the Wasilla Wonder for McCain’s loss. In fact, he looks to the Palin selection as a victory (though he doesn’t name her specifically), insofar as it reversed what Schmidt describes as Obama "running away" with the race until her selection.

And I’m very proud of the fact that when Senator Obama came to opening up the lead and running away with this race, in August, when he returned from his trip to Europe, that we were able to halt his momentum, and to figure out a way to get ahead in the race by the middle of September, which is something that nobody thought was possible for us to do. We needed to, at a strategic level, at our convention, excite the base, appeal to the middle, distance ourselves from the policies of the administration, and to, um, recapture the reform and maverick credential that had been whittled away. And, that strategy was succeeding, and it worked until there was an economic collapse, and I’m proud of the fact that John McCain got up and fought every day, in very trying circumstances.

But even in this statement, he betrays self-delusion. McCain’s Palin spike–and Palin’s favorables–reversed before the financial crisis hit hard; Lehman filed for bankruptcy on September 14 and McCain’s "fundamentals of the economy are strong" comment was on September 15, but McCain peaked closer to September 8 or 9. I first noted Palin’s falling favorability ratings on September 12, and by September 16, the fall in her favorability was noted by others. 

The polls reflected the early success of her strategy. In the three days after Palin joined Team McCain–Aug. 29-31–32 percent of voters told the pollsters at Diageo/Hotline that they had a favorable opinion of her; most (48 percent) didn’t know enough to say. (The Diageo/Hotline poll is conducted by Financial Dynamics opinion research; it’s the only daily tracking poll to regularly publish approval ratings.) By Sept. 4, however, 43 percent of Diageo/Hotline respondents approved of Palin with only 25 percent disapproving–an 18-point split. Apparently, voters were liking what they were hearing. Four days later, Palin’s approval rating had climbed to 47 percent (+17), and by Sept. 13 it had hit 52 percent. The gap at that point between her favorable and unfavorable numbers–22 percent–was larger than either McCain’s (+20) or Obama’s (+13).

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RNC to Audit Palin’s Panty Drawer

And here’s my favorite line in the whole NYT Wasilla Wonder piece.

Republican National Committee lawyers were likely to go to Alaska to conduct an inventory and try to account for all that was spent.

Remember, there were allegations that some of Sarah’s $150,000 wardrobe was "lost." If they’re planning on flying to Alaska to "account for all that was spent," it suggests, first of all, that the loot is in Alaska, not in an upscale thrift store in, say, Phoenix (where the number of people who wear that kind of clothes is higher than it is in Alaska). It suggests that Palin still has it.

And it suggests that the RNC is skeptical they’re going to be able to find all of Palin’s new clothes.

Palin’s Concession Speech

There’s a detail in the NYT story on the Wasilla Wonder that explains something that confused me on election night.

As late as Tuesday night, a McCain adviser said, Ms. Palin was pushing to deliver her own speech just before Mr. McCain’s concession speech, even though vice-presidential nominees do not traditionally speak on election night. But Ms. Palin met up with Mr. McCain with text in hand. She was told no by Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest advisers, and Steve Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s top strategist.

Around 10:30 on Tuesday night, Fox announced that McCain and Palin were going to speak shortly.

McCain. And Palin.

For a while, I thought maybe Palin spoke while the networks were showing the festival of joy in Grant Park. But then I realized that Fox had announced Palin would speak, but that she didn’t.

So not only did Palin show up before McCain with her text in hand. But someone told Fox news that she would get to speak as well as McCain. I guess it didn’t work out that way, huh?

Chalabi’s Lobbyist Was Sarah Palin’s Spy

Wow. I finally try to catch up on sleep all the angst about just how bad Sarah Palin was explodes.

Here’s a detail I’m particularly intrigued by:

One of the aides tells CNN that campaign manager Rick Davis fired [Randy] Scheunemann after determining that he had been in direct contact with journalists spreading "disinformation" about campaign aides, including Nicolle Wallace and other officials.

"He was positioning himself with Palin at the expense of John McCain’s campaign message," said one of the aides.

Remember the leaks blamed Nicole Wallace for Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe (which apparently was even more expensive than that)? Fred Barnes blaming Wallace specifically? And then Barnes apologizing, reporting that it had turned out she wasn’t the one who had bought the clothes?

Well, apparently Randy Scheunemann was the guy spreading that false rumor. And Rick Davis confirmed that and fired Scheunemann.

Hmmm. Randy Scheunemann spreading misinformation to the Weekly Standard to accomplish goals that went undercut the stated interests he was pursuing. Where have I seen that before?

Oh, I know, Ahmad Chalabi!!!! Scheunemann was an early paid booster of the guy who used disinformation to get us bogged down in Iraq.

The Neocons discovered Sarah on their cruise to Alaska. Almost immediately after they convinced McCain to choose her as a running mate, they became her chief advocates within the McCain campaign. And here we find out that they were the ones who started the civil war that embarrassed the McCain campaign in its final weeks.

I guess McCain now knows why the rest of us so distrust Neocons.

Palin and the Presidential

I’m still synthesizing what to make of last night.

But I have to say I disagree with some of the early conclusions that Palin was a net negative for McCain. Here, for example, is Ambinder’s description of Palin’s role in McCain’s loss:

Sarah Palin. Polling shows that she drove some voters away from Sen. McCain and to Barack Obama. Voters judged her to be too inexperienced to be president. Also, instead of appealing to independents, she became a polarizing figure.  ALSO — her persona highlighted McCain’s age and health since she could have taken over. ALSO — her selection killed the "inexperience" argument against Obama.

Clearly, she was devastating in some states–a large number of voters flipped from McCain to Obama based on Palin’s presence on the ticket. But in some states, she made the difference between MCain winning (or losing narrowly) and losing big. The AP reports that nation-wide evangelicals made up a quarter of the turnout–which may well mean that evangelicals turned out in greater numbers, both in relative and absolute numbers, than they did in 2004. And in states like North Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana, they made up a greater proportion of the electorate.

In other words, in states with large African-American and evangelical populations (though there is overlap of course), high white evangelical tunrout may have kept McCain in the race. That may have been racism. But I doubt they would have turned out as enthusiastically without Palin as a draw.

Palin clearly was toxic for McCain in places like WI, MN, MI, and PA. But at the same time, Palin’s ability to attract evangelicals at high rates saved this from being a blowout. She certainly hurt him in the mountain West. So at that level, she was a factor in enough states to give Obama a close win.

But she also prevented this race from being a huge blowout.

Oh, and she has saved Don Young’s job and may well have saved Uncle Toobz’ job, for the moment.

Governor-Appointed Panel Clears Governor of Wrong-Doing

The Personnel investigation into the firing of Walt Monegan–the one conducted by three governor appointees (Sarah didn’t hire all of them, but she can fire any of them)–has cleared Sarah Palin of any wrong-doing.

Since this outcome is almost certainly too little too late to help the McCain-Palin ticket, I’ll review the report sometime after we elect a new president. But this explains how the Personnel board came to the contradictory conclusion from what Stephen Branchflower did:

These findings differ from those of the Branchflower Report because Independent Counsel has concluded the wrong statute was used as a basis for the conclusions contained in the Branchflower Report, the Branchflower report misconstrued the available evidence and did not consider or obtain all of the material evidence that is required to properly reach findings.

So the governor’s appointees say Branchflower just answered the wrong question. And didn’t consider all the evidence–which is not surprising, of course, since Palin reneged on her promise to cooperate with the Branchflower investigation and the governor’s office refused to turn over emails clearly relevant to the attempts to fire Monegan. 

Also, the executive summary makes no mention of whether it was appropriate or not for Sarah Palin to allow her husband to use government resources to stalk her ex-brother-in-law.

It Must Be Something in the (Melting) Icebergs

Sarah Palin:

… the report that came out also was very clear in that there was no unethical or unlawful behavior on my part.


No abuse of power there at all.

Sarah Palin’s mentor, Ted Stevens:

With just four days before the election and Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens insisting he’s not a felon, the U.S. Senate race is white hot. 

"I’ve not been convicted yet," Stevens said Thursday in a meeting with the editorial board of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The Palin Industry

failin.jpgI was one of the first to note that Palin’s actions suggested she was running for President in 2012 rather than VP in 2008. But that doesn’t mean I think she’d be successful. Here are my thoughts why I’m not all that worried about a Palin juggernaut in 2012.

I understand why the right has seized on Palin with such enthusiasm. They were successful with Bush because he allowed them to unify ideologically contradictory stances. Neocon imperialism and its associated crony defense capitalism is not a fiscally conservative position. Moreover, the promise of Compassionate Conservatism could only appease the charitable instincts of a lot of Conservative Christians so long. Mostly, though, Bush was only able to sustain these irreconcilable positions for five years or so by being an empty cipher–appealing to Neocons, fiscal conservatives, and Christian Conservatives–with the force of personality, thereby hiding the reality that at least one of those three groups (as it happened, fiscal conservatives and to a lesser degree, Christian Conservatives) would be ignored.

Palin is similar, only with her, the Republicans get to further obscure the emptiness of her positions with sex appeal. All the calls on Palin to lead the Republicans out of the apparent disaster they’re about to undergo are premised on the hope that she can wink and demagogue her way out of the contradictions to the claims they make.

But such hopes for Palin’s leadership are most likely to fail.

To understand why, consider first of all the two people who, in 2004, seemed poised to inherit George Bush’s mantle: Bill Frist and George Allen. Because you can no longer hide corruption, incompetence, and ugly racism, they were completely forgotten long before the primaries started. Conditions suggest that Palin’s going to meet a similar–if not worse–fate. 

That’s true, first of all, because the exposure of the campaign will bring some unanticipated setbacks to her. The Alaska legislature, for example, will return to consider what to do about the legislative finding that Palin abused her power. Significantly, they may well do so after she loses badly and after Republicans lose a long-held Republican Senate seat to yet more abuse of power; with each day, the reasons Alaskan Republicans would want to protect Palin grow weaker. Then there’s the Personnel Board investigation, that looks like it will be way more serious–and critical–than Palin ever planned it would be. Read more