The Most Important Thing She Said

For some reason I cannot find the transcript of the third Gibson interview, although I watched it slack-jawed online this morning. In my judgment, she is close to a parody of a politician who cannot tell the truth and has nothing substantive to offer on policy whatsoever. When she isn't lying, she is bullshitting. I'll deal with that over the weekend, examining in close detail her actual answers and how they don't tell us anything substantive about what she would do as vice-president. I'm going to fisk the interview thoroughly. But it seems to me that, before I do that, I should put on the table what I think was the real news in the interview. On two occasions, she said:

"When you're running for office, your life's an open book."

Thanks, governor, for being a lone voice of sanity in this, at least. What you are saying is that what the Palinpregnant McCain camp is intimidating the press (including Gibson) from examining is a perfectly legitimate line of media inquiry. Palin has said that her life is an "open book." She has therefore pulled a Gary Hart in inviting the press to examine her life in full.

And she's surely right: when you agree to run for vice-president of the United States, you surrender any zone of privacy. Al Gore's sometimes wayward son; Dick Cheney's daughter and now granddaughter; Dan Quayle's wife; George H. W. Bush's extensive clan: all these families have been an "open book" to the press. In saying yes to John McCain, Palin said yes to the natural inquiries that come with it. I don't mean utterly gratuitous stuff, like the Starr Report's detailing of the precise positions Lewinsky and Clinton enjoyed sexually. I don't mean by the standards of the Republican party. I mean by the standards of a robust and inquisitive and fair press.

Vice-presidential candidates have long been treated as an open book. As far back as the deferential pre-web 1970s, a vice-president's confidential medical history was made public, forcing him to withdraw. Eagelton's bipolar history in no way disqualified him for the vice-presidency in the way Palin's own record clearly disqualifies her for the vice-presidency. And the most obvious contemporary example is former vice-presidential candidate, John Edwards. The Edwards story - showing stunning recklessness in a potential president - legitimized the reporting of the National Enquirer, and made their reporting in this news cycle legit. And the story - subsequently reported and endorsed in the New York Times and every mainstream media source - was less relevant to public life than Palin's. Because by the time the story broke, Edwards was out of the race. Palin is not just in the race, she's ahead - and we have six weeks to go. It is, I'd argue, the duty of the press and the blogosphere to ask any factual and fair questions to which there can be clear and factual answers.

And this open book is all the more important when a candidate has been foisted on the national scene as a total unknown, and the public has been given almost no time to understand who might be the next president of the United States. The idea that we should give "deference" to this candidate, unlike any Palin031408_3 other candidate or vice-president in modern history, is simply nonsense, when it isn't chilling. In 2008, in mid-September, we are not even allowed to ask questions about Palin's real and actual life as a mother-as-governor? That notion is as absurd as the Palin candidacy itself, in my judgment.

Of open books, any sincere and legitimate factual question is askable. I notice too that a leading Alaskan politician, Andrew Halcro, a former state legislator who ran against Palin for governor, is now on record saying:

"I used to think that 'family' [sic] was off-limits, as far as politicians go. But Sarah Palin uses her kids as campaign props. Her son Trig has his own page on the state website. Her daughter Piper gets her travel paid when she goes to state events."

It seems to me that if you are on record saying that your life is an open book, and you have a state-run web-page about your infant son, and your own children's travel is paid for by the state, and you presented your infant son at a convention televised across the entire world, and you sent out a press release outing your own daughter's current pregnancy, then it is not despicable, evil, vile or outrageous for the press to ask factual, answerable questions about Sarah Palin's experiences as a pregnant and non-pregnant mother and about her marriage and about her parenting of her children. Palin herself just said so.

Please email me and tell me why I'm wrong about this. I want to air all possible views and dissents. I want to do the right thing, to learn as much as we can about this woman. All I want is to know more - about this new, unknown, clearly dishonest person who is asking to be elected a potential president of the United States by next January.