Back From A Breather II

I love Dave Weigel and enjoyed all his posts in my absence and was delighted he took on the Trig question. The aim of the Dish has been to air this debate on all sides in order to get as close as we can to the readily available evidence Sarah Palin insists on keeping from us. Sadly, Dave's posts seemed to me to add nothing empirical to the debate - except an insight into those whose minds are simply closed. I was hoping, for example, that he would have some backing for this claim:

All of the evidence indicates that Trig Palin is Sarah's son, and none of it suggests otherwise.

And I waited to see "all the evidence" for Palin's narrative presented and all the evidence against it debunked. But pfffttt. It came down to "I believe Sarah Palin" (really, Dave? really?) and this:

Too many people watched Palin announce the pregnancy and saw her come along until she went into labor, prematurely, while attending a National Governors Association event in Texas.

Actually, there were three reporters who "watched Palin announce the pregnancy" in a late afternoon session before she went off to a reception. Here's the official NYT version of the announcement:

“We’re expanding,” the governor said brightly, said the deputy press secretary, Sharon Leighow. “You’re expanding state government?” one of the reporters asked. “No, my family’s expanding,” she said. “I’m pregnant.” The trio fell silent, dropping their eyes from the governor’s face to her belly.

“You’re kidding,” one finally mustered...

People just couldn't believe the news. "Really? No!" said Bethel state Rep. Mary Nelson, who is close to giving birth herself. "It's wonderful. She's very well-disguised," said Senate President Lyda Green, a mother of three who has sometimes sparred with Palin politically. "When I was five months pregnant, there was absolutely no question that I was with child."

Have you ever heard of a public pregnancy announced at seven months that failed the sniff test straight off the bat? Have you ever heard of other female leaders in the same state actually openly disbelieving such a statement? And all the evidence is on Palin's side?

Then there's the evidence that LitBrit summarizes here - and which Dave doesn't address at all. And then he simply gets basic stuff wrong. To wit:

Remember, though -- birtherism didn't really take off until the campaign did so, and conspiracy theorists began to argue that the document was flawed and lacking.

But doubts about Palin's bizarre account of her pregnancy were instantaneous with the announcement of her candidacy. The weird two-page fax from her doctor only emerged more than two months later - a mere few hours before polling began - so it's simply impossible that "conspiracy theorists" turned to it in the middle of the campaign for political reasons.

Then he asserts that it is "not true" that the doctor (who refused all press interviews after Palin became veep nominee but was entirely forthcoming before, and has reportedly dropped out of her previous social circles and refused to deliver Tripp since) never said she was present at the birth. This is his evidence "rebutting" this:

From the letter: "Routine prenatal testing early in the second trimester of Palin's pregnancy determined that the fetus had the chromosomal condition known as Down Syndrome. The Alaska governor and her husband, Todd, decided to go ahead with the pregnancy."

No proof, then, that the doctor said she was present at the birth. None. She may have been, but she wouldn't even return the calls of the NYT to confirm for a puff piece. Do any bells go off in Dave's skeptical reporter's head? Nah.

And Dave, of course, simply won't touch (along with everyone else) the insane details of her wild ride, as in: how does a woman enduring contractions many hours after her water broke manage to give a speech in public? Was she lying about the contractions in the speech or was she not experiencing contractions at all? Why did no one on the plane even suspect she was in labor? How does a woman treat any labor this way, let alone one which involves a child with extremely specialized needs at birth? And when presented with these detailed arguments and points he simply responds:

Not to be too flippant about this, but who cares?

So presented with detailed questions about inconsistencies, impossibilities, etc etc, Dave just throws his hands up and says "who cares"?

Who cares if someone who may well be the GOP nominee in 2012 might have SWIFTSEVENMONTHSDarrenMcCollester:Newsmakers:Getty concocted a massive lie to appeal to a pro-life base and doubled down on it, knowing that the MSM would never have the balls to ask for any actual proof? Indeed, who cares?

The more revealing point Dave makes is that what truly matters in journalism is not truth but "reputation." Almost every single one of my peers in September 2008 told me not to ask these questions because it would hurt my "reputation". Many of them privately conceded that there could be something fishy here (many privately outright disbelieve Palin's stories) but one's "reputation" as a "serious" journalist forbade one from even inquiring.

Let me simply state my view: these people are a disgrace to journalism.

We journalists are and should remain the lowest of the low life forms in a political democracy. We should not be hobnobbing with the powerful, let alone bragging about it, and begging for scooplets to get Politico-style pageview moolah. We should not be garnering our reputations and angling to get on cable or SAMCAMTobyMelville-WPA Pool:Getty playing water-slides with the people we cover.

We should be asking the most uncomfortable questions of the many frauds and phonies and charlatans who are in public office - and enjoy being despised by the legions of true-believers who actually credit the endless bullshit shoveled out into the public by frauds like Palin.

Instead, these journalists spend a large amount of time ostracizing and tut-tutting another journalist for simply asking questions to which there must be overwhelming and easily available material evidence to resolve the matter entirely. They are actively engaged in helping prevent easily accessible information from being disseminated to the public, and discouraging other journalists from inquiring into the truth behind public facades. And their motivation for this is not journalistic, but at its best, careerist and at its worst, political. Weigel doesn't want to explore this because, in his view, it helps Palin:

Obsessing over Trig, as much as it annoys the Palins -- and I see why it does -- is one of the best ways of propping her up. It gives her fan base proof that its hero is constantly battling unfair personal attacks that the media won't debunk. It convinces them that critics focus on this nonsense because they've got nothing else to criticize Palin about. She has taken advantage of this impression.

The media "won't debunk" charges that Palin may have faked her pregnancy?? I'm begging them to debunk these rumors and questions, begging them. Then this:

It convinces them that critics focus on this nonsense because they've got nothing else to criticize Palin about. She has taken advantage of this impression.

So fucking what? Her fan base would believe Trig was an immaculate conception if she put out a book saying so. And it is emphatically not the job of the press to gauge how a politician's base might respond to a story as a way to judge whether it should be pursued. The job of the press is to hold politicians accountable and demand evidence for every claim they make and use as a political platform. In other words: we need to know the truth and she has it. The burden of proof in such a situation - when PALINSEVENMONTHS a journalist is asking for documentation of a core campaign platform position - should always be on the politician at her level of power, not the journalist.

I am, after all, not claiming something for which there can be no proof. I am not claiming something after contrary proof has been provided (as in Obama's birth certificate). I am merely asking to clear up a question for which there must be a mountain of readily available medical records, and which Palin could have released almost two years ago - and still refuses, even when asked in a friendly attempt to kill off the rumors once and for all. In this refusal to provide information, Palin's key allies are in what now passes for the press. And you wonder why we knew nothing about John Edwards or Eliot Spitzer or Stanley McChrystal or ... well, WMDs in Iraq or torture, until it was all over and done with.

Until this syndrome of "reputation" is abandoned, this democracy has no functioning adversarial press.

And that is dangerous. It has allowed this farce to continue; and it could allow this farce to run our lives with no accountability at all.

(Photos: three publicly pregnant public figures at seven months: governor Jane Swift of Massachusetts, Samantha Cameron, wife of British prime minister David Cameron, and Sarah Palin, front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2012, who gave birth to a 6 lb 2 oz baby three weeks after this photo was taken.)