There is an old expression which says, "In a crisis, do nothing." Wise words indeed, which means that soon-to-be-ex-governor Sarah Palin no doubt would never heed them. She's sort of adopted another philosophy. It's more like, "In a crisis, fly off the handle, be reactionary and threaten to sue someone for defamation in the hopes of intimidating the entire blogosphere and all national print and televised media into not talking about something." I'm not an oddsmaker, but this strategy seems destined to become a crumpled up tin can on the refuse pile of epic failure.
There's no doubt that the week has been a bad one for the governor. It started with an unflattering Vanity Fair article. This was followed by a CBS piece detailing several leaked emails in which she asked the McCain campaign to lie about Todd Palin's 7-year membership in a secessionist party. McCain strategist Steve Schmidt responded to her request saying that Todd was a member, and it was a secessionist party and he wasn't going to create an issue in the media if it didn't exist already, nor would he lie for her.
The statement you are suggesting be released would be inaccurate. The inaccuracy would bring greater media attention to this matter and be a distraction. According to your staff there have been no media inquiries into this and you received no questions about it during your interviews. If you are asked about it you should smile and say many Alaskans who love their country join the party because it speaks to a tradition of political independence. Todd loves his country.
We will not put out a statement and inflame this and create a situation where john has to adress this."
Palin's week culminated, of course, in a strange, twitchy, impulsive announcement from her home on the shore of Lake Lucille, that she would be stepping down from office, and resigning. The last time Alaskans were this gobsmacked by the governor was when she said 'yes' to John McCain when he popped the question back in August.
Her reason for resigning? Here's where it got really strange. The media was unfair. People were filing ethics complaints against her. Bloggers were making silly photoshops. She didn't want to be a lame duck. The state would be better off without her. We kept waiting to hear the real reason, the reason that would explain it all. We waited for the reason that would come at the end, after all the silly stuff. But it never came. That was it.
We were left scratching our heads. A woman who was the Vice Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, and who has been deemed in some circles to be a plausible contender for her party's presidential nominee in 2012, is quitting her job as governor, 17 months before the end of her first term, because people are picking on her? This just didn't compute. Even in the wildest contortionist spin of her most ardent supporters, this was not going to improve her chances in 2012.
What this means is that now, the line on her resume right underneath "Almost-one-term governor" reads "Mayor of a small Alaskan town with a population of 7000 people." This is not the way to be taken seriously. Yes, she draws crowds, but so does Britney Spears, and I sure wouldn't vote for her to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Naturally, with the overwhelming doubt in the minds of the public that these could possibly be the real reasons she was stepping down, questions were asked. Phones started ringing in Alaska from friends and relatives who wanted the "real story." Alaskans were even asking each other what they thought was really going on. Questions were many and answers were few.
There seemed to be dozens of rumors circulating about the governor at any given point in time, and this week was no different. People were muttering about personal family problems, about new ethics complaints, about legal cases involving her use of personal off-the-radar Yahoo email accounts to conduct state business. Then there was talk about the legality of her legal defense fund which is currently being questioned, or maybe even personal illness. But the ones that seems to have gotten under the governor's skin were reports involving rumors floating about town that there was some kind of shenanigans going on with the simultaneous building of the governor's house, and the Wasilla Sports Complex, and a supposed IRS investigation. Was this the infamous rumor of an "iceberg" that could sink the S.S. Palin as had been reported on another Alaskan blog? Are any of these rumors actually true? Who knows. Are they being talked about in open conversation at holiday barbeques all over the state today? Oh, yes.
And all this brings us to the issue at hand which involves Palin, her attorney Thomas Van Flein, and a certain Shannyn Moore. Moore is a radio personality, a Huffington Post blogger, and frequent guest on MSNBC''s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. There were scads of blogs, both local and national that reported on the rumors above, many in greater detail and with more certainty than Moore did. But Moore really got under the soon-to-be-ex governor's skin. Why? Presumably because Palin watches TV more than she reads.
Today Van Flein issued a four page letter regarding the reporting of these rumors and it was sent by SarahPAC spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton to media outlets across the state.
Van Flein's letter threatening legal action specifically pointed the finger at Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore as "most notably" claiming as "fact" that Palin resigned under federal investigation.
Van Flein, asked why he singled out Moore, said it's because she went on national television and talked about it. Moore was on with MSNBC's David Shuster on Friday, the day Palin said she will resign.
"There is a scandal rumor here that there is a criminal investigation into some activities and that's been rumored for about, I don't know, probably six weeks or two months," Moore told him.
Despite the fact that she specifically refers twice to the report as a "rumor," Van Flein says she portrayed the story as fact. The only fact is that there are rumors. I know because I've been hearing them since last October. They even have a name - "Housegate." If you Google "Palin Housegate," you get 8,600 references, beginning back with an article that appeared in the Village Voice. Googling "Palin sports complex scandal" gets you 230,000. How many mentions are required to constitute a rumor? It's probably less than 230,000. I'm not exactly sure how the legal dynamic duo of Palin-Van Flein is planning to un-rumorize almost a quarter of a million online references to a rumor that started 8 months ago, but it will be interesting to watch.
"I'll sue you for defamation!" is the toothless wonder of the legal world. The bluster is meant to scare people, intimidate them, and get them to be quiet. In this particular case, it's not going to work. Moore has already discussed the threat on her radio show, where she said emphatically, "Bring it on." She said she already gotten legal advice, and has a long list of attorneys who had emailed her, stepping up and eagerly offering to depose Sarah Palin in such a case. Now that would make for some damn good blogging material.
So why would this bizarre comical scenario be taking place at all? Remember how McCain strategist Steve Schmidt had to intervene and explain to Palin that it just wasn't a good idea to over-react and start making grand statements to the media about negative things being said about her? He firmly told her no. And he had to do it twice. Her personal attorney, on the other hand, is being paid to do what she wants. After a recent online fundraiser, Palin's legal defense fund may be well stocked, so it's no skin off the nose of her legal counsel who has been appearing on talk radio shows, and now writing intimidating letters. And there's obviously nobody in Palin's inner sanctum who feels like telling her it's a really bad idea. So she marches on.
Using the substantial might of the Executive branch of government to bring down unenforceable legal threats on a private citizen in Alaska, and attempting to curtail free speech through intimidation on the Fourth of July? Not a particularly brilliant PR move. By specifically singling out and naming Moore, Palin has done two things; she has shown herself to be a reactionary immature politician, and she has made Shannyn Moore a lot better known. And she is not the only one in Sarah Palin's crosshairs, mind you. You stand warned Huffington Post, New York Times, MSNBC and The Washington Post! You just better knock it off!
The New York Times and Washington Post haven't written anything about this, but Van Flein said he believed they were asking questions. "What I've been informed is that they've been interviewing people in Wasilla about this, and have tried to interview the governor's parents about it," Van Flein said.
OK, in the case of The New York Times and the Washington Post, you'd better stop even thinking about asking questions about it.
In solidarity with my friend and fellow Alaskan blogger, may I be the next to report to the team of Palin-Van Flein, and to the entire blogosphere at large:
THERE ARE RUMORS.
There. I said it.