Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby today takes on what he calls the “frenzy of rage and contempt set off by the nomination of Sarah Palin.”
Because Jacoby’s an important voice and deserves to be taken seriously, I’m going to take a little more space than I normally might to pick his column apart. As you will see, there is almost nothing in Jacoby’s piece that holds up to scrutiny.
1. “There has been legitimate criticism, of course. But there has also been a gusher of slander, much of it — like the slur that she isn’t the real mother of her infant son, Trig — despicable.”
Agreed. It doesn’t get much more despicable than that. But why bring it up? As we know, this rumor was nothing but the product of a pseudonymous hate-monger on Daily Kos. Until the McCain campaign itself cited it as a reason for going public with 17-year-old Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, the only mainstream journalist who mentioned it was Andrew Sullivan, blogging for the Atlantic. I unloaded on him for that.
This complaint makes as much sense as blaming the media and mainstream Republicans for anonymous e-mails that claim Barack Obama is a Muslim.
2. “Voters have been told that she slashed funding in Alaska for special-needs children.”
Perhaps that’s because, this summer, she cut the budget for the Special Olympics by $275,000. [True, but see note below.]
3. “That she tried to ban books from Wasilla’s public library.”
Unproven, though Bill Adair, editor of the nonpartisan Web site PolitiFact, now says there may be more to this allegation than first appeared. The investigation continues.
4. “That she was a member of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party.”
That was a case of media overreach based on some pretty tantalizing information. We know, for instance, that Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, was a member for seven years; that she denies the testimony of several eyewitnesses who say she attended a state convention in the mid-1990s; and that, as governor, she recorded a cheery video message to be played at the party state convention.
Lest we forget, the words of party founder Joe Vogler remain emblazoned on the party’s Web site: “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.”
5. “That she links Saddam Hussein to the attacks of 9/11.”
She does, most recently last Thursday.
6. “That she backed Pat Buchanan for president.”
The source of this error was an MSNBC analyst named, uh, Pat Buchanan. In Buchanan’s defense, it’s possible that the “Buchanan for President” button Palin was wearing fooled him.
7. “That she doesn’t want students taught about contraception.”
During her 2006 campaign for governor, Palin answered a questionnaire that dealt with sex education and a number of other issues.
Here is one of the questions: “Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?”
And here is Palin’s answer: “Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.”
Does not abstinence-only education by definition exclude teaching kids about contraception? That’s not a rhetorical question — I don’t know. But I think it does. (Or not. See “Update,” below.)
8. “That she called the war in Iraq ‘a task from God.'”
I think Jacoby is right in calling this a stretch, though reasonable people — including a Pentacostal scholar — believe otherwise. But she did ask people to pray that a natural-gas pipeline would be built in Alaska. Is it somehow better to refer to a pipeline as a gift from God than it is to call the war in Iraq a task from God?
9. “For months they [the media] refused to mention the infidelity of John Edwards, yet they leaped with relish onto Bristol Palin’s pregnancy.”
What the media refused to do was pass along — or at least investigate and verify — stories in the National Enquirer about Edwards’ infidelity. Now the media are ignoring stories in the Enquirer that Palin had an affair with an ex-business partner of her husband’s, and that her two oldest kids have a thing for OxyContin and weed. Sounds pretty even-handed to me.
10. “Yet the more she has been attacked, the more her support has solidified. In the latest Fox News poll, Palin’s favorable/unfavorable ratio is a strong 54-27.”
Polls prove nothing. But for what it’s worth, her favorability/unfavorability ratings are down 10 points in the past few days, according to Newsweek.
Jacoby also passes along some pretty nasty comments from the likes of Randi Rhodes and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. I’m not sure what that proves. We’ve also heard Obama referred to as “uppity,” and recently a waffle mix featuring Obama as Uncle Jemimah was spotted at some sort of “values” conference.
The point is that Jacoby has gathered together essentially the entire indictment of the so-called liberal media with respect to Palin. And every bit of it is either wrong or distorted.
More: Sean Roche has similar thoughts at Blue Mass Group.
Update: Media Nation reader J.S. passes along this link, which shows that Palin does indeed believe contraception should be part of sex education. So yes, Jacoby is right about that. Not sure what Palin believed she was responding to when she also said she supported abstinence-only programs.
Thursday update: The NPR story on which I relied was imprecise. Palin did indeed slash the Special Olympics budget request by $275,000, but the program will still receive slightly more money than it did the year before. Thanks to Media Nation reader P.S.