Sunday's off-lead story, "Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes," is the Times' apparently obligatory hit piece on Sarah Palin. It's pretty underwhelming, with reporter Jo Becker, economics reporter Peter Goodman, and political reporter Michael Powell parachuting into Alaska to drill for scandal and coming up mostly with dry holes.
An accusatory tone was set from the start: An online photo header accused Palin of having "blurred the line between governance and personal grievance." Throughout the story, the Times spun normal politician behavior (putting in loyalists, shunning opponents)into something nefarious when done by Palin.
Wow, are you shocked and appalled yet? Me neither, and I can't for the life of me figure out the point of the story. Ah, yes: the reporters were told to "get the goods" and this is all they found. But being the New York Times they made it really long, put it on the front page, and hoped people wouldn't read it all that closely and say, "I guess she has a pretty good record if that's all they had."
- Upon getting elected, Palin fires people who have held jobs for years ("professionals") and puts in people she has known for years, often going back to her high school days. Why a reform-minded politician would do this in a notoriously corrupt state is, of course, baffling.
- Palin bears grudges and takes them personally. This is a rare fault in politicians and not to be endured. The Clintons, for example, have set a fine example in letting bygones be bygones.
- Todd Palin called somebody and let them know he and his wife were unhappy that he had hired somebody or other who had broken up with somebody or other over something. This one made a deep impression on me I will not soon forget.
That wasn't the only sucker punch thrown at Palin in Sunday's Times, as ably documented by Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters. Here's Sunday's Maureen Dowd column, "Bering Straight Talk" misrepresented a Palin comment (days after the Times and other print media had done the same) to falsely claim that Palin thinks Saddam Hussein was involved in 9-11:
The trigger-happy John McCain has indeed found a soul mate. Trigger squared. In Fairbanks on Thursday, at a deployment ceremony for her son who is going to Iraq, Governor Palin followed the lead of McCain and W. in fusing Osama bin Laden's diabolical work on 9/11 and the mission in Iraq. She told the departing troops, "You'll be there to defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the deaths of thousands of Americans."
Since the terrorist group al Qaeda is in fact now in Iraq, what Palin said was correct.
No longer able to remember his principles any better than he can distinguish between Sunnis and Shia, McCain stands revealed as a guy who can be easily rolled by anyone who sells him a plan for "victory," whether in Iraq or in Michigan. A McCain victory on Election Day will usher in a Palin presidency, with McCain serving as a transitional front man, an even weaker Bush to her Cheney.
The ambitious Palin and the ruthless forces she represents know it, too. You can almost see them smacking their lips in anticipation, whether they're wearing lipstick or not.
Finally, there's William Yardley's Sunday piece, "Active Role for Palin's Husband In Alaska Government."
In voting to issue a subpoena to Todd Palin in an investigation of the firing of the Alaska public safety commissioner, state lawmakers on Friday signaled that Mr. Palin, the husband of Gov. Sarah Palin, might have played a central role in one of the most contentious episodes of her governorship.
While that suggestion goes beyond the image presented of Mr. Palin during the Republican convention as a blue-collar family man and sportsman, it echoes a widely held understanding among lawmakers, state employees and lobbyists about Mr. Palin's heavy engagement in state government.
In the small circle of advisers close to the governor, these people say, Mr. Palin is among the closest, and he plays an unpaid but central role in many aspects of the administration of Ms. Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president.
Mr. Palin's involvement in the governor's office has prompted an irreverent quip by some capital staff members when decisions are to be made that might affect the governor: "What would Todd do?"
It is not necessarily clear whether Mr. Palin is helping shape his wife's agenda or simply advocating for it, nor whether he ever put pressure on lawmakers, but his role has not been the customary one of a governor's spouse in Alaska.
That has made many people in government uncomfortable and often confused over how to react.
The level of Todd Palin's involvement in his spouse's gubernatorial duties is a legitimate if minor side story. But Times Watch can't recall the Times being overly concerned about another influential spouse. During her husband's 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton claimed voters would be getting "two for theprice of one." (Throughout Bill Clinton's presidency, the Clintons often sold themselves as a package deal.)