Getting Beyond Lies, Personal Attacks, and Evasions with the Palin/McCain Ticket

September 8, 2008

Los Angeles Progressive

gop-palin_mccain.gifby Tom Hall –

I confess that I have laughed at many of the Sarah Palin jokes in my email this week. But is this what we want our campaign, and our national leadership, to become?

Clearly, without popular issue positions to run on, McCain-Palin have committed themselves to a strategy of lies, personal attacks, and evading direct answers to questions about policies. But do we want our candidates, or our own campaign activities to sink to this level? Are we willing to concede the Rovian message that issues don’t matter to the voters?

I think not. I think U.S. voters care enough about this great nation that they will consider the issues and use those issues to decide about candidates. And so I want to cut through some of the complaints about lies and meritless attacks on the press, and through the rhetoric of speeches, to see if we can actually discern where the candidates stand on some of the issues. To start, I tried to learn more about Sarah Palin – not just the labels and slogans but about what her actions tell us about her stance on the issues. With this week’s essay, I want to share a little of what I have learned about her position on a couple of issues:

Free Enterprise Fiscal Conservatism
Palin describes herself as a traditional Republican fiscal conservative. She talks about her managerial experience as a mayor and then a governor. So we should understand what that experience actually consisted of.

When she was mayor, Wasilla, Alaska had less than 6,000 residents. When she took office, Wasilla had a budget surplus. When she left office, Wasilla had a $20 million budget deficit. Was the deficit created by improving schools, or civic infrastructure? No, Palin paid contractors more than $20 milllion to build a for-profit sports facility. Palin guaranteed Wasilla tax payers that the facility would generate profits for years to come. Now, a decade after she left office, it has run at a loss every single year it has been open. But all of her contractor friends got paid.

Maybe she learned from the experience by the time she became governor. She told the Republican convention about her devotion to fiscal control and budget discipline. What she didn’t mention was that her current state budget, at $6.6 billion, is the highest state budget Alaska has ever had. She did mention that she had cut the fat out of the budget. What she didn’t mention was that the “fat” included a wind power energy project and a clean coal energy project. As we struggle to get less dependent on imported oil, Palin’s fiscal conservatism doesn’t encompass any new forms of energy production.

You might think that a fiscal conservative cut wind and clean coal power projects because she doesn’t believe private energy companies should be getting taxpayer subsidies. You’d be wrong. One of the things Palin insisted on in the $6.6 billion budget was a $500 million contract with a Canadian company to build a natural gas pipeline across Alaska. That’s right. Because the oil industry is so impoverished and unable to afford to build its own pipelines, she wants taxpayers to build the pipeline for the industry.

$500 million is 7.6% of the state’s entire $6.6 billion budget. ­7.6% for just one contract, for a foreign contract – no, she couldn’t find any U.S. company to build her pipeline. While you’re thinking about giving 7.6% of the state’s budget to one company, try to decide if you think she put a clause in the contract that provides for the taxpayers to get any share of the profits the Canadian pipeline company will earn from the pipeline the taxpayers paid for.

Fiscal conservatism? Free enterprise capitalism? Saving U.S. jobs for U.S. citizens?

Tax Policy
Palin has attacked Barack Obama’s tax reform plans. So looking at her record on taxes should help us understand her better. She told us that she believes in cutting taxes. And it turns out that she did cut some taxes in Alaska. And she raised some other taxes.

Palin cut taxes on commercial buildings. Say, for example, that a big real estate investor in, say, Phoenix owns a few office buildings and some apartment complexes in Juneau and Fairbanks, Palin wanted them to have a reasonable rate of return on their investments, so she worked to reduce the taxes they were paying on their buildings.

Those taxes were used for things like maintaining (and plowing) the streets around the buildings, providing police and other government services for the buildings, and paying for the various government agencies that kept the cities running so that the buildings had tenants to occupy them. So cutting the taxes didn’t mean cutting the services. Instead, Palin had to find some other source of money for the services. And she did. She raised taxes on groceries.

That’s right, to provide a tax cut to large property investors, Sarah Palin increased taxes on groceries purchased to feed families.

Now don’t get me wrong. Not all of the higher grocery taxes were routed directly into tax cuts for the investment companies. No, no! If you remember from the section above, $500 million of the taxes go to guarantee the profits of a Canadian pipe line company.

John McCain is famous for complaining about “earmarks” – those special bundles of tax money that congressmen give each other. Alaska Senator Ted Steven’s famous “bridge to no-where” was an earmark program, which Palin supported, until congress killed it. That’s why Ted Steven’s, between appearances in Court on criminal charges, campaigned for Palin for governor.

Long before she became governor, Palin was working to get earmarks for that 6,000-person metropolis of Wasilla. She succeeded in getting $27 million Federal dollars for her 6,000 citizens. That works out to $4,500 for each person, each school child, each infant in Wasilla. That was your tax money and mine.

When did she decide that she was opposed to earmarks? As governor of Alaska, she asked for $160.5 million in Federal dollar earmarks for 2008, and $198 million for 2009. She actually ‘discovered’ that she was against earmarks when she learned that McCain wanted to pick her to try to go after ex-Hillary voters.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the speaker’s podium. Palin decided that she was against earmarks, but not against Federal dollars. You see, she told us that as a reformer she opposed the bridge to no-where earmark. But she didn’t mention that after “opposing” it, she took the $223 million Federal dollars anyway, and decided to spend them on other things.

Palin tells us that she’s a committed “Christian,” devoted to the Bible and working to force women everywhere to accept her narrow understanding of the Bible, in their health decisions. But she doesn’t mention how narrow that understanding is.

The Bible commands that “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

But in her first national speech, Palin lied about Obama’s tax plan. She lied about her support for the bridge to no-where. She lied about Obama’s legislative record. She lied about her “reform” efforts in Alaska. She lied about her tax history and McCain’s tax plans.

I guess maybe her evangelical Bible has a different list of commandments in it than the Bibles which most of us read. In a later essay, I’ll look at how Biblical Palin really is.

by Tom Hall

Anchorage Daily News: “Palin pressured Wasilla librarian”

Let’s hope this article clears up the controversy over Palin’s role in  banning books from the Wasilla Public Library when she was Mayor back in 1996. 

Anchorage Daily News 

TOWN MAYOR: She wanted to know if books would be pulled.


(09/04/08 01:49:40)WASILLA — Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so. According to news coverage at the time, the librarian said she would definitely not be all right with it. A few months later, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, got a letter from Palin telling her she was going to be fired. The censorship issue was not mentioned as a reason for the firing. The letter just said the new mayor felt Emmons didn’t fully support her and had to go.  Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job.It all happened 12 years ago and the controversy long ago disappeared into musty files. Until this week. Under intense national scrutiny, the issue has returned to dog her. It has been mentioned in news stories in Time Magazine and The New York Times and is spreading like a virus through the blogosphere.

Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job.
It all happened 12 years ago and the controversy long ago disappeared into musty files. Until this week. Under intense national scrutiny, the issue has returned to dog her. It has been mentioned in news stories in Time Magazine and The New York Times and is spreading like a virus through the blogosphere.

The stories are all suggestive, but facts are hard to come by. Did Palin actually ban books at the Wasilla Public Library?


In December 1996, Emmons told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her — starting before she was sworn in — about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose. Emmons told the Frontiersman she flatly refused to consider any kind of censorship. Emmons, now Mary Ellen Baker, is on vacation from her current job in Fairbanks and did not return e-mail or telephone messages left for her Wednesday.

When the matter came up for the second time in October 1996, during a City Council meeting, Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends council meetings, was there.

Like many Alaskans, Kilkenny calls the governor by her first name.

“Sarah said to Mary Ellen, ‘What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?” Kilkenny said.

“I was shocked. Mary Ellen sat up straight and said something along the line of, ‘The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size, and I would absolutely resist all efforts to ban books.'”

Palin didn’t mention specific books at that meeting, Kilkenny said.

Palin herself, questioned at the time, called her inquiries rhetorical and simply part of a policy discussion with a department head “about understanding and following administration agendas,” according to the Frontiersman article.


Were any books censored banned? June Pinell-Stephens, chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee since 1984, checked her files Wednesday and came up empty-handed. Pinell-Stephens also had no record of any phone conversations with Emmons about the issue back then. Emmons was president of the Alaska Library Association at the time.Books may not have been pulled from library shelves, but there were other repercussions for Emmons.

Four days before the exchange at the City Council, Emmons got a letter from Palin asking for her resignation. Similar letters went to police chief Irl Stambaugh, public works director Jack Felton and finance director Duane Dvorak. John Cooper, a fifth director, resigned after Palin eliminated his job overseeing the city museum.

Palin told the Daily News back then the letters were just a test of loyalty as she took on the mayor’s job, which she’d won from three-term mayor John Stein in a hard-fought election. Stein had hired many of the department heads. Both Emmons and Stambaugh had publicly supported him against Palin.

Emmons survived the loyalty test and a second one a few months later. She resigned in August 1999, two months before Palin was voted in for a second mayoral term.

Palin might have become a household name in the last week, but Kilkenny, who is not a Palin fan, is on her own small path to Internet fame. She sent out an e-mail earlier this week to friends and family answering, from her perspective, the question Outsiders are asking any Alaskan they know: “Who is this Sarah Palin?”

Kilkenny’s e-mail got bounced through cyberspace and ended up on news blogs. Now the small-town mom and housewife is scheduling interviews with national news media and got her name on the front page of The New York Times, even if it was misspelled.


Find Daily News reporter Rindi White online at or call 352-6709.



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