It is easy to lash out at Sarah Palin and hold her responsible for all the asinine speeches she flooded us with during the presidential campaign and in its aftermath; but truth is, Sarah Palin is surrounded by people who are just as challenged as she appeared to be, which certainly doesn’t help her cause at all. ABC News’ Jake Tapper recently had a run-in with one of her aides in an instant cult-classic email correspondance highlighting the discrepancies and oversized grammatical effects that made Sarah Palin the most hilarious Governor to have ever led a State – ever.

Sarah Palin: unsure about where the money comes from.

Sarah Palin: unsure about where the money comes from.

Backstory: Jake Tapper, also writing Political Punch on the ABC News blog, made several comments regarding Sarah Palin’s tendancy to make fiscal earmarks to the quite controversial amount of $197 million. In these recession times, these wasn’t really the most popular attitude to adopt, especially from someone who has highly criticized the earmark concept in the past. An earmark is simply a local project that the Congress is asked to fund, without any federal agency requesting them. Alaska has always been pretty fond of earmarks, as a state with a gargantuesque thirst for monies in terms of road construction and sewer systems. Tapper was only referencing something that has been widely reported in the past, but Bill McAllister, director of communications for Gov. Palin, felt appropriate to call Tapper out on… something he actually didn’t do. Saying he was “disturbed” by Tapper’s remarks and said the headline “wasnt dignified for a major news organization” (sic), McAllister rectified by claiming Palin “never said that earmarks should be abolished or that the State of Alaska wouldn’t seek or accept any. Didn’t happen. What she said well before she was a national candidate […] was that earmark reform was necessary and the state would need to rely less on federal money than it had been.” According to McAllister, Palin’s earmarks are just a proof of “fiscal conservatism”.

We beg to differ.

Earmarks are nothing short of beggars’ money from the Congress intended to projects and institutions that would never receive any funding whatsoever, as the government does not deem them worthwhile. Surely, any decent conservative would believe that what is left to the Congress’ discretion in terms of money spending should be respected. Indeed, John McCain, Sarah Palin’s former running mate, has labeled the earmark practice “disgraceful”. Never too far from selling herself short, only a few months after saying that the practice of earmarking was “abusive”, Sarah Palin asked for $197 million, while her state is the only one of the Union with a balanced budget. In short, instead of plunging into the almost dry pockets of the federal government, Palin could finance research towards halibut harvesting (this is not a joke) from her own pocket. She could, but she doesn’t want to; the reasons why are probably lost in the maze of her own mind.

McAllister should be praised for his loyalty to Governor Palin, and his devotion to restauring the stained dignity of his employer, as he carries on explaining the different – but perfectly legitimate – reasons why Palin is sucking out the Congress dry by giving Tapper a head’s up on next year’s proposed earmarks, amounting to $69 million: “six ongoing federal appropriations and just two new projects: an upgrade at the Kodiak Missile Defense Facility, which is relevant to national security, and a bridge replacement critical to construction of the pending Alaska natural gas pipeline, also in the national interest.” Those projects sound like they might be extremely satisfying to most Republicans, as they underline two of their favorite words – “defense” and “gas”. At least Sarah Palin has the docility to maintain herself within the party line. Funding for women’s groups and native American’s protection will have to wait.

Palin and earmarks have a stormy relationship. Up until 2000, she absolutely refused to ask Washington for money; but as the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” campaign started in Alaska, she finally decided she’d fight tooth and nail for a $233 million earmark in order to make that bridge. Once obtained, though, this money wasn’t used towards the monument, but diverted to other projects. Facing much controversy in the following years, Palin decided she’d go back to her former anti-earmark roots. She strongly criticized the Alaska delegation for carrying on asking for earmarks, and said those should only be used “when there is an important federal purpose and strong citizen support.” (as in, halibut hunting for instance). Not necessarily aware of this weathervane-in-a-tornado attitude, McAllister, always the helpful aide, shares his concern and terrible turmoil with Jake Tapper, claiming that ABC is trying to brand Palin out as a hypocrite, and that it is “adding insult to the injury – quite literally.”

Quite literally. Which resulted in the following conversation:

Alarmed, I asked McAllister how Palin was “literally” injured. Was she okay? Was she infirm?

“I didn’t say physically injured,” he wrote back. “Certainly her reputation was injured by the erroneous reporting.”

Ah.

And this is the reason why mainstream – or even alternative – media will always have the upper hand: for as long as Sarah Palin revels in her inconsistencies, and for as long as her aides/team/staff fail to highlight their leader’s interests, whilst underlining their own mistakes, political criticism will always have a solid roof over its head and warm food on its plate. It’s probably for the best.

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