Does anybody remember Bill Clinton boasting in 1992 that a vote for him means "buy one, get one free?" Of course, he was referring to the fact that by electing him, you would also get Hillary as a virtual co-president. No big outrage in the liberal media back then about a spouse being too involved in the political affairs of her husband.
However, the Washington Post has now taken the involvement of Todd Palin in Alaska civic affairs to suggest that perhaps he is some sort of Machiavellian power behind the throne. Unfortunately for their premise, the facts dug up by Washington Post writers, Alec MacGillis and Karl Vick, actually shows Todd Palin to be an upstanding citizen with very limited involvement in political affairs. In fact, the criticisms of the "First Dude" in their article are so lame as to laughable. One is the charge that Todd sat in on a state budget veto meeting (emphasis mine):
Harris, the House speaker, was surprised to learn that Todd Palin was with the governor in her office when she called in key legislators to discuss her state budget vetoes. He believes that at times, the governor and her husband lose sight of boundaries.
"It's an issue that sometimes emotion gets the better of them," he said. "But they're relatively young and have very quickly been put in the public spotlight."
Stapleton said Todd Palin sat in on the veto meeting but was there only to look after the couple's infant son, Trig, who was resting in a bassinet.
Gasp! Todd was actually looking after his son during a meeting? Even die-hard liberals would have a lot of trouble mustering outrage over that. But MacGillis and Vick try, oh how they try, to portray Todd Palin in a sinister light beginning with the intro to their article:
Todd Palin grew up as the archetypal Alaskan -- salmon fisherman, champion snowmobiler, North Slope oil worker. But since his wife became governor 20 months ago, his portfolio has broadened: househusband, babysitter, senior adviser, legislative liaison, and -- when the occasion warrants -- enforcer and protector.
And where were MacGillis and Vick when Hillary was actively involved in suppressing reports about "bimbo eruptions?" and later taking an active role as her husband's "enforcer and protector" during the impeachment proceedings?
Okay, let us now look at the details of Todd's "sinister" influence. You might have a tendency to burst out laughing while reading it:
He has supervised renovations to the governor's mansion and hopscotched by plane back and forth to Juneau to juggle duties as father and "First Dude," as he has come to be known. And to a degree that has surprised many state government observers, Todd Palin also has become involved in policy, sitting in on his wife's meetings, traveling on state business and weighing in on some legislative issues.
So he saved money for the state by supervising the renovations himself. And what was the state business he was involved with?
John Harris, the Republican speaker of the Alaska House, said he had never been called by the spouse of a governor before the two calls he got from Todd Palin. One was to argue for moving the state capital to Anchorage. The other was to ask Harris to "keep an eye" on a key aide who had an affair with the wife of one of Todd's best friends.
A lot of Alaskans have been pushing over the years to move the capital of that state to a more central location. So Todd isn't allowed to weigh in on this issue? The other item sounds like something Todd should be concerned about since it involved a friend. Sorry, nothing earth shaking here. The silliness of the charges continues:
Political hands in both parties say the Palins are often referred to as a team -- "Sarah and Todd" -- and one Democratic lawmaker said Todd Palin has become her "de facto chief of staff."
Key word here is "Democratic." As to referring them as "Sarah and Todd"...how else do you refer to a couple? We have Barack and Michelle, John and Cindy and, of course, Bill and Hillary. What? There is some scandal in calling the first couple of Alaska "Sarah and Todd?"
The article pretty much undercut itself by reporting that Todd was involved with Alaskan civic affairs long before his wife's election:
...But Todd Palin, 44, the ruggedly handsome four-time winner of the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race, was already an Alaska star before his wife's election in 2006. Along with his family duties, he held two jobs, working occasional 85-hour weeks as an oil production operator for BP and, for a month each summer, as a commercial salmon fisherman in Bristol Bay. He belongs to the steelworkers union, an alliance that may partly explain his wife's strong labor support. His Yup'ik ancestry, which traces back to his maternal grandmother, gave Sarah Palin special standing with Native Alaskans.
This sounds more like a ringing endorsement of an upstanding citizen of Alaska. Working 85-hour weeks, a fisherman, union member, and close ties to the state's native population. Oh, and four-time winner of the Iron Dog race. How many women out there would love to have a husband like this? We already know that even liberal Susan Estrich would.
Here is another example presented in the article of Todd Palin's influence:
Todd Palin also has taken interest in issues that affect friends in the Mat-Su Valley, where the Palins live, notably the fight to save the state's half-dozen dairy farms. The overseers of the state-owned dairy that bought milk from valley farmers announced in June 2007 that they would shut it down because it was losing money.
Todd Palin maintained a presence in Gov. Palin's subsequent intervention. She replaced the chief executive and the two boards overseeing the dairy and kept it running long enough for a private dairy to open.
It sure sounds like Todd should be winning some sort of civic duty award for this for helping the dairy farmers of his valley. However, we get this "hit" on Todd in the article:
Todd Palin appeared at meetings of the new Creamery Board, and, according to several people involved, at one point called the local Teamsters chapter, which represented dairy employees and had to fend off suggestions by farmers who wanted to cut worker pay to lower costs. Kristan Cole, a Palin friend appointed to head the new Creamery Board, said last week that Todd Palin's role was not significant.
The dairy's workers remember him most vividly as the protective husband who showed up with the governor for a tour, trailed by news media, aides and security guards. Workers told her that food safety regulations forbade her entourage to enter in the absence of the CEO, who was away for a meeting.
Ray Penamora, a gallon-filling machine operator, watched Todd Palin -- not an aide or security guard -- step up to settle the dispute. "He was amazed that they don't let her in," said Penamora. "He said, 'Why not?' "
Perhaps there is something sinister about a willingness to cut through bureaucratic red tape in Washington but not out in the real world. Having failed to really produce anything even remotely damning of Todd Palin, the Washington Post writers bring up "troopergate":
Todd Palin's communications with Walter Monegan, a former public safety commissioner, have entangled him in a legislative investigation into whether he and his wife, along with several top officials, pressured unsuccessfully for the firing of state trooper Mike Wooten. The first couple had accused Wooten, who was in a child-custody battle with Sarah Palin's sister, of threatening behavior. Monegan did not fire Wooten, and the governor removed Monegan from office in July.
Last week, the McCain campaign said Todd Palin would refuse to comply with a subpoena to testify in the investigation.
He did step in when KTUU-TV, the dominant broadcast station in Alaska, aired a segment describing the many personnel complaints the Palins had brought against Wooten. Todd Palin called to complain. The segment's producer, John Herbst, later resigned after he was reprimanded for failing to treat elected officials with "respect."
Left unsaid were the details of Wooten's "threatening" behavior which included a death threat against Sarah Palin's father. Perhaps not an idle threat considering that Wooten tasered his own 10 year old stepson and has been known to drive on duty while drunk. The question here is why Wooten wasn't fired long ago. And Todd is somehow at fault for being protective of his family because of the threat caused by this nutcase?
Inside the Beltway cocoon what might be perceived as negatives are the same things that would make real people to want to give the "First Dude" a medal. Consider this Washington Post report an inadvertent endorsement of Todd Palin's character despite its intentions.
UPDATE: Your humble correspondent wishes to welcome Michelle Cottle of The New Republic as a fan. As you can see in her recent The Plank blog post titled, "Todd Palin Is Hillary Clinton," she obviously reads NewsBusters. Here is what she wrote:
So I'm reading the WaPo's front-pager today on Todd Palin, when it hits me: Todd Palin is Hillary Clinton circa 1992.
As the WaPo lays it out, the major criticism leveled at Todd is that he's too involved in his spouse's governing duties but operates without any oversight or accountability. The couple is seen throughout the state's political circles as a team--"Sarah and Todd." Todd sits in on high-level meetings. He's copied on official emails. He offers counsel on a wide range of issues. He travels on state business (often at taxpayer expense). He even unofficially lobbies lawmakers and outside interest groups on matters of importance to him. But because all of this is done under the auspices of his personal rather than professional relationship with Governor Sarah, the good citizens of the state have no real sense what Todd is up to.
All of this smacks of the two-for-the-price-of-one deal we were offered--and which many people took such exception to--in 1992 with the Clintons. Obviously, the times are different and the gender dynamics are scrambled this time around. But Todd clearly has his fingers in Sarah's bidness as much as--if not more than--Hillary ever did in Bill's. Just something to think about the next time the conservative punditocracy gets all self-righteous about the need to protect the candidates' families from public scrutiny. If anything, it sounds like "Sarah and Todd" could use a little more scrunity.
Hmm...And where did we read this analogy before? However, Cottle makes the wrong conclusion since Todd was nowhere nearly as involved in governmental affairs as was Hillary. Oh, and in the future, Ms Cottle, a Hat Tip would be in order just out of courtesy.
p.s. Please give my regards to The New Republic senior editor, Jonathan Chait, and ask him when he is going to get around to mentioning Joe Biden again.