I can still remember the time I paged through a lengthy brief claiming that Trig Palin was not Sarah Palin's son, and that the former Alaska governor had perpetrated some mindbending, complicated fraud. Forgive the bluntness, but my reaction was simply this: "Well, that right there is some bullshit." Recently, the whole matter has been forced back into the public eye with the publication of an academic paper on the matter. Once again, I read through the brief, and had the same reaction, mixed with a puzzlement that it had been sold as some sort of new and groundbreaking take.
It wasn't. It was more or less a practical joke, warmed over with academic pretensions. The fact is that Trig Trutherism, like Birtherism, and also classic 9/11 Trutherism, are different offshoots of the same conspiratorial tradition, where you begin with a zany premise and work backwards, selecting "evidence" that can be shoehorned into your premise, while omitting or ignoring the details that shoot it down. Pretty soon, you're attempting to draw spectral meaning from photographs you didn't take and pondering the significance of the pilot episodes of "X-Files" spin-offs.
How long should anyone tolerate this astral projection? Let it cease forever, with the publication of Justin Elliott and Steve Kornacki's multipart takedown of the entire mythos -- which shows great restraint in that it's not all titled, "Where's Your Messiah Now, Andrew Sullivan?"
Was Palin's supposed con job an essential part of her plan to become a political star?
No, says Steve Kornacki. That whole idea is zany:
As Sullivan has put it:
"A key advantage in getting her head above the crowd for a veepship was giving birth to a child with special needs. Why? Because for decades, the pro-life base has suspected that the GOP leadership just pays lip-service on the issue and doesn't believe it themselves (hence all their pro-choice wives). But by having a child with special needs - and advertizing her struggles about having one - Palin proves she is "one of us". And the news emerged just after McCain won the nomination."
The implication here, I guess, is that Palin calculated sometime in the winter of 2008 -- while John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were still duking it out for the GOP presidential nomination -- that concocting an elaborate, daring and downright reckless plot to pass off someone else's child as her own would bolster her chances of landing on the ultimate GOP nominee's ticket. Even for those who have a low opinion of Palin, this should sound absurd on its face.
But putting that aside, it's simply not accurate to claim that the Trig story is what landed Palin on the ticket, or even on McCain's radar. What stood out about Palin to (some of) the McCain team were her gender and her supposed credentials as a reformer -- the woman who said "No!" to the Bridge to Nowhere (even if she really didn't) and who stood up to Big Oil on behalf of everyday Alaskans. It also helped that McCain needed a jolt, was prone to impulsive decision-making (remember when he suspended his campaign on a whim?), and had a dearth of options when it came to "bold" running-mate picks.
The press completely failed to investigate the entire matter.:
This is an old claim that basically reached new and hysterical proportions with the release of Brad Scharlott's academic treatise on the matter of Trig Trutherism. As Elliott painstakingly documents, this entire premise works only if you entirely ignore the fact that the matter was investigated and reported upon by Steve Quinn of the Associated Press, Erika Bolstad of McClatchy Newspapers, Sam Bishop (now) of the Fairbanks News-Miner, Julia O'Malley of the Anchorage Daily News, Cherie Shirey and Andrea Gusty of KTVA, Lori Tipton of KTUU, and, in a long recounting of his own, the Anchorage Daily News' Wesley Loy.
As with Birtherism, the way you translate "the media failed to diligently investigate the truth" is to say "the media, after sufficient investigation, failed to deliver the story that all the conspiracy theorists wanted."
We learn, once again, how advantageous it is to be a man in politics.
Here's a part of Steve Quinn's account of Palin's pregnancy that's worth noting:
According to Quinn, in the days immediately after Palin announced her pregnancy that March, he was in the governor's office and asked her directly about the rumors. Palin smiled and, Quinn says, lifted an outer layer of clothing to show that she was indeed pregnant. "She was able to show a thin layer of clothing against her stomach that revealed an enlarged abdomen area," he says.
Palin felt compelled to partially disrobe to assure a reporter that she wasn't lying about being pregnant? Reflect on that, people, because that is some sexist nonsense, right there.
As Elliott points out, everyone has a choice to make:
You can believe that Palin was wearing a pregnancy suit and Hollywood-quality makeup for weeks, all before she had a national profile. You can believe that she fooled all of those journalists with her pregnancy costume, including the AP reporter who literally inspected Palin's belly in her office. You can believe that Palin, and her entire family, and her doctor, and her disgruntled former aide Frank Bailey, have been lying to the press in a tightly organized and mind-bogglingly elaborate conspiracy. You can believe that the medical workers who were involved in Trig's delivery were paid off or have simply kept inexplicably quiet about the hoax. You can believe that Bristol Palin gave birth to Trig and then had another child just eight months later.
Or you can believe that Trig is Sarah Palin's son.
I'm going to go with the latter. Naturally, I'll tell you up front that I'm prepared to contend with all of the "what ifs." What if it turns out Palin has conned the world? Hey, man, what if there's an alien spacecraft at Area 51? What if Vladimir Putin assassinated Biggie? What if those Hale-Bopp people turned out to be the only humans whose spiritual worldview turned out to be correct? I guess the world is filled with mystery! But I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the revelation. If that's your bag, well, good luck with that.