iOS app Android app More

Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly

Posted: September 15, 2008 12:56 AM

Sarah Palin Isn't Not Not Dis-Un-Lying About Banning Books


My grandmother Grace was a librarian in a tiny northern town. (Population 20,000. Average annual snowfall 11 feet.) She was a little old Irish lady. Flinty. You'd have liked her. She'd help you find a book. So, while I know there are lots of other, better reasons to dislike Sarah Palin, bullying the librarian is mine.

You might think that makes me sound like someone with a petty grudge, but I prefer to think of it as rising above politics and putting the family first.

If my grandmother had been a rape victim, I'd probably be more annoyed that Sarah Palin made rape victims pay for their own exams. And wants to make them deliver their rapists' babies.

If my grandmother had been a wolf, I'd probably think Palin's least attractive proclivity was hurting animals for fun.

We may never know exactly what happened between Sarah Palin and Wasilla's librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons. Alaska under Palin has replaced war as the province of uncertainty. But we can certainly agree that the mayor wanted the librarian's head.

We also know that Palin asked Emmons three times about banning books in the library, and Emmons refused and Palin tried to fire her. But does that prove Palin wanted to ban books? "It's an old wives' tale," Palin told Charlie Gibson, in a statement that only resembles a denial from a distance.

Everything gets slick in Alaska, I guess. Even the past. Palin admits that she had at least one discussion with Emmons but, according to FactCheck.Org:

Palin characterized the exchange differently, initially volunteering the episode as an example of discussions with city employees about following her administration's agenda. Palin described her questions to Emmons as "rhetorical," noting that her questions "were asked in the context of 
professionalism regarding the library policy that is in place in our city."

She wasn't asking Emmons to remove the books. She was sounding out Emmons on her feelings about an agenda. Of removing the books.

This statement, by McCain spokesman Brian Rogers, looks a lot more forceful:

"The fact is that as Mayor, Palin never asked anyone to ban a book and not one book was ever banned, period."

That's true, as far as it goes, but look at it again. Fans of Jesuitical hair-splitting might think the wiggle room here comes from the distinction between asking someone whether you can ask them to do something and asking them to do it. But that's not it.

Ignore "period." Look at the place where he might have said "dependent clause." The important words are:

"The fact is that as Mayor,"

Sarah Palin never asked anyone to ban a book as Mayor. As Mayor -- of a Wal-Mart and a snowmobile trail -- she was only interested in censorship in general.

As the New York Times reported this weekend, she only pushed to ban books by name when she was on the city council.

I hope that clears up everything.

Why was it so important for Brian Rogers to slip in the words "as Mayor" a week ago, before anyone had heard about Sarah Palin's city council campaign to protect Alaska from Daddy's Roommate?

The fact is that when silent, Brian Rogers isn't lying.

Period.


--


Brian Rogers kind of reminds me of something John McCain said during the national pig/lipstick crisis last week:

"Senator Obama chooses his words very carefully, okay? He shouldn't have said it. He shouldn't have said it. He chooses his words very carefully."

He's right. You've got to despise people who act like that.


--


Speaking of choosing words.

As FactCheck.org points out, when Sarah Palin said her questions were "rhetorical," she probably meant they were "hypothetical."

Sometimes you'd almost swear the person John McCain wants breaking ties in the Senate is a numbskull.