By Bertram de Souza
The campaign of Republican presidential nominee John McCain has taken exception to this writer’s posts on Vindy.com, The Vindicator’s Web site, about the 17-year-old unmarried, pregnant daughter of vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin.
“Even Barack Obama has agreed that the family of the candidates is off-limits,” a McCain campaign staffer told Vindicator Editorial Page Editor Dennis Mangan.
Mangan had phoned the operative to inquire about McCain’s attending an on-the-record meeting with members of the newspaper’s editorial board. While the door was left open to that, there was an exchange about this writer’s comments posted on his blog, “Stirfry.”
The first was titled, “It’s not about the pregnancy, it’s about hiding it;” the second, “Republicans to America: Go forth and multiply.”
Here are some facts surrounding Alaska Gov. Palin’s family:
• Her husband and all five children, including 17-year-old Bristol, along with her prospective son-in-law, also a teenager, attended the Republican National Convention and were proudly and loudly introduced to the party faithful and the national television audience.
• It was the governor who revealed that her daughter is five months pregnant, and said the father planned to marry the girl.
• It was the governor who brought her Down syndrome infant to the gathering and did nothing to keep the child out of the spotlight.
Finally, as the Washington Post reported extensively last Tuesday, Palin’s family members are very much a part of her official life.
Her husband, Todd, appears to have a role as a consultant. According to the Post, he was paid by the government of Alaska to fly to Edmonton, Alberta, for “information gathering and planning meeting with Northern Alberta Institute of Technology,” and during the three-day trip charged the state $291 for his per diem. He also billed the state $1,371 for a flight to Washington to attend a National Governors Association meeting with his wife.
The newspaper’s investigation of per diem allowances received by the governor and members of her family included this: The state was billed about $25,000 for Palin’s daughters’ expenses and $19,000 for her husband’s.
In October 2007, the Post reported, daughter Bristol accompanied her mother to Newsweek’s third annual Women and Leadership Conference in New York City. They toured the New York Stock Exchange and met local officials and business executives. The state paid for three nights in a $707-a-day hotel. Airline travel by members of the governor’s family was the most expensive item, according to the Post.
“Flights topped the list for the most expensive items,” the newspaper story said, “and the daughter whose bill was the highest was Piper, 7, whose flights cost nearly $11,000, while Willow, 14, claimed about $6,000 and Bristol accounted for about $3,400.”
Is the state of Alaska so flush with oil revenue that it has no laws governing the use of tax dollars?
The Post asked the state’s finance director, Kim Garnero, about the official policy on charging for children’s travel expenses, and got this: “We cover the expenses of anyone who’s conducting state business. I can’t imagine kids could be doing that.”
So it’s either that Gov. Palin considers her husband and children an integral part of her conduct of official duties, or the family is misusing taxpayer dollars.
Regardless, she has chosen to give them a very public role, and that makes them fair game.
The Post story is a must-read for Mahoning Valley residents, who have long witnessed the questionable use of public dollars.
When you run on a presidential ticket that wraps itself in family values, religion (there’s a video on YouTube.com of Palin telling her church congregation that the Iraq war is God’s work) and the flag, you have to make sure not to commit the sin of hypocrisy.
Indeed, McCain’s very selection of Palin smacks of political hypocrisy.
That’s an issue that will be explored in greater depth next week.