Hard Hitting Journalism

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Palin claim on eBay plane sale doesn’t fly

By Jason George and Andrew Zajac |Chicago Tribune correspondents September 5, 2008

JUNEAU, Alaska — When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin sought to illustrate her frugality and flair to delegates at the GOP convention Wednesday, she described how she disposed of a corporate jet acquired by her unpopular predecessor.

“That luxury jet was over the top,” Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, said to loud cheers. “I put it on eBay.”

Palin’s statement implied the plane was sold through the online auction site revered for empowering millions of small entrepreneurs, and Palin’s spokeswoman insisted Thursday that the transaction occurred. But the plane failed to sell on eBay.

Imagine that.  An expensive toy that did not sell on eBay!  That, like, hardly ever happens!

Seems to me, her point with that story was that the plane was an extravagance that the state could do without, a symbol of the supposed corruption of the previous governor, and a waste of money.  So, she made an executive decision, to get rid of the damn thing.

In other words, the story here is about making a decision to get rid of it, not the mechanics of how it eventually came to pass.

It isn’t super complicated.

And I’m really not sure how the phrase “I put it on eBay” implies anything at all about where it finally sold, or if it even sold at all.  Everybody knows that offering something for sale via eBay, or craigslist, or any other channel, is just that, and nothing more: offering it for sale. You can later pull it back off eBay, or eventually sell it there, or sell it somebody on the street, or give it to your kid, or donate it to charity, etc.  The one doesn’t really imply the other.

Good writers and public speakers choose their words carefully for a reason:  because they’re saying exactly what they mean.  It ain’t no accident.  “I put it on eBay” means nothing more, and nothing less.

Just because these two reporters are too fuzzy-brained to capture the subtlety is no reason to accuse Palin of being too fuzzy-brained to communicate her true meaning.

So who did buy the plane, then?

Instead, the 23-year-old 10-seat Westwind II was sold in August 2007 for $2.1 million to a Valdez, Alaska, entrepreneur; that’s about $300,000 less than a broker’s asking price, according to news accounts.

Ah.  Well, “I put it on eBay” is funnier than “I put it on eBay, but ultimately sold it to an entrepreneur”.  For that reason, and others, It is a better line, and when you’re giving a speech, that’s one of the things you’re trying to do:  plant memorable lines in our heads.  I think it worked, eh?

And it doesn’t imply anything at all about what ultimately became of the object in question.

Besides, I think a governor has better things to do than watch bids on eBay and click refresh every 30 seconds, don’t you?

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7 comments
  1. Mike said:

    I really wish 2000 had been John McCain vs. Bill Bradley. Somehow I feel we wouldn’t be in such a mess.

    A friend of mine had an interesting observation recently. He said that a major flaw in the American political setup is that what wins in the primaries isn’t generally what’s best for the country in the general election. I think this goes for both parties.

    Because of the Bush debacle, the Democrats now have a pretty dramatic candidate instead of Hillary… while McCain should have been commander-in-chief over Bush in the first place.

    Can you believe that George W. Bush successfully attacked John McCain’s military record in the 2000 South Carolina primary? Are you kidding me?

  2. Mike said:

    I do like that Sarah Palin… I’ll tell you that.

  3. Your friend is absolutely right; it’s a well-known issue with the whole process, you have to track to the right/left in the primaries, then track back to the center for the election. Not a credibility enhancer, for the part of the electorate that pays attention. 😉

    I actually voted for Bush. Twice. I’m a conservative, more or less. I do feel he and his administration have done better than the public perception indicates, and that history will judge his “reign” in a more flattering light. But you’re probably right (and I hadn’t thought of this before) that McCain would have been just as good or better at fighting the War on Terror, which for me is issue #1. And Bush has been pretty squishy re: everything else, so McCain couldn’t have done any “worse” as far as I’m concerned. I don’t really care what party a President is in; if they are for a strong defense, conservative judges, and smaller government, I’m theirs. Unfortunately, this leaves us with only one part to choose from, and even that one is pretty sub-standard.

    And Palin rocks!

  4. I actually used to do political blogging back in 2002-05, at a different site which I’ve since taken down. These days I stay far away from it, even though I still read about it pretty regularly.

    I’ve learned so much more about politics and civics, history, law, education, the military, etc., since I became a blogger … it’s almost kinda embarrassing. Better late than never, I guess!

    And one thing I’ll say about ’08, this has been one of the most interesting and entertaining political seasons in a long, LONG time.

  5. Mike said:

    The problem I had with the Iraq war was that the focus shifted away from bin Laden. I personally believe that if it was our objective to get him, that no matter where he is, including Pakistan or anywhere else, we’d get him. I want to get the guilty party.

    From there, if we want to do something about Iraq? Sure. I wish someone would bomb the hell out of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. I’m sick of some Americans thinking that there’s an even slightly cooperative nature to the middle eastern countries. You might get a kick out of this one… but those folks make the ACB crowd look like professional, sympathetic figures.

    And I couldn’t agree with you more on smaller government. I vote no on spending every single time. But, the GOP hasn’t represented that in a long time. What I like about McCain is that he might actually be a true smaller government Republican. I like that the Veep choice keeps the Alaskan bookkeeping open to the public.

    I know you know ten times more than me about military affairs so maybe you can help me understand why we haven’t had a greater focus on bin Laden.

    And yes, this is a good election. I feel that the next four years will be better than the last 8 regardless of outcome.

  6. I highly recommend a book I read a few months ago, America’s Secret War by George Friedman.

    It explains all the geopolitics driving what led up to the Iraq War, and how it is really about putting political pressure on Saudi Arabia to stop funding terror. Fascinating, well-written, a real eye-opener. I’d heard lots of this stuff before, but Friedman lays it out in a non-partisan, “just the facts” style.

    Another good one I just read a couple weeks ago: Sleeping With the Devil, by Robert Baer, who served in the CIA for 20 years.

    Both are excellent, quick reads, and will forever change the way you view politics and the Middle East.

  7. Mike said:

    Hey JB,

    Thanks for the recommendations. I think I’m going to pick up the first one soon. It’s been a little while since I’ve made a Amazon purchase so this is good timing.

    You have no idea how conservative I am when it comes to the Middle East.

    In other news, how ’bout those Bears! I’m still expect nothing from this team, but at least there’s some cause for optimism. I was most impressed with Matt Forte. The Bears’ front office spent first rounders on Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam, and Cedric Benson for nothing. Did we maybe find a steal in round two? Last time we went round two, the A Train was better than those other three. I know it’s only one game, but I sense Forte’s better than all of those guys. I had no idea this guy had these capabilities. He seems to move well through the hole and has that floating like quality that Emmitt Smith had.

    I was a Thomas Jones fan, but even though he was reliable, I felt he wasn’t the best at making guys miss. I saw a lot of good qualities in Forte: speed, lateral movement, fearlessness, toughness, a nose for the hole, and a fight for the extra yard. Plus, he can make guys miss. I hope he’s a keeper. What are the Bears without a running game?

    If Forte is the real thing, he better get ready for a love from Chicago fans like he’s never experienced before. God knows the Bears need a star running back.