Hurry! Get Woodward and Bernstein on the line!
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?