10.01.2008 0

Scooping Sarah Palin

  • On: 10/23/2008 16:35:16
  • In: John McCain
  • Give him credit where credit is due. One Richard T. Pienciak – an otherwise obscure AP scribe henceforth known as “Scoop” – has, indeed, achieved such a remarkable ability to weave a web devoid of thread that one expects him at any moment to stand tall and proclaim to all the world, “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.”

    On October 4, 2008, the prestigious Associated Press (AP) distributed a story nationwide that was clearly intended to denigrate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin through carefully calculated misrepresentation and assorted pejoratives – regardless of whether their was one iota of evidence to support their specious intimations. Written by Richard T. “Scoop” Pienciak, it had the innocuous headline “Palin tax returns for 2006 and 2007 released.

    The fact is, that headline also could have been the lead and the entirety of the body copy. Because that’s all there was to the story that was even remotely newsworthy. Until, that is, Scoop unsheathed his sword-like pen and began riding his steed into the ground.

    In a nutshell, Mrs. Palin and her husband, Todd, paid between 10% and 15% federal taxes on a combined income of some $200,000 in 2007 after they each took perfectly legal business and personal deductions. That’s the story. Or, rather, the non-story. So, clearly Scoop knew it was time for more than a little writer’s embellishment.

    Here, then, is his lead: “Sarah Palin is the breadwinner and her husband, Todd – well, he takes a lot of tax deductions …” First of all, if, as Todd’s tax returns indicate, Alaska’s “First Man” earns $66,000 a year, it would seem that he brings in a lot of dough himself – far more than the average wage-earner in the U.S. So, Scoop’s pejorative proclivities notwithstanding, the Palin twosome seem to have a pretty balanced breadbox. And AP should have edited out Mr. Pienciak’s snide “—well.”

    Then, there’s the matter of the Governor’s per diem payments. The people of Alaska seem more than happy to pay their popular governor a per diem when she works at the family’s home in Wasilla – nearly 600 miles from Juneau. But, not so, Scoop Pienciak. To Scoop, Mrs. Palin’s per diem is “controversial.” And who made it controversial? As far as we can tell, that would have been Mr. Pienciak, himself — since he cites no one else indulging in his illusionary controversy. John Courteney Boot would have been proud.

    But, Mr. Pienciak doesn’t let it lie there. No, as his non-story unfolds, he finds the per diem not only “controversial,” but also in “dispute.” And who, pray tell, “disputes” the per diem? Again, the answer seems to be the ever-vigilant Scoop Pienciak, himself, since he cites no other sources who seem the slightest bit concerned, or even interested for that matter.

    Now, when it comes to Todd Palin’s deductions for his “snowmachine” racing business, we have to admit that Scoop is far more fastidious in citing his sources – or, rather, his source. Apparently having somehow acquired access to H.G. Wells elusive Time Machine, Scoop journeys all the way back to – brace yourself – 1968 to find one Sheldon S. Cohen, who, Scoops boasts, was an IRS commissioner during the Johnson administration. Mr. Cohen was reportedly having tea with Methuselah when the intrepid Scoop tracked down.

    Mr. Cohen, clearly not a fan of either Palin, snarls, “This is a lady who screams about everyone in the federal government taking advantage, and she’s taking every advantage she can.” You can almost hear him grunting peevishly, “… the young whippersnapper.”

    And that’s it. Mr. Pienciak pens a two-page, 2,000-word article and dredges up an IRS commissioner from 40 years ago to be his authority source on the tax code of 2008. This, by the way, is the same Sheldon Cohen who, when asked by justmytruth.com’s Aaron Russo about tax inequities responded, “You are liable because the courts say you are liable, and the courts say you are liable and that is why you are liable.” Just as Sarah and Todd Palin are apparently taking advantage of the advantages offered by the advantageous tax code.

    Perhaps to demonstrate that he is not forever caught in a 1968 time warp, Scoop concludes his opus with what he clearly feels is an infraction of epochal proportions in the Palin’s 2006 return. As he explains it, “For the 2006 tax year, the couple listed two noncash [his word, not mine: apparently Scoop has a problem with hyphens, as indicated by his use of “snowmachines” above] donations … with a fair market value of $1,000 and more goods and clothing with a fair market value of $230. While the value of these two donations total [Scoop also seems to consider subject-verb agreement an anathema] $1,230 [always strong in math, Scoop apparently believes the rest of us have difficulty adding figures with multiple digits], the tax return only claims $630.”

    And there you have it: the crime of the century. Just to make sure his readers grasp the gravity of the transgression, Scoop adds solemnly, “More recently, the IRS has tightened documentation rules for all charitable donations.” One doesn’t know whether this is intended to mean that so egregious was the Palin hooliganism that the IRS felt compelled to toughen the laws, or whether Scoop was just giving the perps fair warning not to try that stunt again. Or, perhaps, it was simply that old Pienciak humor manifesting itself.

    AP needs to get this sort of tripe in hand. The venerated old news bureau has far too proud of a history to degenerate into becoming nothing more than an outlet for allowing ill-informed muckrakers to vent their bilious spleens. And if AP cannot get it in hand, it needs to think seriously of changing its name from Associated Press to Absolutely Preposterous. In which case, the editors could even keep the same monograms on their fraying French cuffs.

    And as for Mr. Richard T. “Scoop” Pienciak, perhaps The Daily Beast will have an opening for that feather-footed questing vole somewhere south of Ishmaetia.

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