Should the Washington Post Have Rejected Sarah Palin’s Op-Ed?


Future former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post today, in which she roundly dismissed the idea of cap-and-trade.  The piece is generating quite a lot of discussion, including rebuttals from John Kerry and Sarah Palin From Several Months Ago.

Leaving aside the merits of present-day Sarah Palin’s argument, two of the responses to her piece got my attention.  First, HuffPo’s Art Brodsky posited the publication of Palin’s essay as further evidence of the decline of the Washington Post:

How does the Post regain its equilibrium? How does it recover not only from this disaster but also from the dismissal of popular blogger Dan Froomkin, whose sacking led to great protests from the readers the Post execs didn’t think existed?

Why, by putting the soon-to-be ex-gov on the op-ed page, one of the prime places of real estate left in the newspaper world? Not to put too fine a point on it — is there any sane person left over in the Post management?

I found the question intriguing, but not for the reasons brodsky gives.  Agree with her or not, cop to her expertise or not, Palin’s interconnectedness with energy policy is indisputable, making her voice newsworthy.

What I found interesting was this take, from my old stomping grounds, Politics Daily:

Palin Op-Ed Blasts Obama: A Prelude to 2012?

In case anyone doubts the presidential ambition of her save-the-economy essay, the last words should clear things up: “Yes we can. Just not with Barack Obama’s energy cap-and-tax plan.” Sarah Palin is serving notice that it’s a long while till 2012, with plenty of time to repair an image or, for that matter, create an entirely different one.

This reminded me of 2 incidents during the 2008 Presidential campaign, in whichthe New York Times rejected op-ed pieces from candidates.  The first rejected op-ed was from the Clinton campaign, a decision with which I disagreed.  The 2nd was from the McCain campaign, using the same rationale under stronger circumstances.

In both cases, the Times objected because they judged that each piece essentially consisted of little more than a campaign press release.

By this standard, if you buy Politics Daily’s premise, the Washington Post could be seen as simply renting its op-ed page to the Palin ’12 campaign for free.  It’s an interesting, but thin, premise.

Rather than attacking Palin’s standing or expertise, Brodsky might have been better served making his point on the merits of the piece.  While she attacks the idea of cap and trade that she campaigned on months ago, she presents absolutely no alternative to that policy’s central purpose, fighting global climate change.  As John Kerry points out, she fails to address it at all.

Does this fit in with the Washington Post’s editorial guidelines for op-ed pieces?  Let’s see:

Among the things we look for are timeliness (is it pegged to something in the news?), resonance (is it something that will interest Post readers?) and freshness of perspective (is it an argument we haven’t heard many times before?). You don’t need to have special expertise in a topic. But explaining how your background or experience informs your point of view can make for a more effective op-ed. You also don’t need to have an important title — and having an important title doesn’t mean we’ll publish your op-ed. In fact, because we realize that senators, business leaders, heads of state and the like have access to various platforms where they can express their views, we hold them to a particularly high standard when considering whether to publish them in The Post.

While Brodsky’s premise is wildly overstated, it’s tough to argue that Palin’s piece meets this bar, and tougher to argue that her clickability didn’t play a major part in the Post’s decision to carry it.

On the other hand, in the HuffPo and Politics Daily articles, both authors make the observation/assumption that Palin likely used a ghostwriter in composing the WaPo piece. This may be ignorance on my part, but I don’t think that’s a fair assumption. While it is quite common for politicians to use ghostwriters for memoirs and speeches, I’ve read nothing to indicate this is true of op-ed pieces. Even if it is a fair assumption, it isn’t one I see made about other politicians’ op-ed pieces. Either it’s commonplace, and not worth mentioning, or it isn’t, and thus worth checking.

I asked Governor Palin, via Twitter, if she could confirm that she had written the piece. She hasn’t responded, as she probably gets a million tweets an hour, but it was worth a shot. In any case, it was an insulting assumption, made without basis. It’s the kind of thing that feeds into Palin’s persecution complex, whereas criticism on the merits would be more than sufficient.



  1. Uh, did you have a little bit of fun creating all of the tags?

  2. I think that what she said during the campaign was just to not publicly disagree w/ McCain on the issue. Much like Cheney not saying anything about gay marriage until after he was no longer working for Bush.

  3. Funny, at the core, this woman doesn’t have 10 minutes worth of ‘content’ to discuss. but she friggin farts and the blogs are LIT UP!
    Easily lead ain’t we?

  4. Tags? The wordpress TIPS page says not to use that many if you want more hits.
    Obviously Tommy doesn’t care.
    He’s pulled out all the stops now.
    Blow job posts and everything!

    Want a buh-zillion hits?
    TAG: blow job

    Nuff said?

  5. “By this standard, if you buy Politics Daily’s premise, the Washington Post could be seen as simply renting its op-ed page to the Palin ‘12 campaign for free. It’s an interesting, but thin, premise.”

    I could buy Politics Daily’s premise, but I’d have to suffer severe head trauma.

    Cap & Trade also does nothing to “fight global climate change.” As an aside, don’t you love how they’ve changed it from “global warming” to “global climate change.” Cap & Trade will make a very few extremely wealthy (including the darling of Dem’s, Al Gore), while negatively impacting millions of workers in various industries. These people will suffer for a bogus and
    unscientific theory. Based on the flawed science that they are pimping, their “cap & trade” solutions will not solve anything. However, cap & trade will prove to be a fruitful revenue source that will also benefit a handful of heavily invested interests. I know the left loves the planet, but can’t they just go out in the desert and hump the earth rather than anally raping our emotionally fragile economy?

    I personally think you’re reaching in this one, Tommy. They say they hold them to a high standard, but there is no there .. there. Does it meet the timeliness requirement? Well, given what passed the House and is heading to the Senate. I’d say the subject of her piece meets the timeliness requirement. Is the perspective fresh? For the Post, yes. She does have expertise in the topic and it does make her piece more interesting. By those measures she more than proves worthy of op ed space on this topic. A better question is, How is it justifiable to give junior Senator Barack “the community organizer” Obama op ed space in the NY Times?

    Barack Obama, a first term Senator with a background in community organizing was given op ed space to write, “My Plan For Iraq.”. He was and is not an expert on international relations, national security, or the military. He offered nothing fresh or new in “his” plan. Hell the man even mentions the political campaign in his piece. These facts did not prevent the NY Times from providing him with a platform.

    I’d love to see the numerous complaints from left leaning journalists, like yourself, concerning this illogical move by the NY Times. WaPo and the Times likely have different standards, but that shouldn’t have stopped left leaning journalists at Daily Politics and HuffPo from voicing their concerns. What on earth could explain the discrepancy? Don’t answer that question … it was purely rhetorical.

    The desire of those on the left to see major papers keep their editorial pages completely to the left is understandable. The left has had a good thing for a very long time and they’re resistant to change. (irony alert)

    I asked you to shake part of me like a crying baby on Twitter and that didn’t happen. However, that too was worth a shot.

  6. Jesus, now I have to defend my tagging, too?

  7. My conclusion isn’t necessarily that Palin’s piece was unfit for publication. In fact, I reject Brodsky’s premise. On the other hand, the facts that her piece is half a side shy of being even one-sided, and that the only thing fresh about the perspective is that it’s the opposite of what she campaigned on, make a compelling argument that she didn’t meet a high bar there.

  8. The freshness issue is the only basis on which an argument against giving her op ed space can be formed, but even that is subjective and dependent on what has previously been given time in that paper. I pass on reading WaPo, so I’ll have to rely on your objective assessment of how much ink has been given to those who oppose cap & trade and whether the descriptions of their arguments have been fair or skewed via the prism of ideology. I’ll also have to rely on your judgment of whether the op ed’s on WaPo are consistently “fresh.”

  9. Ha! Fair enough, as I deliberately steer clear of most op-eds, at least until after I’ve written on a given subject, precisely to keep my own perspective fresh. When WaPo says they set a high bar, I’m sure Palin’s not the only one to sneak under it.

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