Ms. Palin ordered city employees not to talk to the press. And she used city money to buy a white Suburban for the mayor’s use — employees sarcastically called it the mayor-mobile.
The new mayor also tended carefully to her evangelical base. She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.
“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”
Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.
But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.
“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”
“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”
That's some new information. So to recap, even if we leave aside Palin's other vendettas, abuses of power, cronyism, attempts at secrecy, general authoritarianism, and constant, repeated lying even after being exposed, here's what we have on her attempts to ban books alone.
• In 1995, Palin wanted to remove from the town library a book (Daddy’s Roommate) dealing with homosexuality that she hadn't even bothered to read.
• Also in 1995, according to librarian Mary Ellen Emmons, Palin was 'distressed' by a case where a book was challenged. It's unclear whether that was the same book Palin objected to, or what the outcome was (although I would think the challenge failed). Regardless, Palin was aware of the book-challenging policy in the borough.
• In 1996, Palin asked Emmons "rhetorically" (hypothetically) about banning books in the library at least twice, in some accounts three times, despite already knowing the book-challenging policy and being reminded of it by Emmons. According to Emmons, "She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can't be in the library." Emmons said she would oppose it strongly.
• In 1996, Emmons told Frontiersman reporter Paul Stuart that Palin had mentioned three specific books at some point during their book-banning discussions. When interviewed by ABC in 2008, Emmons said she couldn't "dispute or substantiate" Stuart's account and that "I don't care to revisit that time in my life." Stuart sticks by his account.
• Palin's socially conservative church sought to remove at least three books, including Go Ask Alice and Pastor, I am Gay by local resident Reverend Howard Bess. It's unclear whether Palin's list was the same as her church's, and whether the third book targeted by the church was Daddy's Roommate.
• Palin fired Emmons in late January 1997, but reinstated her almost immediately due to public outcry. Emmons eventually left in 1999, and with ABC "would not address her reasons for leaving Wasilla, but friends say she felt badly treated by Mayor Palin."
• Palin and her supporters claim she never sought to ban books, and the McCain campaign has pushed back on this tale, but mostly by using narrow refutations that do not address the whole story.
Palin didn't actually ban books, but again, it's more accurate to say she didn't succeed in banning books. She tested the waters to see if it was feasible and if Emmons would play along. This is not a story where the McCain-Palin campaign wants more scrutiny. There are more important, damning stories about Palin out there, but the McCain-Palin pushback does need to be addressed, and the story is telling about Palin's character, approach and mindset. The more one digs, the worse Palin looks, and WaPo and NYT exposés show a vindictive, corrupt, occasionally incompetent, lying authoritarian who tries to cover it all up and sell it with charm (as many a politician has over the ages). Add in the UK Telegraph piece on Palin and the neocons, and it's an increasingly scary picture.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)