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Did the National Park Service give Palin special treatment?

Craig Medred

What is it about Sarah Palin that just seems to bring out the worst in Americans?

The former Alaska governor takes herself and part of her family on an overblown tour of historic sites in the Northeast, and the next thing you know a Congressman from Oregon is demanding an explanation as to why Palin got special treatment from the National Park Service at various federal facilities.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, is upset that Palin, a Republican, might have been the recipient of services "made available to an extent beyond that which an average American family would receive.”

This is petty politicking in the extreme, because -- of course -- Palin was provided services beyond those given to the "average American family."

Cuddling up to influence makers -- be they celebrities, politicians, even sitting Congressmen and journalists -- is what the Park Service does best. This is what has made the Park Service the most beloved bureaucracy in the country. The Park Service does its PR so well it even won over Palin, who grew up in one of the few states in the nation where park rangers aren't always viewed as the men in the white hats.

Sean Parnell, the man to whom Palin left the governor's job, is still mad at the Park Service for threatening and handcuffing old Jim Wilde along the Yukon River last fall, as are some other Alaskans.

There is a long history of bad blood between the Park Service and Alaskans.

Palin knows the history, even if she could care less about the Wilde case. Not to mention that she is a well-known, anti-government crusader, and the Park Service in the socialist Northeast is little but national health care -- something Palin loathes -- for historic sites. But despite this, the Park Service's treatment of what Palin called her "One Nation" tour won the former governor over.

"I wanted to say a special thank you to the men and women of the National Park Service and Foundations," Palin gushed on the website of SarahPAC, her political action committee.

"America's most historic and naturally beautiful places are adoringly cared for by these public servants. And they are absolutely some of the finest people you will ever meet."

So Palin got special treatment from the Park Service -- as have I and other journalists -- and was co-opted. Could Bluemenaur, a self-described "environmental champion", really be opposed to this?

Hardly. His complaint is nothing but grandstanding. It is petty politics of the kind Palin seems best at stirring. Because no sooner did Blumenauer make petty, then the Palinista gang came charging out of the woods to make even more petty.

"So now we need to waste public resources investigating the Park Service for the unforgivable crime of … doing their job. I’ve never heard of this Blumenauer clown, but his constituents must be proud. And it’s reassuring to know that the sleuths on Politico’s crack investigative team are covering this important story,'' posted the website Conservatives 4 Palin.

Blumenauer appears to be not a "clown" but a lifelong politician. A clown is someone engaged in an honorable profession aimed at making people laugh. Blumenauer does not appear to have been trying to make anyone laugh.

Neither it would seem are Conservatives 4 Palin clowns, though their attack on Blumenauer is funny given the reality of the situation is that Palin didn't need to pull up to any historic sites in a huge bus with her name emblazoned on the side like a rock star and a media mob in tow. The Park Service didn't ask her to go on tour to bring attention to America's historic places, as she has suggested she was doing, or paint a revisionist history of Paul Revere.

But the tour was never about marketing America's historic sites, anyway. It was about marketing Sarah Palin and lunching with Donald Trump and taking some of the family on the summer vacation fit for a super star.

Palin could have flown into any of the cities in question with daughter Piper and the grandparents in tow, washed off all her makeup, pulled on a hat and some dark glasses, rented a minivan, driven to any of the Park Service sites in question, and toured them as Sarah Nobody. But she didn't, because that is simply not the Palin way.

The woman lives for the attention. She is a celebrity. She does what celebrities do. And everyone plays to it, including me right here in this column. It is the worst of America, the very worst of America. It is a distraction from the very real economic, social and political problems facing this country.

And yet here we are again.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com

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