In 1933, Agatha Christie published a short story entitled "Witness for the Prosecution." In this story, briefly, a husband who is accused of murdering an old woman whom he had befriended (and who had made him her beneficiary) is exonerated by evidence obtained from the man's wife. The wife, claiming to hate her husband, had been a witness for the prosecution, but the defense attorney was provided with evidence that proved the wife to be a liar. The evidence, of the wife's scandalous affair, only peripherally touched on the husband. When she was confronted in court, she confessed that she had lied. It is only later that the defense attorney comes to understand that he has been duped, and the evidence was false. The wife explains: Information that "proved" her husband's innocence, given willingly by a loving wife, would have counted for nothing. The same evidence, wrested from her by force, got him acquitted.
While there are obviously many differences between this story and what we have seen happen in Alaska over the past five days, there are some striking similarities.
Last night, the Governor's press office released the following statement: December 31, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin has welcomed her first grandchild, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, born to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston on December 27.
(Follow the link to see the rest of the statement.)
Consider this scenario. On Sunday morning, December 28th, the Governor's office releases the following statement: "Yesterday, December 27th, the Governor's daughter welcomed her baby, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston. We won't tell you where he was born, or who his doctor is. We won't tell you where Bristol is. We also will not release any pictures. Have a nice day."
Something tells me that would have gone over like a lead balloon. But... this is exactly what we have. Release my faux statement and the press would be screaming. But release essentially the same thing, after days of coy denial and yesterday's bizarre digression into discussing Levi and Bristol's educational status, and no one really notices that there is no verification at all. Wrest the information that the baby has been born from them reluctantly and the public will believe what they would never have accepted if it had been offered willingly.
Bristol Palin's pregnancy was not a private family matter. It was announced on September 1, 2008 by the McCain campaign with - I assume - the agreement of her parents for one reason: to "prove" that she could not be Trig Palin's mother and, by extension, "prove" that Sarah Palin was. For this reason, the birth is not a private family matter. The American people are owed concrete verification that it actually occurred, through either a joint press statement from the attending doctor or midwife accompanied by an administrator at the birth facility, or a birth certificate, and a current photograph of a non-pregnant Bristol with a newborn. No one is asking for explicit birth videos or photographs of Bristol struggling to breastfeed.
But to refuse to provide a single item of verification that this event occurred, and then hide behind the sanctimonious reasoning that it's private, is nonsense and Sarah Palin needs to be called on it.
Oh, and back to Witness for the Prosecution? At the very end of the story, the defense attorney, having discovered the wife's duplicity, protests his hurt to her: How could she have so little faith in him? He was sure he could have won the acquittal of an innocent man. She quickly makes clear her real motivation: She could not depend on that because ... she knew he was guilty.
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