Laughing at politicians

By Jayson Jacoby / The Baker City Herald

True humor is relatively rare in politics but we always have a good chuckle when one politician responds to a blatant publicity stunt with.... a blatant publicity stunt.

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer really got us giggling this week with his clumsy, and silly, ploy to embarrass Sarah Palin.

Palin, as you probably know, went on a bus tour of the East Coast last

week that included visits to several historic sites managed by the

National Park Service.

Although Palin, the former Alaska governor, Republican vice

presidential candidate and current putative presidential hopeful,

described the excursion as a family vacation, it obviously was a good

deal more.

Most families don't travel in a bus that has images of the Liberty Bell and the Constitution painted on it, for one thing.

Nor do most families give their vacation a title - Palin deemed her journey the "One Nation" tour - at least not beforehand.

(Many families attach names to their vacations afterward, though -

"that time we went to the beach and Jimmy threw up in the car," for

instance.)

But Blumenauer, a Democrat who represents the Portland area, doesn't

seem to have faith in his constituents' ability to recognize political

opportunism when they see it - not even such an obvious example as

Palin's tour.

And so, ostensibly acting in the dogged defense of all taxpayers, the

congressman dispatched a letter to the Park Service's director, John

Jarvis.

Blumenauer's goal, he wrote, is to find out whether Park Service

resources devoted to Palin and her family "were made available to an

extent beyond that which an average American family would receive."

The congressman also asked Jarvis to "provide a written explanation of

the Park Service's policies on the use of taxpayer-funded resources for

publicity events, as well as an accounting of Park Service resources

that have been utilized by the 'One Nation' tour."

Here's a translation: Blumenauer wants the Park Service to spend tax

dollars to figure out if the agency spent any extra tax dollars to

cater to one of the stars of the opposing political party - the one

that whipped his party in the mid-term elections seven months ago.

Or maybe this is merely a coincidence. Maybe Blumenauer has been a

deficit hawk all along, and he suddenly decided that every last federal

dime is precious.

Here's the thing: If Blumenauer's real objective is to pinch pennies,

he could have gotten his questions answered by having a staffer ring up

the Park Service.

Which is precisely what reporters have done.

Park Service spokesman David Barna, for instance, told The Washington

Post that the agency treated Palin and her family precisely as it

treats other celebrities.

Is that treatment different from what "an average American family would receive?"

Of course.

But then Blumenauer, who has himself enjoyed a certain amount of

special treatment as a member of Congress since 1997, already knew that.

Barna described Palin's visits as "a very minor issue."

No doubt they were, as far as the Park Service and the taxpayers who support the agency are concerned.

The people who want to make more out of the trip are, predictably, the politicians - first Palin, and now Blumenauer.

The amusing part is that neither one seems to realize how transparent and tired their respective roles have become.

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The Baker City Herald
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