Philly Inquirer’s New Palin Slam: She Sold her State’s Plane? So What?


By: Warner Todd Huston

Mario Cattabiani of the Philadelphia Inquirer wants you to know that Governor Sarah Palin’s selling of her state’s plane is no big deal. Why? Well, because Democrat Governor Ed “Fast Eddie” Rendell sold his state’s plane, too, and he got a better deal. So, Palin’s plane purveying pales next to Rendell’s according to Cattabiani. Only, there are quite a few facts that Cattabiani seems to have skipped in his story. So, apparently, the only way for the Philly Inquirer to pooh pooh Palin’s efforts is to mislead us about Rendell’s. Unfortunately for Cattabiani, his piece ends up being just another way to lie about Palin’s record.

Starting out suitably flippant, Cattabiani takes a sarcastic jab at Palin telling her that she should “take a lesson from the Rendell administration on how to sell a state airplane,” and then goes on to relate how Rendell sold his state plane at a profit. And Cattabiani then quotes a Rendell crony to the effect that Palin is “inexperienced” because of it all. Naturally, there is no investigation into what sorts of planes the two Governors sold, nor what they were worth because it turns out the Pennsylvanian plane was worth more than the Alaskan plane in the first place — nor does Cattabiani give the Palin camp any space to reply to the political jab.

According to the Inquirer story, Rendell sold his state plane for “$1.375 million – above its appraised value and several hundred thousand more than the state paid for it 16 years ago.” On the other hand, the story claims, Palin sold the Alaskan plane for “$2.1 million – less than the $2.7 million that Alaskan taxpayers paid for it under a past administration.”

On the surface, it sounds like Palin ended up with a bad deal. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated than that. It is also something that Cattabiani didn’t bother to look into.

The plane that Rendell sold was a 1981 Beech King Air 200. The plane that Palin sold was a 1985 Westwind II, 10-seater jet. The difference? The King Air is one of the single most popular aircraft of its type out there and has a great resale value. On the other hand, the Westwind II is generally not as sought after on the used market. That fact alone easily explains the different outcomes of the two sales.

Plus, the Westwind is far more expensive to operate. In an AP story from 2007 currently on the website of the Juneau Empire, we find that the costs of the Westwind are high. “Public Safety records show the jet costs the state $1,674 per hour of flying time, compared to $831 per hour in the air for the state’s King Air planes” the AP tells us.

So, as it happens, Governor Palin had a dog of a plane with no resale value that costs far more to operate than Rendell’s highly sought after King Air prop plane. Looks to me like Palin’s unloading the thing, even at a small loss, was good riddance to a lemon bought by her predecessor Governor Frank Murkowski. On the other hand, Rendell had a plane that is a very popular buy in the used market. Sounds like he couldn’t lose with his sale if he tried.

Lastly, let us dispense with the meme from the left that Palin “lied” about selling the jet on ebay. Governor Palin never said she SOLD the plane on ebay. She said she PUT the plane on ebay.

At the GOP convention, for instance, Palin gave us one of her favorite campaign lines: “That luxury jet was over the top, I put it on eBay.” Notice, folks, she didn’t say she sold it on ebay. She said she put it on ebay. And so she did. Unfortunately, the plane is such a lemon on the resale market that it did not sell.

That, as it happens, isn’t her fault!

I would like to note that The New York Times didn’t even find much reason to question the ebay effort in 2007.

So, Cattabiani may think Palin has something to learn from Rendell, but I’d suggest that Cattabiani has a bit to learn himself. He needs to learn how to investigate a story properly and find out all the facts before he gets his partisan, snarkiness in gear. He needs to find out background facts about his stories before he writes them. And his pals on the left need to learn that the words “put” and “sell” do not mean the same thing. I maintain that Words should be important to a writer. Let’s see if Cattabiani wants to use his for more than just Democratic Party propaganda?

Naturally, this misleading little tale that Cattabiani is trying to foist on the public is making the rounds of the Old Media, too. Time’s Swamplandblog is touting the Cattabiani angle and the Associated Press has also taken up the Rendell sale. So, we are witnessing the newest anti-Palin smear job in the birthing, it seems.

Just like the rest of them, this one isn’t true either.

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