Here's a topic for Banned Books Week: Did she mean it?
That's the central question about Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's pointed questions about banning books from the Wasilla city library in 1996. No one knows for sure--you have to look into those perfectly-painted eyes and ask yourself if you trust her when she says her challenge to then-Library Director Mary Ellen Emmons was "rhetorical."
The Frontiersman, the newspaper in Wasilla who broke the story on December 18, 1996, said this at the time:
Library Director Mary Ellen Emmons last week said Palin broached the subject with her on two occasions in October - once Palin was elected mayor Oct. 1 but before she took office on Oct. 14, and again in more detail on Monday, Oct. 28. Besides heading the Wasilla City Library, Emmons is also president of the Alaska Library Association. The issue became public last Wednesday, when Palin brought it up during an interview about the now-defunct Liquor Task Force. Palin used the library topic as an example of discussions with her department heads about understanding and following administration agendas. Palin said she asked Emmons how she would respond to censorship.The question apparently came up the first time before Palin was sworn in as mayor. On Monday, October 28, 1996, during a week when Palin was requesting resignations from all the city's department heads as a way to test their loyalty, she asked the librarian outright if she could live with censorship of library books. According to the Frontiersman, Palin later issued a statement saying she was only trying to get acquainted with her staff that week. The paper quotes her as saying, "Many issues were discussed, both rhetorical and realistic in nature."
It could be argued, of course, that rhetorical questions asked while you're firing someone carry a little extra impact, but who's to say what was really going on in Sarah's mind at the time? Or now?
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds