Sarah Palin, Hypocrite by Proxy

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I've seen several references to this story that imply or assert that Sarah Palin is a hypocrite for being a very vocal critic of the Canadian health care system, when it turns out she used to go with her family across the border to receive services from Canadian medical professionals instead of those in Alaska. (See here for an example.)

But then I read the article. It turns out there are two huge facts obscured by such an analysis, and they're both whoppers.

1. This wasn't something she did with her family as an adult. This is something her parents did with her until she was six. Yes, people are calling Sarah Palin a hypocrite because of what her parents chose to do, while bringing her along, when she was in kindergarten. I guess if you've run out of ways to attack her involving her own kids, you turn to attacking her for what happened to her when she was a kid herself. I suppose this is hypocrisy by proxy. Find something someone else did that seems to conflict with what Palin is saying, and then call her a hypocrite for someone else doing what she thinks is problematic.

2. They lived during that period in a very rural town near the Canadian border. The closest city was across that border. Most people in very rural towns drive to the nearest city for some of their health care concerns. It just happened that they had to go to another country in this case. If Sarah Palin had lived in that town and taken her own children to Canada, that's perfectly consistent with saying the Canadian health care system is inferior to the American health care system, because no one thinks the American health care system is equally available in every small rural town. The closest thing that's of good enough quality might be in the Canadian system that does things in a way that's less ideal. Being less ideal than the American system is compatible with being the best thing in the area. So there's no inconsistency here anyway.

I noticed an argument here that Juneau, AK is just as close to Skagway, AK where they lived as Whitehorse, YT, where they occasionally sent someone for medical aid in emergencies. So I checked Mapquest. It took 6 hours to get to Juneau and 3 hours to get to Whitehorse.

Then the comments there indicate that you would usually go to Juneau by ferry in those days, and that takes several hours also, where the train ride to Whitehorse is only two. So it does seem that Skagway's closest city is Whitehorse, YT. Juneau has a slightly larger population but not enough to make a huge distinction. They're both big enough cities to have the emergency care facilities that her small town didn't.

Also, the Associated Press interviewed Chuck Heath, Palin's father, about this:

Palin's father said Monday they had little choice, given their location in Skagway. "There was no road out of there at that time," said retired teacher Chuck Heath, reached by phone in Wasilla. "The ferry schedule was very erratic. We had no doctor in Skagway. The plane schedule was very erratic. The winds dictated whether the planes could come in or not."
So it's hard to make the argument that even her parents' choice had anything to do with preferring Canadian health care to American health care, never mind that she herself is somehow a hypocrite because of what her parents did when she was in kindergarten or younger.

Update: There's also the following argument. Palin benefited from Canadian health care, so she shouldn't criticize it, much less fight to prevent the same thing from happening in the U.S. or advocate that Canadians should implement something else.

I sure hope those who support President Obama's proposed changes in U.S. health care don't offer such an argument, because it then makes them hypocrites for benefiting from the American system but then criticizing it. It's simply crazy to say that you can't criticize something you benefited from. Think about all the workers in developing countries who actually benefit from the jobs American corporations outsource but who still work in conditions that it's immoral to expect anyone to work in. It's perfectly fair to think those conditions are bad enough to want to change them, even if you're personally benefiting from them. You might even be grateful for the benefit you've received while pointing out that those who have helped you are still doing something wrong.

10 Comments

You've got it pretty much right. Except that the six hour trip to Juneau is (still) on a ferry that only goes once a day on an erratic schedule and maybe less than that in the winter. There's no road from Skagway to Juneau. It's either by scheduled ferry or by air, and you can only fly when it's not too foggy or windy to take off and land. And the Alaska coast is foggy or windy a lot.

Many (maybe most) moms from Skagway still chose to have their babies here in Whitehorse because they know they can get here when they need to and they may not be able to get to Juneau.

There's no issue here, and those who are making one out of it are ignorantly making assumptions that things in the north are exactly the same as they are the lower 48. They aren't.

What is your opinion on Palin telling two different stories about this event? She previously stated they took the ferry to Juneau, but now says they took the train to Whitehorse. Bad memory or just a case of telling each audience what they want to hear?

I don't hold Sarah Palin accountable for what she did when a child, but I do hold her accountable for what she has said as an adult.

I did see someone asserting without evidence the very same thing in one of the comment threads somewhere or other (perhaps one of the places I linked to above), but since there was zero evidence offered for this claim, and Sarah Palin has a long record of having things made up about her, I figured I had no reason to trust it. It did appear right after the comment from someone who said all you have to do is Mapquest it to see that she's lying, which I promptly did and actually confirmed that the commenter was making things up wholesale. So I wasn't exactly in a mood to trust commenters who offered nothing to back up their accusatory claims. I did find somewhere just now where it's discussed, though.

There are certainly things someone could say in her defense. I can easily see someone thinking of the same event at one time that it was one of the times when they did take the ferry to Juneau and thinking of it at another time that it was one of the times when they took the train to Whitehorse. Her father seems to think they did do both, because he had a good sense of how long each took and how much work it involved. You don't have to have an especially bad memory to do this sort of thing. She knows when she's giving one speech that they took the ferry because of a medical issue, and she knows when she's giving another speech that they took the train because of a medical issue, but she misremembers in one of them which medical issue that one was and thus uses the same example in both speeches. I'm sure they had multiple medical incidents in their family that required such trips.

For the record, I enabled your comment despite no sourcing but did not enable another comment asserting the same thing. Your comment used her real name, and the other commenter modified it, apparently as a slam on her character. You were respectful enough in your criticism and open to some explanation other than character flaws. The other commenter was extremely rude and nasty. Future commenters should abide by the same standards if they want their comments appearing here. [Update: Wow. The commenter in question had the chutzpah to return and attempt to leave another comment, complete with the same modified, insulting name.]

? She previously stated they took the ferry to Juneau, but now says they took the train to Whitehorse. Bad memory or just a case of telling each audience what they want to hear?

Like most people in Skagway at the time,I suspect they probably did both, at different times. They went to Juneau as the preferred choice, but when Juneau was not possible or wise, they went to Whitehorse.

I don't understand why this is an issue and why those who are making it an issue are unwilling to give it up when they are corrected.

I came here this time around because I wanted to correct something in my first comment. I said that many women from Skagway still come to Whitehorse to deliver their babies. That was only true, I've been informed, up until 4 or 5 years ago. I heard this morning on the radio that Whitehorse doctors were told that their insurance might not cover the deliveries of American babies, so they stopped doing them except in emergencies.

According to the radio interview, Skagway residents still come here to Whitehorse frequently for emergency care, but not for routine care.

Someone who calls himself Mike Rosen just left a comment saying some nasty things about how I'm in bed with the MSM somehow (for depending Sarah Palin against this charge?) given that I haven't "retracted or pulled" what I've said and questioning my manhood if I don't do so. His reason is that he says the Yukon didn't enter the Canadian nationalized health care system until 1972. I don't know if that's true. I don't care, because, as I've argued, it doesn't matter. I do know that Canada passed the nationalized health cared long before 1972, in fact two years before Palin was born. But it's pretty ludicrous to count me as a Palin-detractor for this. And no, I'm not enabling comments that use that kind of language.

I found something on the 1958/1972 issue. A commenter here says the 1958 change nationwide made all hospital stays nationalized but didn't cover outpatient care, which went nationalized in 1972. With a more informed search, I found this timeline, which seems to confirm that. One question is whether this kind of care required hospital stays or was outpatient. Another question is whether the Heaths would have had to pay for it anyway as non-Canadians, which I think would have happened anyway.

See this discussion for more detail, including the claim that their system would still have not looked much different from ours until 1984. If that's right, she might have meant that this is ironic because she received services from Canada back before their system had as many problems as it now has.

They would have had to pay. Someone coming from another country still has to pay.

I don't know anything about when the Yukon started getting doctor visits paid for because I wasn't here then. It would have been before 1976 when I came here. 1984 is probably the date when federal law required this of all provinces. (Each province runs their own health care system, but the federal government makes laws regarding the basic level of care required. Details and quality of care, then, vary from province to province.)

Quality of care, by the way, for something like a burned foot or scarlet fever, would be pretty much the same here as Juneau, even now. The biggest difference would be how long someone would have to wait for non-urgent care.

Someone I was reading said something about doctors being allowed to charge extra fees beyond what the government covered until 1984. That then made it single-payer.

Yes, I think that's true. In other words, a federal law that applied in all provinces and territories was passed in 1984. But some provinces and territories would have made that illegal long before that. Yukon doctors haven't been allowed to charge extra as long as I've been here (since 1976). And before that I was in Manitoba for a year, and they couldn't charge extra there, either.

So it's hard to make the argument that even her parents' choice had anything to do with preferring Canadian health care to American health care, never mind that she herself is somehow a hypocrite because of what her parents did when she was in kindergarten or younger.

This looks like another instance of people indulging in irrational thinking at the mention of Palin. The smell of a gotcha was in the air and for many there is sadly no need to look into details before going off the rails.

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