The president of one the strongest unions left alive in America - the AFL-CIO -- was in Anchorage Friday. Richard Trumka protested downtown with union workers in a dispute with the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel. This is documented. KTUU.com reporter Christine Kim wrote a short story noting part of Denali Street near the hotel was plugged with protesters.
But the protest outside the hotel was not the big Trumka news in Anchorage on Friday. Oh no. Not by a long shot. Long before the march on the Sheraton, Trumka lit up the news aggregators of America with a story about a speech he was supposed to make. He was supposed to go the AFL-CIO's biennial gathering and lambaste former, half-term Gov. Sarah Palin.
saraHe was supposed to, you might say, venture into the den of the Mama Grizzly, to "count coup" as the Plains Indians of North America used to call up-close and personal acts of bravery.
Did Trumka do this?
Who the hell knows.
There was a time in this country when a major political player had to actually make the speech before the speech became real news, but those days appear to be over. I went looking for a story about Trumka's speech on Saturday because I was curious as to what sort of reception he got in Anchorage given that there are some Palin worshippers in the Alaska AFL-CIO. I know. I've met some, though I doubt they are the majority faction.
Outside of some groups on the Christian right, it's hard to find any group of people in Alaska these days where the Palinistas are a majority faction. But there are a lot of strong Palin minorities in almost any collection of Alaskans. There are still plenty of people in this state who love Sarah Palin. So I was curious to read about the reaction of the Alaska rank-and-file to Trumka's planned speech.
I was so curious I almost went to hear his speech myself. Almost.
It had been a long week. I'd put in my 60 hours of news gathering. And I was tired -- as I am sure many others in the news business are -- of chasing the Sarah Palin story around in circles with absolutely no substance being added to the discussion of the very real problems facing this state and country.
And, hey, by Friday evening the Trumka story was already looking like old news anyway. Everyone and their uncle had already written about it. Hours before the speech was delivered, if it was delivered, Palin was responding on her Facebook page to the speech that wasn't yet a speech. And by the time the AFL-CIO faithful gathered at 6 p.m. for the reception scheduled before the speech, the virtual world was aflame in debate about what Trumka had said, though he hadn't yet said it, and what Palin had said in response, though she hadn't said anything at all. She was wholly virtual.
Palin had a superb -- simply excellent -- response to Trumka's non-speech up on her Facebook page before the speech happened, if it happened. But anyone who thought Palin wrote this Facebook post hasn't read Palin's jottings for the last 20 years or listened to the speeches she herself has written. To describe her syntax as shattered would be kind. She has never met a simple, declarative sentence she liked, or learned that little things like subjects, verbs and objects are supposed to work together. But, that said, she's obviously good at hiring writers. She got a pretty good one to do her book -- "Going Rogue'' -- and she's obviously got another pretty good one for Facebook. Give her credit for this.
And then give her credit for something else, popularizing that term "lamestream media.''
Because a lot of the media has gone seriously lamestream. Long before lunch time in Alaska, the Wall Street Journal was reporting "labor official Richard Trumka launched an unusually harsh verbal assault on Sarah Palin Thursday, and he did it in her own backyard of Alaska. The AFL-CIO president accused Palin of resigning as governor to avoid accountability - 'so she wouldn't have a record that could be scrutinized'" - and said she had turned her back on her home state."