I have a confession to make. I've been watching the Sarah Palin Ebay charity dinner auction with somewhat of an obsession. Who would be willing to bid $25,000 or more for dinner with Sarah Palin? Newsworthy? Probably not. More important things to think about? You betcha. But I've been doing it anyway. It's cheap entertainment when you're sitting around sick with the flu. Blame it on the Nyquil.
The best part about my frivolous obsession, is that shortly after I started watching the auction, I became privy, thanks to a couple of the bidders, to the strange and mysterious back story of the bidding wars. There were seven bidders total. And we know for a fact that at least two of them were not of the "Palinbot" persuasion. And we know that both successfully passed the "pre-approval" process.
First, there's Ken Morris - Wall Street whiz, trader-turned-financial-thriller-novelist, whose top bid exceeded $50,000. What was he hoping if he won "the experience?" He explained it this way.
There exists an emotional divide in this country that I've not experienced since I attended the University of California near the end of the Vietnam War. As a protester who took to the streets post the bombings of Cambodia and being tear-gassed on three occasions and nearly arrested twice, I was part of the schism that ripped apart our generation. While leaving scars that thickened the hearts of many from that era, the ending of the war allowed for a healing to begin. Painful, but now mostly a distant memory.
Today's rancor, however, troubles me more profoundly. Why? Maybe it's because I don't see a catalyst--like the end to a tragic war--that will magically lead us to end this political divide. Politically biased "news" channels, over-heated rhetoric by bloggers, and (in my view at least) the demise of investigative mainstream journalism and the role of Watergate-like Fourth Estate, are here to stay. This period has more the odor of the Civil Rights debate that ripped apart the South during the administrations of President Kennedy and Johnson. A rift that has never been bridged.
How, I'll ask Ms. Palin, can we work together ("we" meaning not just her and me, but all people on both sides of the political fence) to begin to fix this? I'll ask her a few questions that might seem harsh, but aren't intended to offend--after all, we must be honest, no? Do your regret saying several hundred times that our president "...palled around with terrorists..."? Do you really believe that providing health insurance to all Americans is socialism or fascism or Nazism or that there are truly 'death squads' in these proposals?
Wow. So, that pretty much would have ruled him out, even if he had been the top bidder.
Why? The auction rules clearly state that:
Governor Palin reserves the right to refuse dinner with a winning bidder if, in her sole discretion, the winning bidder is not a suitable bidder based on her subjective standards of suitability, professionalism, background and other factors. In the event the high bidder is rejected for this reason, the high bidder's bid will be refunded, if paid, and the next highest bidder shall be notified, and thereafter, until a suitable match is determined.
Bridging divides? Pallin' around with terrorists? Serious discussion about policy? Death panels? We can almost imagine Palin's handlers smacking down a big red rubber stamp on Ken Morris' application: "REJECTED."
That brings us to our second candidate, dubbed c***i by the Ebay alias assignment team, and known to those in the outside world as Joe McGinniss. McGinniss, also an author by trade is best known for his books The Selling of the President about Richard Nixon, and Going to Extremes, about Alaska, oil and the 1970s pipeline boom. McGinniss is an outspoken critic of Palin, evidenced most recently by his article for Conde Nast's Portfolio entitled Pipe Dreams, which cast a critical eye on Palin's handling of the ever-elusive Alaska gasline. McGinniss is currently working on a book whose focus will be the ex-governor herself.
McGinniss, hoping to win the auction, had the high bid at one point close to the end. The amount was a whopping $60,101.01, and he was willing to go higher. And then something interesting happened. The Alaska Dispatch came out with a story identifying McGinniss as one of the bidders. When the unsuspecting c***i went to place his next bid in the amount of $60,301.01, he was met with this message:
Despite his previous pre-approval, his dreams of sniping the auction were dashed. McGinniss was unapproved, with only an hour to go, and the brief and glorious career of c***i was cut off at the knees. Presumably this untimely freeze-out allowed the Palin camp to avoid future embarrassment.
So, who did win? Cathy Maples, the owner of a defense contracting company in Alabama. She thinks Sarah Palin is pretty swell, and hopes she gets to be president some day. McGinniss passed on the following note to the lucky winner:
As one of the underbidders, I salute you and congratulate you on winning the dinner with Sarah Palin.
I'm pleased that my bids helped increase the total proceeds that will go to our wounded veterans through Ride2Recovery. I wish you the best for your forthcoming trip to Alaska.
Although I would have enjoyed the opportunity for a frank exchange of views with Gov. Palin, I'm pleased that someone with your record of accomplishment will grace her table.
Ken Morris, says he'll make a donation to Ride2Recovery anyway, despite the fact that his bid was not high enough to win "the experience" with Ms. Palin.
And as for Ms. Maples, she'll be planning a long trip to Alaska soon to collect on that dinner. Or maybe she won't have to. A few hours after the auction was posted on September 8, there was a revision made to the listing.
Alabama? Why would the "experience" happen in Alabama? That would be pretty inconvenient, unless you, like our lucky winner, perchance happen to live in ... wait for it ... Hunstville, Alabama.
Perhaps they thought AL was Alaska? That mistake's been known to happen, but it says "Alabama" all spelled out like that. Pretty weird.
Well, one great thing that came out of all this reality auction drama is that Ride2Recovery made a whopping pile of cash for a really good cause. I think if I ever cross paths with Joe McGinniss or Ken Morris, I'm going to take them out to dinner. They've got to be cheaper dates than Sarah Palin, and a whole lot more fun.