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The Donald Has a Point: Why Do We Care About Sarah Palin's Emails?

Sarah Palin may be a media obsession, but she's not an elected official anymore. Let's stop digging through her email.

Ever since Sarah Palin's 24,199 printed pages of emails were released to the public, I've been trying to figure out why I don't care. Is it Palin fatigue? Did I have a hunch that nothing fascinating would come out of it?

Well, I never thought I'd say this, but I found myself agreeing with Donald Trump as I watched this Fox News clip earlier today. Trump called the Sarah Palin email expedition “a witch hunt,” and said it was “really very dangerous for this country.” Instead, he suggested, “how about going through Anthony Weiner’s emails?”

The man has a point. Sarah Palin may be a media obsession, but she's not an elected official anymore. She's not a presidential candidate, either, or a person suspected of doing something majorly unethical while in office. Shouldn't we be focusing our energies on actual politicians? Why did we recruit thousands of ordinary people to discover underwhelming revelations, such as the fact that Palin uses the word "flippin'" a lot?

The release of Palin's emails was in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed shortly after she was picked to be John McCain's running mate. It took Alaska until now to get around to it. In many states, governors' emails are considered an extension of the public record. (There are a lot more restrictions on the federal level.)

This isn't the first time FOIA laws have allowed the publication of a governor's emails; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's were made public after he claimed that most correspondents had urged him to eliminate union rights for state workers (the emails proved otherwise). This also could be a harbinger for the 2012 presidential election, since both Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty hail from states whose FOIA laws allow this kind of transparency (Massachusetts and Minnesota, respectively).

In those contexts it makes sense to make emails public. But now that Palin is a civilian, albeit a public one, I don't see the point of following through with this request. It seems like a whole lot of wasted energy. Next time, can we please save the trees and people-power squandered on an email treasure hunt, at least until there's a legitimate reason for it?

photo (cc) by Flickr user amateurphotographer

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