The life of an Alaska blogger is never dull.
Okay well sometimes it is dull, but when it is not dull, it is REALLY not dull!
About two months ago, I received a call from a friend asking me if I wanted to bid on a lunch with Sarah Palin's attorney which was being offered at a silent auction to raise money for a Japanese immersion program at a local elementary school.
Me? Bid on a lunch with the lawyer who threatened to sue me and who may have been instrumental in outing my true identity? Well of course I would!
When I arrived at the school I found that only one person had made a bid on this lunch, and that was a member of the family who had put the packet together. I made my bid and waited to see if anybody else was going to outbid me.
Nope, my bid, the only real bid, was the winner and I picked up my packet and went home.
I had previously contacted my friend Linda, Celtic Diva, to ask if she wanted to go "halfsies" with me on the lunch. No hesitation whatsoever...yes she did.
A day or two later Linda contacted the person setting up the lunch and gave a nom de plume (We assumed that if we had identified ourselves as Alaskan bloggers Gryphen and Celtic Diva we would have received a refund and a "thanks, but no thanks"). After a number of false starts I finally received a phone call from Linda saying that we had a date for 11:45 yesterday, at a restaurant downtown.
I arrived early, which is my habit, and waited for Linda and Van Flein to arrive. Van Flein arrived first and sat down at a nearby table. I had hoped that Linda would have been there by then, but when I called her she was still several minutes away. Throwing caution to the wind I went up to Van Flein's table and introduced myself, by my real name, and said that I was his lunch date.
It took a second or two for him to understand just who was sitting across the table from him, but then I could see the realization slowly dawn over his face. For a moment he looked a little constipated, but I assured him that I was not going to make a scene or become aggressive.
"So you are Gryphen." He said.
"Yep, I am Gryphen." I replied. I did my best to smile and be as non-threatening as possible and he seemed to relax relatively quickly.
We talked about a few innocuous things for a minute or two until Linda arrived and then ordered our food. As we waited for our food to arrive the discussion turned to weightier topics.
We discussed blogging and the difference between that and journalism. Both Linda and I dismissed the notion that we were journalists, however I did add that we HAD done investigative journalism in the past though it was not strictly my comfort zone. I could not help but notice Van Flein kind of giving me a sideways glance with that statement, no doubt remembering when my "so-called journalism" brought us into direct conflict.
We covered a number of topics. Linda asked some questions pertaining to her specific e-mail request, which I will let her cover more fully in HER post about this lunch date. I will volunteer that he asked her if she had received her documents, at which time Linda was able to smile and say "Why yes I did."
Both Linda and I offered some advice for Van Flein to take back to his client. We talked about the perception that people had of her as a mother based on the photographs of her constantly carrying little Trig off of planes and buses in her high heel shoes and with his little legs exposed. I also suggested that she develop a thicker skin concerning news reports. I made the case that if they had ignored my story about their marital trouble it would have blown over in a day or so, but since Meg Stapleton issued a statement, and he sent me a letter threatening to sue me, it had validated my post and made national news.
Van Flein did not verbally respond but it did appear that he was listening.
Probably the most interesting exchange came when suddenly Van Flein leaned toward me and asked point blank: " Do you sincerely, honestly believe that Trig is not her baby?"
To which I replied: "Yes, I sincerely, honestly believe that Trig is not her baby. Do you sincerely honestly believe it is her baby?"
VF: "I have no doubt."
G: "No doubt because you were there and watched it pop out?"
VF: "Have you been in a hospital room for the birth of a child? There are usually three nurses, the anesthesiologist, pediatrician, maybe three MDs. Somebody is obligated under the laws of the State of Alaska to fill out an accurate report for Vital Statistics..."
G: "...right...the birth certificate...where is that?"
VF:" ...and they could lose their medical license if they falsify that. They'd need to have a whole bunch of people lying about something and willing to put their careers on the line."
G: "During the pregnancy, how often did you see her?"
VF: "I did not see her during the pregnancy at all. Whose baby do you think it is? What woman would give up her baby?"
G: "I do not know. That's one thing I actually cannot put together. I've said that point blank...I have no freakin' clue."
VF: "Just so you know, if you have convinced yourself this is the case and are trying to find proof of it, it undercuts everything else that you do. It's kinda like saying "9/11 is an inside job" or that OBAMA IS NOT A US CITIZEN. There's just some instances where rational people take a step back. This is fun to think of maybe but it's crazy."
VF: "You're asking for something short of a DNA test..."
G: "...birth certificate..."
VF:" ...that's a matter of public record...Isn't it recorded in the Mat-Su records with the other births recorded that day?"
G: "We're not talking about birth announcements but there never was a birth announcement and there was never a birth certificate provided by Sarah. Though she was asked by the McCain Campaign it was never provided." (To be honest this is a rumor that I heard, and not a verified fact. However does it not seem reasonable that the McCain campaign would have asked her for a document that would have put the whole baby story to rest? Instead she offered up her daughter's "pregnancy" as proof that she must Trig's mother. Now of course we realize that there were more than just two options.)
I have to say that Thomas Van Flein seemed genuinely to be under the impression that those records were readily available by request. And when I explained that we had tried and been unable to get ANY documentation he seemed mystified by that information, which I found sort of puzzling. He may have been lying, but my initial impression is that he was not.
Of course those of us who have been following the "babygate" story know there is much more to it then simply missing a certificate of live birth, or witnesses to the delivery. There are also pictures of a woman not visibly pregnant less than a few days shy of giving birth, the bizarre wild ride story, the disappearance of Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, not to mention the fact that Sarah's story keeps changing, (for example telling the ADN on April 21st, 2008 that there were no visible signs of Down's syndrome, and then telling People magazine that thirteen year old Willow had identified him as a Down's baby by simply looking at his little newborn face). I did not have time to bring up ALL of the inconsistencies in Sarah's stories, as we had finished eating and everybody had places to go.
We left the restaurant and said our good-bye's on the frigid Alaskan street. Van Flein seemed in no hurry to make his escape and even engaged in a little small talk before walking off toward his office.
My impression overall was that he was not a necessarily villain, though he had clearly played the part for Sarah Palin more than a few times. His threats against Shannyn Moore and myself being just two examples. Ultimately, in my opinion, he is like a Mafia hitman in that is it is not personal, it is just business.
And Thomas Van Flein is just another person caught up in the bizarre, not quite reality based, world of Sarah Palin. Unfortunately, for him, he has the unenviable job of trying to insulating her against the people who are going to recognize her lies and half-truths, and wish to confront her on them.
Perhaps it helps Thomas Van Flein not to know too much about the truth that Sarah Palin is trying so desperately to keep secret, for he seems to have little understanding of how many layers of obfuscation that Palin has applied to separate herself from the reality that threatens her personal mythology.
It must be nice to be so lacking in curiosity that you can ignore the logical inconsistencies in Sarah Palin's life story. Perhaps sadly for me I have an overabundance of curiosity an it will simply not be satiated until, I and everyone, else know the truth behind one the biggest lies ever foisted upon the American people.
Update: Here is Celtic Diva's post on our now famous lunch date.