The Washington Post

Sarah Palin covertly visits D.C. sites

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin greets people outside the National Archives. (Rachel Weiner/THE WASHINGTON POST)

On Tuesday night, Palin traveled “incognito,” as she put it on her blog, to the Lincoln and World War II memorials. On Monday morning she visited the National Archives and Mount Vernon, before visting Fort McHenry in Baltimore. From there, she is reportedly headed to the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg and Antietam. (We’re following along with this map.)

The Washington stops are the first in Palin’s bus tour of historical sites around the country. The purpose of the tour is unclear. Palin has refused to reveal her destinations but is promoting each event heavily on her political action committee Web page, complete with professional photographs. She did alert the media to her participation in the Rolling Thunder ride on Sunday, when she and some of her family kicked off the tour by riding from the Pentagon to the National Mall.

She insists the trip is not political, but Palin is soliciting donations for the PAC to support the tour. Originally planned to be a week-long tour ending in New Hampshire, the trip will now take weeks and include a stop in Iowa.

Palin told a reporter Monday that she is “still kind of contemplating a run.,” but denied that the tour was a test run for a presidential bid.

“This isn’t a campaign bus,” Palin told ABC News. “This is a bus to be able to express to America how much we appreciate our foundation and to invite more people to be interested in all that is good about America and to remind ourselves we don’t need to fundamentally transform America, we need to restore what’s good about America.”

Yet if this trip gives any sign of her campaign style, a Palin bid would be a very unusual operation. The former governor has given no indication of where she was headed and when, either through spokespeople or social media. Aides referred reporters to the Web site, which only lists information after each stop, not before.

While Palin seems perfectly willing to talk to reporters who find her, she is simultaneously determined to keep them in the dark. After the Archives event, Palin told a reporter from the New York Times that she was headed for Mount Vernon — only to realize that he was a member of the press, saying, “Darn you!” Melissa Wood, who does media relations for Mount Vernon, says she only found out Sunday that Palin might be visiting.

Even Fox News’ Greta van Susteren, who is scheduled to interview Palin from the bus Tuesday night, wrote on her blog Tuesday that she doesn’t know where Palin is. “My producer, who talked to someone who works with her in order to set up the interview, told me last night that he would not tell her,” van Susteren wrote. “We were told to check their website for any information they are releasing. He said they don’t want the media following them, and that includes us.”

Palin appears to be banking on the idea that she can get all the good press she needs by posting her own photos and updates on her blog, while largely avoiding the scrutiny of mainstream reporters unless she chooses to invite them into her circle.

Presumably, were she to run for president, Palin would not be able to avoid dealing with reporters. But this trip suggests she might do her best to keep them out of the loop.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.


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