September 3, 2008

I should stop writing about this but...

As expected, Sarah Palin's life and record is being picked over by the national media, with some expected and unexpected results. The question I've been asking myself is what other issues in her background could flare up between now and the convention.

Here's what I've come up with:

  • Aside from "Troopergate," there's potential other personnel questions. It seems to me that a case could be made that Palin has been through a lot of staff members in her time in office, in the press office, chiefs-of-staff, legislative liaisons, in the Washington D.C. office, and so forth. I'm not privy to all the gossip about those staffing changes and there may be perfectly good reasons to explain them but it's another question to ask. How (if at all) will it influence how she fulfills her new role?
  • The role of Todd Palin in the administration. His blue collar job and union card have already been mentioned in his favour but all the reporting on the Wooten case show him intimately involved in his wife's job. What other decisions has he been involved in?
  • Her role in the legislature. This has already come out here and there but I think lots of legislators have complained at some point or another that she has not been as fully involved in the process as they wish she was, not used her position to influence legislation she seems to want to pass but doesn't go all the way in making sure it does. I'm sure there's arguments for and against this approach but maybe they'll get talked about in the next two months.
  • Cindy McCain has already touted Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of Palin's foreign affairs bona fides. I can shed some light on this. Palin supporter, former governor, and Alaska icon Walter Hickel went to a meeting in Moscow in the spring of 2007 about the possibility of building a tunnel between the Bering Strait and the Russian Far East. As Hickel was a big supporter of Palin's in the campaign, I asked Palin at a press conference what she thought of the idea. My main goal at the time was to get her to say in public the word "Runnel," a neologism I had created and wanted to have someone "famous" say in public so it would enter the discourse. I cleverly fed it to her beforehand and she used it but attributed it to me, which defeated the purpose and the word never caught on. (OK, so it's not a great effort at labeling the project I admit.) But in response to the idea of the "Runnel" - surely the project with the greatest potential to deepen Russian-Alaskan relations - Palin dodged the question and only said something like she was looking forward to hearing more from Hickel. I never followed up to see what he told her. OK, so it's a crackpot idea that has no chance of success and her opinion on it changes nothing but I think it indicates the meaningless of the Alaska-Russian connection to Palin's foreign policy experience. Just stop making that argument! Also, when the Guard is deployed (as it has been in Alaska), it is federalized and not under the command of the governor. Republicans mocked Howard Dean in 2003 and 2004 for making this exact same argument about his experience as commander of the Vermont National Guard.
  • The sale of the hated Murkowski jet on eBay. Surely this can only work in Palin's favour. There's the potential for a great soft story about how she "sacrificed" so much to fly around on a KingAir. I flew in that KingAir once. Fun fact: the map of the U.S. in the cabin doesn't have Alaska on it. Scandal!
  • Another one that should play in her favour is all her capital budget vetoes. Don't fiscal conservatives want to hear about that?
  • There's potential for someone to pick over her debate performances in the 2006 campaign. There were 8-gazillion or so (a rough guess) candidate forums and such (all in southcentral Alaska, of course) and surely someone will want to see how she performed as a preview for how she'll do against Biden. My scattershot memories of those events (only a few were televised) are that she acquitted herself quite well against some people (Binkley, Murkowski, Knowles, and Halcro) who all had a lot more experience in that sort of forum than she did. I distinctly remember a moment when her Republican primary opponents Murkowski and Binkley were squabbling about something and she said something like, "Guys, Alaskan deserve better than this" and just about won the debate with that line. Biden is in another class, of course, but she definitely has the potential to hold her own.
  • I haven't seen yet if Palin has got an answer to the question she asked in June or July that "before she took the job, someone would have to explain to me just what does the vice-president do?" It strikes me that Obama made his pick with governing in mind - he wants Biden as a partner so he can draw on the latter's foreign policy experience. It seems that so far the discourse about the Palin pick has been entirely about her role as an electoral asset to McCain. (And, OK, Biden is from "Scranton, PA" as I'm sure we'll get tired of hearing before November.) After the vice-presidencies of Gore and Cheney, I think it's a requirement now for tickets to explain how they'll work together and what role the VP will have. If Palin has an answer to her question, she hasn't shared it yet.
  • The biggest question of all - how long will it be until Tina Fey plays Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live? In the `06 campaign, Palin said (I think I remember this correctly) that she sometimes dressed up as Tina Fey for Halloween.
Anyway, that's what's come to my mind. Maybe we'll hear more about them once/if the current issues blow over.


Ishmael said...

Two things:

Tina Fey will play Sarah Palin this weekend on Saturday Night Live (9/6/08). Fey is the guest host on the season opener of the show, and you know it'll be all about Palin. In fact, I predict right now that it will be the opening skit.

I'm surprised this hasn't hit the media yet: Palin ramrodded through an increase in the tax on oil companies in a special session in 2007, and then, during the special session this summer, she ramrodded through a $1,200 payment to every man, woman and child in the state for "energy assistance." Not what your average republican would call conservative values.

Anonymous said...

The biggest question of all - how long will it be until Tina Fey plays Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live? In the `06 campaign, Palin said (I think I remember this correctly) that she sometimes dressed up as Tina Fey for Halloween.

David Ross said...

Hey Jesse,
Thanks for sharing your experiences with, and opinions of, Palin. I've read quite a few articles about her in the past week but yours made the best reading.

löki gale said...

In response to Ishmael-

The great things about that $1,200 - it's taxable and you only get it if you qualify for the Permanent Fund Dividend (meaning you have to live here for 1 year and then you get to apply for the PFD and the year after that, you get the yearly money).

The second thing is that Palin removed our gas tax - however, it is not mandatory for gas stations to pass along that 8 cents my home town, so far only one gas station has passed that savings along...

It is all interesting...personally, I think someone should have thought about the energy issue a little more before passing all that legislation. I know my State Senator did, but he represents a huge region (a quarter of the state) compared to the fifty guys that represent one town (Anchorage).