It’s all about Palin - The Intrepid

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It’s all about Palin

Last week the media was abuzz with speculation about Sarah Palin. Among questions about her credentials, media savvy, and interview on ABC, one important question emerged above all the others: would Tina Fey return to play her for the fall premiere of Saturday Night Live?

Although SNL has long since ceased to be funny. The show still has the power to make headlines, snag a Presidential candidate or two, and even retain viewers. Last night, Tina Fey grabbed America’s attention with a pretty good impersonation of Ms. Palin. It helps that all Fey has to do to impersonate Palin is put her hair up and wear a red high-button jacket.

Fey, who was a SNL cast member from 1997-2006, took the stage with current SNL member Amy Poehler, as Hillary Clinton. Fey-as-Palin took the lead in the skit stating, “tonight we are crossing party lines to address the now very ugly role that sexism is playing in the campaign.”

To which Poehler-as-Clinton responded: “An issue which I am frankly surprised to hear people suddenly care about.”

The two continued to address the issue of sexism in the campaign while slinging attacks at each other. Poehler-as-Clinton criticized Palin’s lack of experience and Fey-as-Palin attacked Clinton’s overly ambitious nature, but suggested: “no matter your politics, it’s time for a woman to make it to the White House.

"Mine! It's supposed to be mine!" Poehler-as-Clinton responded with a scream, in perhaps the best line of the skit. "I need to say something. I didn't want a woman to be President. I wanted to be President and I just happen to be a woman."

The real Sarah Palin watched the skit, but whether she found the skit funny or not remains a mystery.

What isn’t a mystery is the hype that surrounds Sarah Palin. Young, attractive, and deeply conservative, Palin has turned McCain’s sputtering campaign around in a matter of weeks. Where the McCain campaign once lost week after week of media coverage to the Obama campaign, Hurricane Palin has wiped the Obama campaign off the map.

Palin’s History

While many analysts have denounced the attention the media is showering on Palin, she remains a fascinating and relatively unknown character to many Americans. However, as more is written about Palin we are given an increasingly clear picture of her tenure as Mayor of Wasilla and Governor of Alaska.

This week the New York Times and the Washington Post each published an article cataloging Palin’s prior experience. The resulting image cast by these articles is not one of a reformer or a party outsider, but rather a vindictive politik deeply entrenched within partisan framework. From PTA mother and City Councilor in 1992 to Vice Presidential candidate in 2008 Palin’s rise has been characterized by sharp political instinct.

In 1996, Palin ran against incumbent Mayor John Stein in her hometown of Wasilla. The main issue dividing the candidates was a 2 percent sales tax for road, sewer and water upgrades that Stein had recently implemented. Palin’s campaign also introduced partisan right-wing issues to the campaign, such as abortion and gun control to a Mayoral process that was usually conducted as neighbourly affair.

After the election, Palin went after the various public servants employed in Wasilla and demanded the resignation of all of the department heads, choosing whether to accept their resignations based on loyalty. She also fired the local librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, after she failed to remove books from library that Palin deemed controversial. However, this move enraged many members of the town and Emmons was reinstated.

The McCain campaign has characterized this shake-up as a purging of the “good ol' boy network,” and an example of Palin’s maverick credentials. However, former city attorney Richard Deuser argues that the people she fired “were just good public servants who did a really admirable job and deserved better.” In reality, the people hired to replace those she fired more closely resemble a “good ol' boy network.”

Palin replaced long time city employees with Republican Party members, regardless of qualification. Her new public works director lacked engineering qualifications, but was married to a former Republican governor. She also made a former Republican state lawyer city attorney and contracted the use of a Washington lobbyist with GOP ties.

"Sarah always did and still does surround herself with people she gets along well with," said Darlene Langill former city councilor. "They protect her, and that's what she needs. She has surrounded herself with people who would not allow others to disagree with Sarah. Either you were in favor of everything Sarah was doing or had a black mark by your name."

After her tenure as Mayor ended in 2002 Palin ran for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska in the same year. Despite losing, the close race caught the attention of the Alaskan GOP establishment and Palin was asked to chair the Alaskan Oil and Gas Commission. Palin held this position until 2004. Palin resigned after she found that Randy Ruedrich, a Republican and fellow commission member, was using his office to do party business. Ever a shrewd political operator, Palin found that her stance against corruption had earned her public admiration.

In 2006, Palin ran for Governor on an anti-corruption platform. After her victory, Palin kicked out the old establishment and like in Wasilla gave key positions to her friends and cronies.

She has also may have used her position as Governor to pursue personal vendettas. In 2008, Palin fired Walt Monegan, Alaskan Public Safety Commissioner. By Monegan’s account, he was fired for not dismissing state trooper Mike Wooten. Wooten, Palin’s former brother-in-law, is currently engaged in bitter divorce proceedings with Palin’s sister Molly McCann. The story is still under investigation, but if true, it would be a large blow to Palin’s reformer image.

What is a Democrat to do?

More recently, political analysts and Democrats have scrutinized Palin’s experience. Many claim that her six years as a Mayor of a small town with limited responsibilities and two years as Governor of Alaska hardly qualify her for the office of Vice President. Republicans have countered that “executive experience,” is applicable to the job, regardless of where or how it was earned.

The “experience” argument is not an argument Democrats can win. Democrats need to expose the weakness of Palin’s ideas. The McCain campaign quickly vetted Palin and they have yet to properly prepare her, as exposed by her interview with ABC last week. Palin’s ideas on foreign policy and the economy are the same as the Bush’s, only not as well developed.

If the Democrats try to belittle Palin’s “experience,” they will only run into problems justifying Obama’s candidacy. Where Obama is leagues ahead of Palin is in the substance of his ideas. Obama has battle tested and well thought out ideas on health care, the economy, and foreign policy. Palin barely understands the “Bush Doctrine”.

Right now, Americans are in love with Sarah Palin. She brought the Republicans back to life and turned the polls in McCain’s favour. However, like all politicians Palin has her share of dirty secrets.