Michael Cleverly: Cleverly or Not
September 11, 2008
When the GOP announced Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate, I thought there might be a column in it. I spent some time in Alaska years ago and still have some close friends up there. Palin’s husband reminded me of some of the fishermen I used to drink a little beer with. Drinking beer that is 20 degrees warmer than the rain soaking you is a bonding experience; I was in southeast Alaska, where it gets a little moist. I started e-mailing a few of my old pals.
At the time, I thought I already had a lead for my column: “How many times a day do you suppose the words ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’ pass through John McCain’s brain?” Wrong. I couldn’t imagine this Palin thing could be anything other than the most catastrophic train wreck since, well, Bush-Cheney. I visualized people falling on their swords throughout the entire McCain organization. Like I said, wrong ” apparently Sarah Palin is the best thing since string bikinis. They love this bimbo.
Which is sort of what I wrote my buddies. “Who is this broad?” I asked.
The first reply came in that afternoon.
“Good question [wrote a fisherman friend]. Two years ago I asked the same thing. My daughter [a social worker] said she was no help at all when they were trying to get legislation passed that would have helped the kids. She told my daughter that they would support the bill, but then did not. I guess that makes her a good politician.
“The state seems to like her, but she followed the second most unpopular governor [Frank Murkowski] in the country, so it was a low bar.”
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At this point, in the spirit of enlightening you to the nuances of Alaskan politics, I’ll mention that this Murkowski was U.S. senator and ran for governor. When he won that election, he had to resign his senate seat. Two days before his resignation became effective he appointed his daughter to fill his empty seat. As I write, Lisa Murkowski is the junior U.S. senator from Alaska.
The senior senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, is currently being investigated for ethics violations. Alaskan Rep. Don Young championed the “bridge to nowhere” and another bridge dubbed “Don Young’s Way,” which according to Rolling Stone, “was to connect Anchorage to a patch of scarcely inhabitable marshland.” The magazine named him one of America’s “10 Worst Congressmen.”
If Sarah Palin is the shining star of Alaskan politics, like my buddy said, the bar’s pretty low.
Then my friend’s daughter wrote.
“Oh, God, where to start with her?
“There was the Denali Kid Care Bill, it would have raised the eligibility level for families in need of DKC to 200 percent of poverty instead of 175 percent of poverty, making more kids and families eligible.
“Her office refused to take a stance on the bill (which is essentially the same as not supporting it). All the legislators who weren’t already supporting the bill were saying that if the bill’s advocates could get the support of the governor’s office, they would make it move. Although Palin made statements towards the end of the legislative session suggesting that she would support it, her office never took a stance and the bill died. She basically said what she had to in order to appease the bill’s supporters and then went ahead and did whatever she wanted, which was nothing.
“The point is, she absolutely does not support any form of helping people, including Sex Ed, which apparently she doesn’t do a very good job of at home either. The woman is WAY out of her league.”
There was an extremely juicy, 10-page e-mail from a woman named Anne Kilkenny that was passed on to me. Kilkenny claims to live in Wasilla, where Palin served as mayor, and to have known Palin since 1992. As is the usual case nowadays, this e-mail was kind of a scoop for about 5 seconds and then zipped around the Internet at the speed of light and eventually ended up in various national news outlets. In case you didn’t catch it on your computer or the radio, I’ll excerpt bits of it; since the mainstream media has jumped all over a lot of these topics, I’ll stick to her personal observations and opinions.
“Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a ‘fiscal conservative.’ During her 6 years as mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33 percent. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the city increased by 38 percent. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.”
“She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million.
“As mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him.”
“Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned ‘as a private citizen’ against a state initiative that would have either, a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the state’s lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as threatened species.”
Another Alaskan with close ties to the Alaskan Republican Party wrote: “In my own personal opinion, McCain’s pick of Palin is the most cheap, transparent, desperate pick he could have made. And frankly, it’s an insult to women.”
The observations in this column are the opinions of good people who have been intimately aware of Gov. Palin and her way of doing business long before the rest of us ever heard of her.