The pit bull, the hockey mom, the small-town mayor and the governor… all titles that John McCain’s VP choice has willfully attributed to herself in the early days of her campaign for the nation’s second highest office. Back in Alaska, many residents paint a very different picture. Before we hand the keys to the castle over to a still yet unvetted and unknown candidate from a state that most of us have never seen in person, it wouldn’t hurt to attempt to get a better idea of who this person really is.
We all know that Palin is the beauty queen, the basketball star and the all-around America’s Sweetheart, but what I find more interesting is exactly who the grown-up Sarah Palin turned into. Let’s not get lost in the glossy, baby-mamma Palin… let’s strip her down to Sarah Palin the politician.
First of all, Sarah Palin is ambitious. Her race for the mayor’s office in Wasilla wasn’t quite like your normal run for a small town public office. She immediately announced that she was running on a pro-life, Republican platform, despite the fact that the mayoral race is not only a non-partisan affair, but the office itself is completely incapable of affecting any level of pro or anti choice legislation. Why would a person do this? For one, it shows ambition much larger than that of a small-town politician. By taking such a dramatic and unnecessary stand, Palin did two things:
She brought to the table wedge issues that were completely irrelevant to an office that should be presiding over potholes and police budgets.
She fired a shot in the air to Alaskan neo-cons that she was on their side
Immediately, neo-con Republicans from around the state began pouring in, flooding her coffers with donations and bringing in heavy hitters from lobbyists to the NRA to support her campaign. While most mayors of a town the size of Wasilla go into office owing a new strip of blacktop or perhaps an office job to a family for their support, Sarah Palin was already indebted to some of the most powerful special interests in the nation.
The campaign was shockingly aggressive. Campaign materials were distributed questioning everything from the incumbent mayor’s support for gun ownership to his faith… whispering in dark corners that incumbent mayor John C. Stein (a lifelong Christian) was actually Jewish. The election came and went, anointing Palin as the new mayor of Wasilla. She took office with vigor, promising to clean up the city and get rid of the “good old boy system” that she felt had held the city back for so many years.
Wasilla, like many other towns in Alaska, is subsidized by oil revenue collected at the state level and governed over by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. This organization oversees nearly every imaginable executive issue for small-town Alaska, leaving only the most basic of local issues to local government. Due to these heavy subsidies, Palin’s predecessor was able to completely eliminate the town’s property taxes (despite being portrayed as a “tax and spend” liberal by the Palin mayoral campaign), allowing the city to run quite effectively on a 2% sales tax imposed on the many retail business dotting the Wasilla landscape.
Palin took office with authority and ruled with an iron fist. She began relieving veteran employees of their posts, appointing in one instance the sitting public works director with an unqualified spouse of a top-aide to a former Republican governor, and in another replacing the city attorney with a former state GOP lawyer. Almost immediately, the maverick Palin began repaying the political favors that aided in her rise to prominence in the state.
For those that differed with her views, Palin made no secret of her intentions. Among her detractors were employees of the local museum… an expense that Palin found to be excessive. Despite the city’s budget surplus of $4 million, Palin cut the museum budget by $32,000, forcing three older employees to seek work elsewhere. As mayor, she also requested that acting librarian Mary Ellen Emmons remove certain books from the local library that she had personally deemed inappropriate. When Emmons refused, Palin relieved her of her position, citing her lack of “loyalty” to the office of the mayor. After the citizens of the town reacted angrily to Palin’s decision, Ms. Emmons was allowed to return to work.
Palin also publicly differed with sitting Police Chief Irl Stambaugh on a range of issues, most prominently Stambaugh’s campaign to change the local bar closing time from 5 AM to 2 AM and his opposition to a law passed at the state level allowing for gun owners to carry firearms into both banks and bars. In Palin’s first week as mayor, former Chief Stambaugh recalls being brought into her office and told “that the NRA didn’t like me and that they wanted change.” Three months later, despite an exemplary record in law enforcement, Stambaugh was removed from his position and replaced by a hand-picked successor, Jacob Alperin. Stambaugh attempted to sue the city and Mayor Palin for wrongful termination, but lost his case as Alaskan law states that the chief of police serves at the pleasure of the mayor.
As for the remaining department heads, they were each required to submit letters of resignation. Each position, and whether or not the current director would remain in said position, would be evaluated based on their loyalty to the new administration. The reaction from the community was mixed. So many veteran employees were being removed and replaced with new faces… and not necessarily faces from the neighborhood. To the concerned citizens of Wasilla, Palin responded “It’s not rocket science, it’s $6 million and 53 employees.”
Palin’s budget slashes didn’t end at there. As mayor, Sarah Palin personally authorized law enforcement budgets that required rape victims to pay for evidence gathering materials either out of pocket of via insurance. These “rape kits” as they are commonly known range in cost from $500-$1200 dollars, leaving those without insurance holding the bill. It is worth pointing out that the state of Alaska leads the nation in forcible rapes per capita, according to FBI statistics.
Palin has since denied the charge, asserting that she never supported or authorized such a practice. However, recent budget documents clearly show the allotment for such equipment being slashed from $15,000 to $3,000 with actual expenditures mysteriously dropping from $11, 625 to $205. At the bottom of this approved budget, in black ink, is the signature of Mayor Sarah Palin. To believe Palin’s claim that she never authorized such a practice is to believe that only one rape was reported in Wasilla in the fiscal year (or at least only one rape kit was used). As ludicrous as that may sound, to plausibly buy into her argument that she never authorized such a practice you must also believe that she accepted the idea that only one rape was reported in the city in 365 days… a judgment call that shows a person either wholly out of touch with the community she governs or willfully ignorant of realty.
As she slashed budgets throughout the city, one thing became very apparent to Palin. While the city didn’t need a library, a museum or evidence gathering equipment for victims of violent sexual crimes, she did need an assistant. Palin quickly appointed a deputy administrator to aid her in the day to day functions of the office, opening up new expenses where none had been deemed necessary before. In fact, the allegedly fiscally conservative Palin administration turned an inherited $4 million surplus into an alarming $19 million in long-term debt in only six years… a staggering sum of money for a town of approximately 5,500.
And the end of her second term, and restricted by term limitations, Palin gathered together her GOP connections and made her run for the office of the lt. governor. Her larger political ambitions failed, threatening to leave the rising GOP star in the past and in Wasilla. Realizing the critical nature of this threat, then Alaskan Governor Frank Murkowski appointed Palin as Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, thus keeping her in the limelight and keeping her name in the news. Palin responded to Murkowski’s generosity by running against him in the 2006 Republican primary on a promise of “clean government.” Her candidacy for clean government was legitimized by an endorsement and filmed political ad by Alaskan GOP legend Ted Stevens. On July 29, 2008, Ted Stevens was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of falsely reporting gifts… he is currently under investigation by both the FBI and IRS.
Palin won the nomination, then went on to defeat Democratic rival Tony Knowles by a handy 8%. She became the first female governor of the state, and the youngest person to ever occupy the office. That same year she obtained her very first passport and made her very first trip outside of the United States, visiting the Iraq/Kuwait border and stopping in Germany to visit soldiers on the way back to Alaksa.
During Palin’s race for the governor’s mansion she frequently and aggressively campaigned on one issue in particular… a pair of controversial bridges. The Gravina Island Bridge and Knik Arm Bridge (collectively known outside of Alaska as “The Bridge to Nowhere”) were staples not only of her stump speeches, but of her political advertisements. Palin attacked Washington insiders for suggesting that local Alaskans lived “nowhere,” suggesting that in her administration she would take immediate actions to secure the pair of bridges “while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.” After strong opposition arose to the bridges and the introduction of the Coburn Amendment (a specific amendment targeted at stopping their construction), Palin finally pulled the plug on “The Bridge to Nowhere,” halting any plans for its future construction. The $442 million allocated to Alaska to construct the controversial bridge was never returned.
As governor, Palin took harsh stances on spending, often making shocking cuts to infrastructure and making good on her promise to sell her predecessor’s private jet, an expense she deemed unnecessary. While the eBay auction failed, the plane was eventually sold through a private auction house, leaving the governor to travel privately, an expense that she billed to the taxpayer. Certainly a sitting governor on official business is a worthy and reasonable tax burden for the citizens of Alaska, however, Palin also repeatedly charged the Alaskan taxpayer for trips to and from her home in Wasilla and travel expenses for her family. Palin’s husband and children were reimbursed for trips to and from the state capital, and even for expenses incurred while vacationing in New York. When asked if the family’s reimbursement violated any ethical or legal issues regarding the use of taxpayer money, state finance director Kim Garnero stated that any official business conducted by the governor was an acceptable use of tax funds, but added “I can’t imagine kids could be doing that.”
Newly elected Governor Palin operated on what can only be described as a “one-track mind” policy initiative. Her tenure on the Oil and Gas Commission now in the past, Palin set forth with a single minded goal for her administration… energy. Namely, gas pipelines, drilling in the ANWR, oil and gas. While Palin’s main goal was clearly to harvest every drop of petroleum from underneath Alaskan soil, she made plenty of time to actively campaign for the abolishment of abortion rights for rape victims and victims of incest, the teaching of Creationism in public schools and advocating home-schooling as a perfectly legitimate alternative to organized education in every way. This single-minded approach to policy disturbed members of victims’ advocacy groups in the state. Despite her projected image as a family-first styled governor, many in the state feel that the families were largely forgotten by an administration bent exclusively on energy policy. Peggy Brown, the executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault suggested of Governor Palin, “”She’s really done a lot of work on oil and gas, but when it comes to violence against women and children. . . we haven’t been on her radar as a priority.”
Finally, nearing the end of her time as governor and the beginning of her historic run for vice president, scandal bubbled up in the Palin administration. Shortly after becoming governor, former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan says that he was called to the official office of the Governor to discuss an issue… not with Governor Palin, but with her husband Todd. “I was called to her Anchorage formal Governor’s office to talk with Todd Palin about an issue that was a private family matter,” Monegan stated, eventually saying that when he didn’t receive the desired response, Todd Palin became “upset.” Monegan went on to say “When Sarah later called to tell me the same thing, I thought to myself, ‘I may not be long for this job.'”
The issue in question revolves around a seven-year old investigation of State Trooper Mike Wooten. The investigation centered on allegations of misconduct by the officer, eventually being thoroughly investigated by committee and exonerating Wooten of all charges. In the early days of her tenure as Governor, Sarah Palin’s sister was involved in a bitter and divisive divorce and custody battle with her soon-to-be former husband, the aforementioned Mike Wooten. Feeling that this was just an attempt to gain leverage for her sibling in the ongoing proceedings, Monegan refused to reopen the case (as requested by the Palins), citing his responsibility as an upholder of the public trust.
Shortly thereafter, while maintaining his stance on the case, Monegan was relieved of his position as Alaska Public Safety Commissioner by Governor Palin. Palin suggests that Monegan’s dismissal was in no way involved with what has now come to be known as “Troopergate,” but instead resulted from Monegan’s inability to meet goals set by her office and “a lot of things we were lacking.” A response that Monegan himself finds difficult to believe. “No goals were conveyed to me by the Governor at any time,” he told ABC News. “All of the Commissioners who worked for the Governor would say the same. She was preoccupied with her pipeline proposal,” Monegan said. “All of us were waiting to hear what goals she would set for our departments.” Monegan even goes as far as to suggest that Governor Palin never once effectively met with heads of his department to set proper goals or line out strategies. “She met with us perhaps four times,” he said, “and half the time the Governor was busy on her Blackberry. In one meeting she took a phone call and left the room, directing us to talk to her aide.”
The pit bull, the hockey mom, the small-town mayor and the governor, Sarah Palin certainly wears many hats. Judging by those who know her best she can also be described as manipulative, power hungry, self-serving and ruthless. Sarah Palin has throughout her career been surrounded by what really exists as one central scandal. Much like how Bill Clinton became defined by sex, lumping various extra-marital miscues into one larger, ongoing issue, Sarah Palin has been defined by abuse of power. Whether it was a request for the removal of books she personally found to be offensive, slashing the budgets of disloyal department heads or pressuring state-level commissioners to reopen nearly decade-old investigations for personal gain, each scandal attributed to Sarah Palin tends to fall along the same line.
That is important for one very, very crucial reason. Anyone, politician or private citizen, can have baseless and unpleasant allegations tossed their way. Just because someone suggests that something is true, doesn’t make it so. However, much like President Clinton before her, when the same story begins to take legs in position after position from completely unrelated sources you have to begin to take it seriously. At every step of her political ascent, Sarah Palin has faced accusations of misuse of power, misuse of funds and generally poor decision making. These allegations are all strikingly similar and paint a clear, vivid and undeniable picture of the real Sarah Palin: A vengeful, overly ambitious, power hungry tyrant that seeks only personal gain and power.
If she mishandled power repeatedly and without repent in a town of 5,500, what would she do as Vice President of the United States? Or, God forbid, President of the United States. We know who Sarah Palin is, she has painted a descriptive psychological profile in newspapers throughout Alaska and now the nation. Sarah Palin is ruthless, and Sarah Palin is dangerous.