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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Review: Kaylene Johnson's "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down"

Kaylene Johnson's 'Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down' Enthusiasm for reform-minded, fiscally prudent, and socially conservative Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has moved beyond the "buzz" stage to the point where it's now rolling thunder.

On June 8th, after finishing several hours of internet research, I posted a long essay (with many photographs) entitled Would Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin be a grand slam as McCain's Veep? I'm not claiming any causal relationship, mind you, but consider the following events since then (in addition to my own short follow-up post on June 18th):

  • On June 9th, Real Clear Politics reported that among her own constituents in Alaska, Gov. Palin "enjoys an incredible 82% positive rating, while just 10% don't see her in a good light."

  • On June 22nd, Politico.com included Gov. Palin as one of "Three women who could join [the] GOP ticket," noting that "it’s her personal biography, which excites social conservatives, and reformist background that might most appeal to McCain."

  • In a June 23rd letter, Gov. Palin directly confronted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the federal government's boneheaded refusal to consider drilling for oil and gas on a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

  • On June 24th, Rush Limbaugh played contrasting sound clips from Gov. Palin and Democratic nominee-presumptive Sen. Barack Obama in order to highlight the fact that Gov. Palin whips Obama hands-down on this issue, and that the Dems essentially have no energy plan other than to "Just say no!" Quote Limbaugh: "Amen! Here is a female Republican who is willing to gut it up!"

  • On June 25th, Gov. Palin gave an extended interview to economist and CNBC pundit Larry Kudlow in which she confirmed herself as a thoughtful and articulate leader on national energy issues.

  • And from his regular slot as a panelist on "Fox News Sunday" this morning, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, was positively ebullient about the possibility of Gov. Palin being chosen as John McCain's vice presidential running mate:

    Republicans are much more open to strong women, and that's why McCain is going to put Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, on the ticket as vice president.... She's fantastic! You know, she was the point guard on the Alaska state championship high school basketball team in 1982. She could take Obama one-on-one on the court. It'd be fantastic! Anyway, I do think — I actually think that Sarah Palin would be a great vice presidential pick, and it would be interesting to have a woman on the Republican ticket after Hillary Clinton has come so close and failed on the Democratic side.

There's no denying that Gov. Palin is a hot new talent on the national political scene. But is there substance behind the sizzle?

In search of further details in order to answer to that question, I turned to Kaylene Johnson's just-released biography, "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down." After finishing it, I'm even more firmly aboard the Sarah Palin for Veep bandwagon.

Two-year-old Sarah clutches live shrimp caught in her father's shrimp pot in Skagway, Alaska As a long-time Alaskan writer and quite literally a neighbor of the Palins — the jacket cover informs us that she "makes her home on a small farm outside Wasilla," a suburban community north of Anchorage — Johnson has done a timely and competent service to the political junkies among us who hunger for basic factual information on our leading political figures.

To read this book, I set aside another biography that I'd almost finished, one that is also much in the news these days — Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, about which I'll blog at greater length between now and Election Day. Suffice it to say, for now, that although both books purport to cover the early lives of these two young politicians, Johnson's book contains more in the way of objective facts, pertinent anecdotes, and relevant information in 137 pages (plus a fine set of source notes and a serviceable index) than Obama managed to do for himself in 442 pages of vague, breezy, touchy-feely, and wholly unsourced (indeed, admittedly sometimes fictionalized) narrative.

Given the choice between brisk and factual, on the one hand, and deep and muddled on the other, I'll take brisk and factual any time.

Johnson's writing is blessedly free of angst and existential philosophizing. She doesn't need that — for she has, in Sarah Palin, a compelling tale to tell that's based on the remarkable accomplishments of a remarkably normal person. Indeed, although they're products of, respectively, the forty-ninth and fiftieth American states and both grew up outside the continental 48, Sarah Palin's personal history is as familiarly American as Barack Obama's is exotic and strange. And Johnson serves it up without mysticism or manufactured romance:

Born in Sandpoint, Idaho, on February 11, 1964, Sarah Louise was the third of four children born in rapid succession to Chuck and Sally Heath. The family moved to Alaska when Sarah was two months old. Chuck took a teaching job in Skagway. Her older brother, Chuck Jr., was two years old. Heather had just turned one, and Molly was soon to come. Chuck Jr. vividly remembers the days in Skagway when he and his dad ran a trapline, put out crab pots, and hunted mountain goats and seals. The family spent time hiking up to alpine lakes and looking for artifacts left behind during the Klondike Gold Rush....

In 1969, the Heaths moved to southcentral Alaska, living for a short time with friends in Anchorage, then for two years in Eagle River before finally settling in Wasilla. The family lived frugally. To help make ends meet, Chuck Heath moonlighted as a hunting and fishing guide and as a bartender, and even worked on the Alaska Railroad for a time. Sally worked as a school secretary and ran their busy household.

It's basically the Ward and June Cleaver family, albeit transplanted to the last American frontier. Sarah Palin didn't need to indulge in intercontinental travel and cosmic soul-searching to find out who her father was, or where her roots were, or where she fit into her own family and community. She knew where she and her family fit in. In an appendix, Johnson reproduces Gov. Palin's inaugural address, which included this simple but moving tribute:

I believe in public education. I'm proud of my family's many, many years working in our schools. I hope my claim to fame, believe it or not, is never that I'm Alaska's first female governor. I hope it continues to be, "You're Mr. Heath's daughter." My dad for years has been teaching in the schools and even today he's inspiring students across the state. So many students around this land came up to me not saying, "Oh, you're Sarah Palin ... you're running for office ... you're the governor." No, it's been, "Sarah Palin, wow! Mr. Heath's been my favorite teacher of all time."

With short exceptions for college stays in Hawaii and Idaho, Alaska forms the backdrop for most of Palin's story, but Johnson neither minimizes nor overplays its role. Growing up there meant that Sarah participated in hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, and the like — but for the most part, her experiences could have just as easily been in any of countless small towns scattered across America.

'Miss Wasilla 1984' then became first runner-up in the Miss Alaska competition. As Bill Kristol noted today, she was a high school basketball player (and also ran track). "Sarah Barracuda," they called her for her competitiveness on the court — but Johnson gives us Palin's real life story in an entirely plausible account, rather than a Cinderella story crafted or staged by someone consciously trying to build or burnish a political résumé.

Indeed, until her senior year in high school, Palin was frustrated at being relegated to the junior varsity; she was a team captain, but not one of the team's two top scorers; and an ankle injury kept her out of most of the second half of that championship game. Her coach put her back into the lineup to seal the win against a heavily favored Anchorage team — whereupon she drew a foul and hit a free-throw to score the game's final point.

She startled friends and family when she decided to compete in the local beauty pageant, but for her, becoming "Miss Wasilla" in 1984 was all about snagging some college scholarship money. And Palin put her 1987 bachelor's degree in journalism (with a minor in political science) from the University of Idaho to work as a weekend sportscaster in Anchorage.

When Palin married her high-school beau, Todd Palin, in 1988, they eloped — snagging two residents of a nearby nursing home to serve as their witnesses for the civil ceremony at the courthouse in Palmer, Alaska. They started their family about the same time Todd took a blue-collar job with British Petroleum on the North Slope:

The Palins named their first child, a boy, Track, after the track and field season in which he was born. Sarah's father jokingly asked what they would have named their son if he had been born during the basketball season. Without hesitating Sarah answered "Hoop."

But by 1992, Palin "felt a yearning to try to make a difference in her community. Like her years playing basketball," writes Johnson, "she wasn't interested in sitting on the sidelines."

So did she become a "community organizer"?

Johnson doesn't use that term, and I doubt either the term or the notion ever occurred to Sarah Palin. Instead, she ran for the Wasilla city council, going "door to door pulling a wagon with four-year-old son Track and two-year-old daughter Bristol." The existing political establishment had expected a passive homemaker who'd support the status quo, but that was not to be:

After taking office, Sarah was dumbfounded by the inner workings of the city government. "Right away I saw that it was a good old boys network," she said. "Mayor Stein and [Councilman] Nick Carney told me, 'You'll learn quick, just listen to us.' Well, they didn't know how I was wired."

Within weeks, Palin had upset the status quo by voting against a pay raise for the mayor and an exclusive city-wide garbage pickup contract with Carney's company. But during her second term, she became convinced that she needed to throw the good-old-boy network out entirely — so she decided to run for mayor herself in 1996, and she whipped the long-time incumbent handily.

Sarah Heath and Todd Palin a few months before their August 1988 marriage. As mayor, Palin took a voluntary pay cut from $68,000 to $64,200, cut real property taxes and eliminated taxes on personal property and business inventory, and sponsored a $5.5 million road and sewer bond to promote new commercial development. In 1999, Stein ran against her again, but she whipped him by an even larger margin than the first time. By then, she was attracting state-wide attention, which resulted in her being elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.

Former U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski was returning to Alaska to run for governor in 2002, and he encouraged Palin to run for lieutenant governor. She did, but the race quickly became a crowded one when three other well-established GOP state politicians who'd been considering running for governor instead opted to seek the second seat. Although she was outspent by the eventual winner by more than four to one, she finished a strong second, coming within 2000 votes and three percentage points of victory.

New governor Murkowski promptly appointed her to chair the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — and there begins the tale of Palin as a reformer on a statewide stage. Johnson recounts how Palin tried, without success, to force fellow Commissioner Randy Ruedrich to comply with statutory ethics reporting requirements. Ruedrich, who was also the chair of the Alaskan Republican Party, apparently felt himself to be exempt from such concerns, and he also felt no qualms about billing his Commission expense account for political traveling or using Commission personnel and material to do party work. Moreover, rather than looking out for the public interest, he effectively turned himself into a lobbyist and public spokesman for a company that had secretly leased from the state certain underground rights to extract natural gas from coal seams under private property. Palin's written and oral complaints to Alaska's attorney general, Gregg Renkes, eventually forced Ruedrich's resignation from the Commission, but Renkes' office ordered her to stay mum and stonewall the press. Her further complaints to Murkowski were also ignored.

Frustrated, Palin resigned from the Commission. She was partially vindicated in the public's eyes, however, when Ruedrich negotiated a settlement of the ethics claims against him in which he admitted to three out of four alleged violations and paid a $12,000 fine. Palin then continued to speak out against what she perceived as ethical lapses on the part of both Attorney General Renkes and Governor Murkowski. Murkowski complained that Palin was trying to "create a sideshow" to further her own political ambitions. But as Johnson writes:

In her toe-to-toe face-off with the governor, Sarah once again refused to back down. She fired off a guest-opinion piece to the [Anchorage] Daily News. "It's said the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick," she wrote. "So, with lipstick on, the gloves come off in answering administration accusations."

After slamming Murkowski for "hiring his own counsel, paid for by the state, to investigate his long-time friend, confidant, and campaign manager [Renkes]," Sarah concluded by writing, "Despite those in Juneau who think otherwise, it's healthy for democracy to ask questions. And I'll bet there are hockey moms and housewives all across this great state who agree."

Two months later, Renkes resigned.

That meant two down, one to go. Based on reservations harbored by her oldest son, Palin passed up a 2004 opportunity to challenge Lisa Murkowski, whom her father, the governor, had named (in an act of unbridled nepotism) to fill an open U.S. Senate seat. But in 2005, she decided to challenge Frank Murkowski himself in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary. 

Johnson's biography is at its best in relating the granular details of Palin's underdog state-wide campaigns — first in the GOP primary, and then in a closely contested general election — as a reformer who'd impose fiscal conservatism and return ethics to state government. After winning the GOP primary without a run-off by capturing 51% of the vote (compared to Murkowski's 19%), Palin went on to win a three-way general election, garnering 48% of the vote to defeat Democrat Tony Knowles' 41% showing.

Sarah Palin relaxes after hauling in salmon nets aboard her husband's commercial fishing boatGetting oneself nominated, and then elected, to public office is one type of accomplishment. Indeed, it's about the only sort of accomplishment that Barack Obama can claim. But just as she did while she was a city mayor, during her first two years as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has actually demonstrated an ability to govern.

Some acts were symbolic: Among her first decisions in office was to list the corporate jet that her predecessor had acquired for sale on eBay, and she fired the executive chef from the Governor's Mansion because she and "First Dude" Todd believe they're perfectly capable of cooking for their own family.

But Johnson reports that Gov. Palin has also been successful in pushing through substantive reform legislation. At her urging, for example, the Alaska Legislature has repealed an oil and gas severance taxation system that Murkowski had negotiated behind closed doors with BP, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips, replacing it with a slightly higher tax structure negotiated transparently and at arms' length. Gov. Palin has also worked with the legislature to encourage these three big oil companies — and others who are not already so heavily invested in Alaska — to compete in developing a natural gas pipeline that will bring cheaper and more reliable energy to Alaska's own consumers and eventually permit cheap export of natural gas to the Lower 48 states. Palin has shown herself to be simultaneously pro-environment, pro-development, pro-competition, and emphatically outside the pockets of either the corporate powers-that-be or their traditional politician allies.

Johnson's straight-forward writing style complements her subject's own style. And if there is a dark side to Sarah Palin, this book doesn't tell it. However competitive she was on the high school basketball courts, one can't help but infer from the facts related in the book that Sarah Palin has left bruised ribs in her political wake. But her chief victims seem to have been the complacent, the spendthrift, and the ethically challenged members of her own political party, and they're laying low.

Neither in this book, nor in the many video clips I've watched her in, does Gov. Palin give any sense of being grumpy or vindictive, but Johnson's book includes an admission regarding one of McCain's defining characteristics that Sarah Palin does share — "what her father calls an unbending, unapologetic streak of stubbornness":

"The rest of the kids, I could force them to do something," Chuck Sr. said. "But with Sarah, there was no way. From a young age she had a mind of her own. Once she made up her mind, she didn't change it." ...

Later on, Sarah's father would enlist the help of people Sarah respected — especially coaches and teachers — to persuade her to see things his way. Yet he concedes Sarah was persuasive in her arguments and often correct. Later, when his daughter became governor, Chuck found it immensely amusing that acquaintances asked him to sway Sarah on particular issues. He says he lost that leverage before she was two...

... From the moment she began making her mark in politics, she was criticized for being too young, too inexperienced, and too naive.

Yet, time after time over the years, underestimating Sarah always proved to be a big mistake.

"New energy for Alaska" was Gov. Palin's gubernatorial campaign slogan. After reading Johnson's biography of her, I'm going to have to work hard to summon up new energy to return to the last few dozen pages of Barack Obama's autobiography. He is, without doubt, a complex figure — and I say that with worry, not admiration, because that complexity often translates into a troublesome slipperiness even in the portrait he carefully crafts of himself. By contrast, Johnson's book makes me more confident that with Sarah Palin, as with John McCain, what you see is pretty much what you'll get. That's rare in politics, but we need more of it. And I'm increasingly convinced that I would like to see her as the GOP's candidate for vice president this fall.

(Photographs from the book, as reprinted here with the generous, express written permission of Epicenter Press, are all copyright 2008 by Chris and Sally Heath, except the last one, which is copyright 2008 by Chris Miller/CSM, and those parties reserve all rights to these photographs; please don't republish them elsewhere on the internet without obtaining their express permission in advance.)

Posted by Beldar at 08:29 PM in 2008 Election, Books, Energy, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Review: Kaylene Johnson's "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down" and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Palin would give voters grounds to consider the 2008 GOP Veep nominee on more than the three traditional occasions from BeldarBlog

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» McCain should say: "I shall go to Alaska! (And I will take along the press!)" from BeldarBlog

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» Best Palin Reaction Line of the Day from AMERICAN DIGEST

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(1) DRJ made the following comment | Jun 29, 2008 10:06:01 PM | Permalink

To me, the best thing about your book review is that it presents Sarah Palin as a public official with ethics who demands the same high standards from others. That goes a long way in my book.

(2) Donna B. made the following comment | Jun 30, 2008 1:13:53 AM | Permalink

I've thought for some time now that Palin is an absolutely perfect choice as McCain's VP.

(3) Jim Rhoads made the following comment | Jun 30, 2008 8:49:55 AM | Permalink

After finishing it, I'm even more firmly aboard the Sarah Palin for Veep bandwagon.

On it? You practically started it. And a good bandwagon it is, too.

Governor Palin is an example of "rugged feminism". That kind of feminism doesn't whine when the boys screw things up; it goes and straightens them (the boys and the screwed up stuff) up.

Think Golda and Dame Margaret.

(4) stan made the following comment | Jun 30, 2008 5:22:09 PM | Permalink

I'd like a Sarah for VP bumper sticker. I don't think it likely I'd put a McCain sticker on, but I'd definitely put Sarah for VP on.

(5) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jul 1, 2008 2:04:21 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Many thanks for letting us know about the Johnson biography of Sarah Palin, which I will be sure to look up. I don’t doubt that your posts have contributed to the sizzle that surrounds her potential as veep candidate. But the sizzle is just that, loud spats of boiling fat that can burn you. No, being doomed, I mount the scaffold, hands tied behind my back, ready to swing, still insisting she is not yet ready, it is the wrong year, and she will do herself and the GOP much better by waiting. A macabre sentiment, one that shocks the executioner, whose hands tremble as he ties the knot. So as my last request, let me count the ways:

1. Her experience: her stints as city councillor (4 years) and Mayor (4 years) of the city of Wasilla. Valuable, no doubt, but remember, the 2006 census estimate has 9200 people living in Wasilla. This is not a huge government. Still, you have to start small. Her “cutting property taxes” needs some qualification. The basic millage rate had risen from 1.7 to 2% as her predecessor finished his term. During her two terms, they fell to .9%, less than half of what they were when she started. But again, the gross proceeds of the property tax are revealing: 1997, her first year, the property tax raised $554,000. By 2002 they had fallen to $321,000. Again, small sums. By comparison, the city’s share of the sales tax raised $4.4 million in 1997, and $6.5 million by 2002.
2. Her tenure as Commissioner of Alaska’s Oil and Gas conservation is notable because it shows the serious flaw in Alaska’s public finances and its economy. She gained a rep as a reformer because she jousted with her fellow commissioners and Grubenor Murkowski. What was the fuss about? Corruption, the funny deals and antics of a government agency regulating a lucrative business: energy. Alaska has the same problem Texas did 80 years ago: the energy extraction companies provide the state with the bulk of its revenue. Since energy extraction is concentrated among a relatively small number of companies, those cozy, corrupt relationships can blossom easily. They did; Grubenor Murkowski did not earn his title for nothing. This gave Palin a big chance. She won the primary 51 to 19, which shows that the incumbent Murkowski was a dead duck. What did she have to offer? A resume not appreciably thicker than Obama’s: 8 years as city councilor/mayor and 2 years on the Oil Commission, compared to Obama’s 8 years in the Illinois Senate and 3 in the US Senate.
3. You point to some achievements in her governorship, notably junking the old tax compact with the energy extraction companies. That is real and substantial, just as preparing and seeing through state budgets, appointing department heads, enforcing the laws are real. But they are only the administrative part of governance. A real challenge awaits her: finding a way to wean Alaska from energy extraction. Let the coal beds and oil fields give out, and the state will step on a banana peel, scream, and be in intensive care. This is a real challenge of governance. It may be beyond the power of any governor to alter, but it is still there.
4. OK, assume she becomes McC’s running mate. You yourself say there are no visible dark streaks in Palin’s character. What about the stubborn streak? She will be running with one of the most stubborn cusses in creation. That will be a hell of an adjustment. It will also be an adjustment to go from being the top boss of a state (a small one economically, it is true) to presiding over the windiest 100 in all Christiandom, plus whatever dog biscuits McC chooses to toss to her. “Co-presidencies” don’t work well as Saint Al Gore will tell you. You may cite the Bush-Cheney story as a counterexample. But that only worked because from the day he was nominated in 2000, no one has ever considered Cheney as a successor to Bush. This has not been true of any Vice President since Charles Curtis in 1929-33. This is emphatically not true of Sarah Palin, who should be readying herself to take the top job herself, not as McC’s #2.
5. Too much of her attraction is that Obama is “making history” as the first serious black contender for president (and maybe even more if he chooses a female veep.) “We are hip, “with-it” progressives too, see we chose Sarah” is a dreadful campaign for the GOP to run. It smacks of Democratic identity politics. Further, it is a “me-too” approach. If we are to have such cynicism, go the whole hog, and put Sarah up as #1.
6. This is not a GOP year. If McC pulls it off, 2012 will be even less of a GOP year. Not since the, shall we say, exceptional circumstances of the Great Depression and World War II has one political party held on for more than twelve years. McC will be murdered at the polls in 2012, dragging Sarah down with him (ask Al Gore or Dan Quayle what losing an election does for your future prospects.) Sarah’s only real hope for the Presidency in the traditional one of the Prez kicking the bucket. Given that Vice President Palin would be the presiding officer of the Senate, and hence have many opportunities to talk to the new Majority Leader Hillary Clinton, McC would hire hundreds of food tasters, and never leave the White House.
7. McC is 27 years older than Palin. Not even Eisenhower-Nixon had that age gap. Do not forget that Palin is also a decade younger than the second Mrs. McC, which would be bound to cause some sparks.
8. Palin’s rise has been meteoric. Only Nixon rose faster: private citizen in December 1946 to Vice-President in January 1953. Timing has had a great deal to do with this. Yet we don’t really know much about her. How did the mayor of a <10,000 population town get elected as President of the Conference of Mayors in Alaska? How would Palin react to a real setback, in the manner of Winston Churchill leaving the British Shadow Cabinet in 1931, and spending the next 8 years in the wilderness? We don’t know.

There’s lots more, but that should give you a flavor. Let the executioner pull the trap. Let Sarah stay as Guv until a better year appears for her. She is young and can wait. I regret that I have only one longwinded post to give to this blog---for now.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(6) Old Coot made the following comment | Jul 1, 2008 1:43:25 PM | Permalink

Is it OK to mention that she's really attractive?

(7) Beldar made the following comment | Jul 1, 2008 4:26:50 PM | Permalink

Old Coot: I'd be enthusiastic about Sarah Palin's future in the GOP even if she were, physically, an Eleanor Roosevelt clone. But yes, she is attractive, and in my opinion it's entirely okay to mention.

Indeed, she's attractive not in a Carla Bruni European supermodel sort of way, but in a non-exotic, unpretentious, all-American hockey mom-next-door sort of way that, to my way of thinking, is most appealing when she's in the least glamorous settings. When I asked the book publisher for permission to reprint the photos, the one of her on her husband's commercial fishing boat was the first in my list, precisely because it's an iconic image that could represent millions of practical, hard-working American women who find themselves, from time to time, literally up to their elbows in fish guts or similarly unsavory substances. It washes off; and they persevere.

I did have to Google one reference from the beginning of her inaugural address, as reprinted in the book:

And to my family, our big family, I love you. Y'all cleaned up real well today ... I don't see a Carhartt in the bunch.

Carhartt, I found, refers to a line of very study work clothes suitable for hard manual labor outdoors. Well, Gov. Palin "cleans up real good" too.

That certainly ought not disqualify her from political advancement. Being good-looking didn't exactly hurt Jack Kennedy's career, and while Barack Obama's campaign has ruthlessly suppressed any photographs of him smoking cigarettes, they've made no effort to discourage reproduction of that picture of him naked to the waist, splashing through the surf.

(8) Beldar made the following comment | Jul 1, 2008 4:57:10 PM | Permalink

Mr. Koster: Thanks for another thoughtful and articulate comment.

Your seventh point, however, with its suggestion that attractive women are disqualified from high administration positions because McCain's wife might get jealous of them, is entirely unconvincing. All of the available evidence indicates that John McCain, while a ladies' man as a fighter jock, doesn't suffer from the chronic loose zipper problems of Bill Clinton, and there's certainly no reason to think that Gov. Palin is a would-be Monica Lewinsky.

I'll grant your larger and more serious point, made several different ways, that she doesn't have as much experience as had, for example, either Dick Cheney as Dubya's Veep nominee or George H.W. Bush as Reagan's. But as you concede, hers is roughly on a par with Obama's, and combined, when measured in years, McCain's and hers are formidable indeed, and are unlikely to be trumped by anyone who Obama may pick as his Veep nominee (even if it's a Democratic "old hand" like Sam Nunn, which I think it won't be).

Regarding her stubborn streak: Johnson's book reports that both in campaigning and governing, Gov. Palin has gotten along very well with her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, whom Johnson describes as from "an old-guard Republican family": his father had served on the Anchorage Assembly pre-statehood and then in the Alaska House, and Sean served two terms in the House and a term in the Alaska Senate before running for lieutenant governor. She's used his contacts effectively to smooth some of the ruffled feathers from her own insurgent candidacy. According to Johnson:

Parnell recalled the administration's first day in their Anchorage office. He and Palin were taking a look around and came to the door that joined the governor's office with the lieutenant governor's office, a door that had remained mostly closed during the four years of the previous administration. Palin looked at Parnell, propped the door open and said, "Do you mind if we keep this open?" Parnell said it was a significant moment that reflected how they would work together as a team.

McCain's personality will present challenges for any potential vice president, but I have no reason to think he and Palin would particularly clash. Indeed, there's reason to hope that their stubborn streaks and maverick, reformer instincts would run mostly parallel, and to the extent that they diverge, that hers might be a good influence on his.

Finally, I'll also concede that a considerable part of my enthusiasm for Gov. Palin as a nominee in this election cycle is a function of my own subjective perception that there just aren't any other potential GOP Veep nominees who match her either on sizzle or substance. There's no doubt that in Gov. Palin's own career so far, she's been, at times, the beneficiary of circumstances not of her own making. But she's used those circumstances to good advantage; when opportunity has knocked, so far she's answered.

I'm just hoping Sen. McCain will hear this opportunity knocking. Do you have a counter-proposal you'd care to advance?

(9) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jul 2, 2008 5:09:12 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Ow! I was out walking and tripped over this "Well, what's YOUR scheme fella?" gauntlet you've tossed out. Hmm. A great question. Let me stall a bit while I think, and take up my seventh point which was badly phrased. I do not think McC is a loose zipper type, nor that he and Palin would make whoopee anywhere in the Oval Office. I do think that Cindy McC is exceptionally protective of McC in the manner of Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. I think that the press will do all it can to stir up mischief in a McC-Palin administration, viz.: Oh, look at that tired old man, good thing he's got a strong vigorous Veep to push him along, so good looking, must be good for McC's heart to watch her every day...

Can't you imagine the odious Wonkette, or the gang of swine at SLATE/NEW REPUBLIC taking up this line? Cindy McC would not care for this, and I repeat, there would be sparks. Trouble is, McC can't fire Palin, and when Prez and Veep are at odds as, say, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humprhey were, the result is poor for the country, and worse for the political parties involved.

OK. Who's my riposte? That's easy: Condoleezza Rice. She too, would make history, the first black woman as Veep. Strong, serious, tons of experience in the areas that matter most: foreign affairs. Very attractive looking. At 54, she is the right age, younger than McC, but not so much as to be glaring. Her drawbacks are straightforward: a) she is welded to Geo W.'s administration and b) her record as Secretary of State is anathema to those on the right. It seems like only yesterday that the squalid Dick Morris was writing his book on CONDI VS. HILLARY: THE NEXT GREAT PRESIDENTIAL RACE. How soon the bubbles burst. I don't think that McC would choose her. Nor do I think CR would take it. But the ticket they would make would be stronger than a Palin ticket. Gravitas and experience. The "history making" facet is hopeless for the GOP anyway. The press will never acknowledge it. Look at the way Hillary Clinton was treated when she got in Obama's way. Woman or no woman, the press spit on her, giving the rest of us a hearty laugh as the feminists discovered a) race trumps gender and b) the conservatives had been right about the viciousness of the press all along.

I think Sarah Palin has a great future with the GOP, and with the nation. Going on the ticket with McC is asking her to throw it away. Even if McC pulls it off this year, his chances for 2012 are nil. Down goes Sarah. Where's Dan Quayle these days? To be sure, Palin is more substantial than Quayle ever was. But it won't count for anything.

Your citation of Palin's opening the door to her lt. guv. knocks down your point I think. Palin could open the door to her #2 because it was a conciliatory move. Had the #2 made the proposal, it would have been presumptuous, and Palin would have been right to be irked at it. But she is going to be the #2, and will have to follow McC's lead. That's going to be an adjustment. When was the last time a governor became Veep? Nelson Rockefeller in 1975, who summed up his experience memorably:

"I never wanted to be VICE-President of ANYTHING."

Yes, indeed. OK, special circumstances in Rockefeller's case. Before that you have to go back to 1913 and Thomas Marshall under Woodrow Wilson. That was easy: Marshall was Veep in the days when nobody cared about the office. Marshall himself joked that:

A woman had two sons, one of whom ran away and went to sea and one of whom was elected Vice President of the United States. Neither was ever heard of again.

Neither precedent augurs well for a Palin veepacy.

I think the stubborn streaks will clash more than you think. You may remember when Geo W. and McC had their idiotic immigration bill up for consideration last year, that your Senator, John Cornyn had some reservations about it, tried to discuss them with McC, and got a "F**k you! I know more about this bill than anyone else in the room." Would McC say this to Palin? No, because she's a younger woman, and McC's generation does not generally treat women this way. But he'd be frustrated, and would "solve" this problem by cutting her out, sending her into exile. Palin's better than that.

My God, this is depressing. Your perfectly reasonable request to name my own candidate has me stumped with no satisfactory answer. But the trouble isn't with the Veep; it's with the top of the ticket. Veeps can't compensate for weaknesses at the top. Can't think of one ticket where the Veep has dragged the Prez home on Election Day. That's why I say, let Sarah grow. As I wrote before, she has the problem of how to turn Alaska into something other than an oil state for its economy. Texas was able to do so, to its great benefit. Louisiana, up to now, has not, though another GOP bright star, Bobby Jindal, may have something to say about that. I also think Palin will benefit from a unique circumstance: Alaska is the only state near a past and future enemy of the United States. To be sure, this is more of a federal responsibility, but the Governor of Alaska is always conscious of the Russian bear. I think this consciousness will serve her well in a brighter future than 2008.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(10) Beldar made the following comment | Jul 7, 2008 2:45:20 AM | Permalink

Bill Kristol was again touting Gov. Palin on this week's Fox News Sunday — this time with generally appreciative comments from the other panelists, too, including liberals Juan Williams and Mara Liasson.

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