When the media can find nothing better to do for assaulting our senses, it can always depend on Sarah Palin. Some of her excursions into the limelight could be called nothing other than remarkable. That she was chosen for a vice presidential running mate to John McCain could be called a little remarkable; a young governor; a virtual unknown among the credential swinging candidates, seemed to be like taking a gamble on an untested race horse, but Palin had charisma, which was badly need in the general public illusion with the Republican party. Of course, she sank the boat when she opened her mouth to inform everybody she had the expertise to handle International affairs because she could see Russia from her front door. The credibility of her statement would have been accepted as a possibility if she had lived in Nome, a coastal town with a circumference allowing a glimpse of those far shores on a very fine day, but she lived in Wasilla, an inland town near the tapering end of the Cook Inlet and much closer to Canada than to Russia. It’s possible she believed that anywhere there was an onion dome was Russia, which would occupy most of settled Alaska.
Recuperating from her political loss was not one to be achieved gracefully. After all, she had abandoned her position as acting governor, and alienated the support of her voters. Alaska was no longer interested in her, and she found a greater love affair than embracing Alaskan politics. She had found the American spotlight and it was appealing.
What is remarkable consists of the numerous ways she found for remaining in that spotlight. Preempting Jerry Springer in melodramatics, she vehemently went after David Letterman for slandering her daughter, demanding apologies and campaigning for his immediate downfall and release from entertainment. While Letterman merely survived her verbal onslaught, Sarah was immediately elevated to the position of protector and savior of family values.
It’s astonishing that one so deeply involved with family and the intricate affairs of politics would have time to also write a book, but Sarah did it. As with everything Sarah, her book, “Going Rogue: An American Life”, spotlights her years growing up as a basketball player, her hunting skills and her marvelous multi-tasking abilities as a wife and mother while taking knife stabs at anyone who had opposed her in any capacity, from political entities to her vice-presidential campaign manager. This book, originally priced at $28.99 in hard cover and remaining on the best seller list for six weeks, can now be purchased for as low as $8.99 through Amazon hard cover bargain pricing. In fact, there is someone who will sell their edition of Palin’s book for one cent.
If Sarah never makes a true political come-back, at least she has attained movie star status. Her first episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” drew five million viewers, although her ratings dropped by forty percent with the second episode. The documentary could have better been sold to “American Sportsman” as it consisted primarily of Sarah’s hunting skills, with very little actual coverage of Alaska in it. This has not stopped her from producing a second documentary film, “The Undefeated”.
“The Undefeated” will be premiering in ten cities across the Continental United States, but it will not be showing in New York, Los Angeles or Alaska. Her director, Stephen K. Bannon, Bannon claims he wants to roll back the clock and focus on the Palin that Americans didn’t get to know when she was running for vice president in 2008: An Alaska governor who had a record for fighting corruption, “the Republican political establishment” and “Big Oil” back in her native Alaska. Alaskans, however, are clearly unimpressed.
The Governor Who Ran Away
A poll by Hays Research of Anchorage last month said President Barack Obama would beat Sarah Palin among Alaskans if they were both running. That poll found 42 percent of Alaska voters would pick or lean toward Obama in a head to head race with Palin. It said 36 percent of Alaska voters would choose or lean toward Palin, with the rest remaining neutral. Considering Alaska is a dominantly Republican state, these are somewhat astonishing statistics.
It’s especially astonishing when you consider Sarah Palin has become Alaska’s most successful media stars. There are those who wonder how, if Alaska is calling sour grapes now, she was ever elected into office in the first place. The answer is very simple.
In the year 2008, when Sarah Palin ran for governor, the F.B.I. was swarming through the legislative ranks, indicting a number of legislators on charges of bribery and corruption stemming from an investigation into their relationship with the oil companies. Her biggest contender in the Republican primaries was Frank Murkowski, who had been a political powerhouse since the early pipeline day. He was also under investigation and nervous enough not to remain very long in the state.
Not even Senator Ted Stevens, who had worked as Attorney General under the office of President Eisenhower, and who was largely responsible, along with Ernest Gruening, for the acceptance of Alaska as a state, was safe from the investigation. He was indicted, but his years of law practice paid off. He was not convicted, based on a number of improper motions presented by the prosecution.
As well-known and favored statesmen were taken down one by one, it created an atmosphere of paranoia and disillusion. The general attitude was, “trust no one”. As unhappy as the constituents were over the political corruption scandal, they were unhappier still that only one oil representative was convicted of corruption charges; long-time VECO CEO, Bill Allen. Sarah Palin based her campaign on transparency in government and a promise to “go after” Big Oil. She beat her Democratic contender, Tony Knowles by an eight percent vote.
Initially, Sarah Palin was a very popular governor. One of her first acts was to raise the tax base on the oil industry, raking some extra money into the State General Fund. It wasn’t long however, before the constituents began to realize that oil was all Sarah knew. Her idea of cutting back on the budget meant taking major swings at the funding for education and for fish hatcheries. While the educational department went up in arms, the fish hatcheries went down on their knees. Several existing hatcheries were denied their funds for renovation and upkeep, and two half-finished hatcheries had to delay their completion while she played around with a plan to build a tourist friendly fish hatching exhibit close to the Port of Anchorage. A low blow for a state whose primary renewable resource is marine life.
She wasn’t finished clobbering the fishermen yet. Her last act in office was to move forward a proposal for a massive mineral mining operation at Mt. Iliamna, on the pristine Bristol Bay, breeding ground and home to countless salmon, as well as an abundance of other marine and wild life. The struggle to prevent Northern Dynasty and its silent partner, Anglo American from developing the open pit Pebbles Mine continues to this day.
Politicians often introduce unpleasant budget cuts and unpopular policies, and manage to survive the criticism. The problem with Sarah was, not only did she turn an impervious ear to criticism, she considered all opposition her enemy, and actively set about to avenge them. While governor, she fired Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, citing public performance issues and stating that “he was not a team player on budget issues”. Monegan maintained Palin had put pressure on him to fire a popular state trooper, Mike Wooten, who after divorcing her sister, became involved in a bitter child custody battle.
Several weeks after an investigation began into Palin’s ethical hiring and firing practices, John McCain asked Sarah to become his running mate in the Presidential election. Abandoning the low profile of Alaskan politics, she stepped into the limelight of National attention.
Even then, there were still plenty of Alaskans who were supportive of Palin. In fact, to many, the idea of an Alaskan vice-president was pretty exciting, but with her political title stripped away and a Hollywood celebrity status attached to her name, it began to dawn on even her most loyal followers that Sarah Palin did not make a very good representative of the Alaskan people. Her statements revealing a lack of attention to the academics were embarrassing. Her disregard for the press and media hosts seemed ill mannered, her jokes in poor taste. Most of all, she remained vindictive. During her book signing tour, she stopped at only one place in Alaska; a military base, under guard, inviting only military personnel and specific supporters to the signing.
Her contract with “Discovery” to film Alaska from a resident’s view excited the populace enough to spring clean their yards and put on their best clothes in anticipation of being caught on tape in their daily routines. After all, the debut promised to be one of real Alaskan life. There was some debate over whether she’d reveal the housing problems in her home town or the poverty in the remote villages, but even the middle I-have-an-insured-vehicle class were surprised to learn that Sarah’s Alaska only represented about five percent of the population; the ones who were wealthy enough for fly-in fishing and hunting trips and houses gracious enough to invite Bill Gates over as a guest.
Sarah’s Alaska wasn’t about Alaska; it was about Sarah. Over and over again, she seized the camera to discomfit her guests and sharpen her political knives. If one is to believe Sarah Palin, Alaskans are not at all concerned with an obesity problem that has overtaken many of the small towns and remote villages that do not have anything on their grocery shelves except boxed food and soda pop. According to her, Alaskans thrive on s’mores, a sugary treat comprised of graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey bars. Yes, we eat them, but they are as much of a treat as cheese cake. The staple diet is salmon. If you are to believe Sarah, Alaskans spend most of their time wantonly prowling through the woods, taking out the wild life. Her jokes were sod-kicking jokes; her representation, an elite who felt their position entitled them to poor manners. Her Discovery series flopped in Alaska, and the whole state sighed with relief when it was learned there would not be a second season.
The last gasp of Sarah worship expired when she backed a Tea Party Express agenda by pushing through and winning a Republican primary nomination of Joe Miller for Senator instead of the incumbent, her arch-rival, Lisa Murkowski. All might have gone well if Miller had not done one of the few things the constituents found unforgivable. His body guards, hired by an illicit company, handcuffed and detained an Alaskan Dispatch reporter when he tried to attend a meeting of Miller and fans held in a public school. Lisa Murkowski, straddled with the ghosts of her father’s past, without the support of a political party, went on to do the unheard – she won the election on a write-in ticket.
Joe Miller was outraged. To his own embarrassment, he had the vote recounted again and again, challenging any ticket that contained so much as a single spelling error and even took the election committee to court, delaying Murkowski’s inauguration by several months. The courts found no evidence of tampering in the votes, and Miller lost abominably. In the meantime, the ethics committee had also turned its attention to Miller, who they discovered had been managing his campaign from State computers during his tenure of office in Fairbanks. With ethics complaints piling up, he decided to do the wisest thing. Following the lead of the initial legislators who had cringed under the study of F.B.I. agents who were marching their cronies off to jail, he skipped state.
Sarah Palin’s newest documentary film will not premier in Alaska, and nobody really seems to care. They know how Palin rose to power. Her appearance in the political ring, wracked with turmoil and suspicion was timely. The voters wanted someone to believe in, and grasped desperately at this former beauty queen, rallying around her words of transparency and ending government corruption. What Palin failed to see was that ending corruption did not mean a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. It did not mean attacking all your political opponents in an effort to ruin their lives. It meant objective reasoning, negotiation, appraising needs and how to meet them. To Alaskans, Sarah Palin isn’t The Undefeated. She’s a hit and run driver. The true maverick, the true undefeated was Lisa Murkowski, who said with relief when she took office, “I no longer have to cater to either a Republican or Democratic agenda. I can make my decisions based on what I feel is best for the citizens.” Alaska may have birthed a major tea party favorite, but Alaska is also the state where the tea party ends.