Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Rise and Fall of a Hockey Mom

She came out of nowhere. Four or five years ago few people had heard of Sarah Palin. She served a couple terms on the city council at Wasilla, AK, then two terms as mayor during the 90's and into the new millennium. She campaigned for Lt. Governor in 2002, but lost. Then, former Governor Murkowski appointed her to the state's Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, from which she resigned citing 'ethics' concerns. She lodged an ethnics complaint against Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the State Republican Party (which stuck), another against the then Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes who later resigned.

Hooray, a 'maverick' Republican campaigner who dared to challenge the good old boy network in Alaska!

Those were the stepping stones which catapulted her name into state headlines and enabled her to gain the Republican nomination for governor in 2006. She defeated sitting Governor Frank Murkowski, whose approval rating was dismal at less than 20%. She was duly elected governor in 2006, running on a platform of cleaning up government.

At first, Palin's performance as governor pleased most Alaskans, including the Democrats. She enjoyed huge widespread support with a statewide approval rating over 90%. Had matters continued in this vein, Palin likely would have gone on to be easily re-elected as governor for a second term. Now, that possibility is in very serious doubt, and several challengers are happily girding their loins for the next election, while Palin seems focused on the presidential election of 2012.

As governor, Palin strongly supported and advocated a policy of 'wolf control' which included a bounty and airborne shooting of the animals. This angered a lot of people everywhere, including many in Alaska. Then, in early 2008 a controversy erupted over her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan in which he claimed he was pressured to fire state trooper Mike Wooten. Monegan maintained Palin pressured him for personal reasons because of Wooten's bitter divorce from Palin's sister. Palin ultimately acknowledged two dozen contacts with Monegan about Wooten, but denied there was ever any 'pressure'. The ensuing scandal became known as 'Troopergate'.

An investigation was ordered by the state legislature which concluded that Palin was within her rights as governor to fire Monegan, but she had also, by the by, 'abused her power and violated the state's Executive Branch Ethics Act'. Palin claimed the report 'exonerated' her, nothing was done, and the matter was swept under the rug, still bubbling away not to surface until later.

On August 29, 2008 lightning stuck and Palin was 'touched by the finger of Jesus': John McCain selected her as his VP running mate. As might be expected, immediate national and international media attention was focused on Palin; her life and history went under a microscope. After a brief honeymoon with an enraptured public, the media started uncovering some disturbing bits and pieces about or concerning Sarah Palin. First of course 'Troopergate' was trotted out - and was airily dismissed by Republicans as 'just some flak thrown up by the opposition'.

But, some other things also came to light, including but not limited to:
  • Palin's statement that she said 'no to the bridge to nowhere', when in fact she had energetically supported the project earlier in her election campaign;
  • The fact that as Mayor, Palin required rape victims in her town to pay for their own rape kits (up to $1200 each);
  • That Palin's husband Todd is a member of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), which among other things, advocates Alaska's succession from the United States. Palin herself is rumored (denied) to be a former member who dropped her membership for political reasons.
  • That Palin is a vociferous supporter of oil and energy companies as evidenced by her loud 'Drill, Baby, drill!' and anti-environment comments;
  • That Palin cut state funding for teenage mothers;
  • That Palin strongly opposes abortion for any reason except extreme danger to mother's life, even in the case of forcible rape (of her own daughter!);
  • That Palin is strongly anti-homosexual, and vetoed a legislative passed bill providing benefits;
  • That Palin advocates teaching 'creationism' and 'Intelligent Design' in public schools;
  • That Palin is anti-environment, sneering at scientific evidence about global warming and the possible extinction of polar bears;
  • That Palin is supporter of 'abstinence only' even though her own unwed daughter ended up pregnant during the presidential campaign;
  • That Palin was not sure of what a vice president does (even while running for the office) when questioned by Charles Gibson on national TV;
  • That Palin is unaware of the 'Bush Doctrine';
  • That Palin gave a disastrous interview with Katie Couric on national TV which demonstrated her appalling lack of knowledge about current and foreign affairs - and then claimed she was ambushed;
  • Palin's putting her family on prominent display during the election campaign, then complaining about the 'uncalled for attention' shown by the press;
  • The fact that Palin believes and says the Iraq War was 'God's will';
  • That Alaskans have been complaining ever since her nomination Palin has put the state's business 'on the back burner' in order to pursue her personal, political ambitions for the White House.
All of this and more has caused Sarah Palin's credibility at home to plummet, from the heady 90's to the low 60's and beyond. The state legislature in particular seems very peeved, recently soundly rejecting her last several legislative efforts. Most notably, her disastrous nomination for state attorney general was robustly rejected on a bipartisan vote. The candidate was totally unsuitable for many reasons, but his confirmation was expected since Republicans hold a large majority in the Alaskan legislature. Most noteworthy, this the very first time in Alaska's history that a governor's nomination for a state department head has ever been rejected. Ever.

You might say, the honeymoon is pretty much over except for the doctrinal die hards who adoringly love her no matter what. Reasonable people are seeing who she really is, warts and all. Sarah Palin's star is in precipitate decline and she now seems to be in political meltdown. I believe when she got the 'Call from jesus' from John McCain's campaign it simply overwhelmed her common sense and sensibilities. As the old saying goes, that call evidently 'addled her brain'. And, she's not been the same since.

I personally feel Sarah Palin's fall from grace is not her fault. After all, she is who she is and does as she does due to how she grew up in. She can not be blamed for being raised as a conservative Christian, nay, even a fundamentalist Christian. And today, that's who she is, defining her, lock, stock and boomerang. Her fundamentalist Christianity, worn on her sleeve, rules her completely.

It's most unfortunate that Alaska must suffer now with an ineffective and distracted governor, especially right on the heels of the previous Republican disasters, both nationally and in Alaska. Palin is now implacably focused on a national attempt on the White House doomed to failure. She suffers grievously herself as a result; there's simply too much baggage to carry. A distracted Palin continues to shoot herself in the foot almost daily. As Robert Watson, a professor Florida's Lynn University said, " . . . .(Palin) seems like a train wreck in slow motion,"

I am sad because I once voted for her and had great hopes for her, and because of the damage she is now doing to herself and the State of Alaska. May she soon return home to her family where perhaps she can prove to the world that 'abstinence only' can still work with her remaining two daughters. Two out of three won't really be all that bad.

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