Palin Is Ready? Please.
McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, that is simply not true.
From the magazine issue dated Oct 6, 2008
Will someone please put Sarah Palin out of her agony? Is it too much to ask that she come to realize that she wants, in that wonderful phrase in American politics, “to spend more time with her family”? Having stayed in purdah for weeks, she finally agreed to a third interview. CBS’s Katie Couric questioned her in her trademark sympathetic style. It didn’t help. When asked how living in the state closest to Russia gave her foreign-policy experience, Palin responded thus:
“It’s very important when you consider even national-security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America. Where—where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to—to our state.”
There is, of course, the sheer absurdity of the premise. Two weeks ago I flew to Tokyo, crossing over the North Pole. Does that make me an expert on Santa Claus? (Thanks, Jon Stewart.) But even beyond that, read the rest of her response. “It is from Alaska that we send out those …” What does this mean? This is not an isolated example. Palin has been given a set of talking points by campaign advisers, simple ideological mantras that she repeats and repeats as long as she can. (“We mustn’t blink.”) But if forced off those rehearsed lines, what she has to say is often, quite frankly, gibberish.
Couric asked her a smart question about the proposed $700 billion bailout of the American financial sector. It was designed to see if Palin understood that the problem in this crisis is that credit and liquidity in the financial system has dried up, and that that’s why, in the estimation of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, the government needs to step in to buy up Wall Street’s most toxic liabilities. Here’s the entire exchange:
COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?
PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it’s got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.
This is nonsense—a vapid emptying out of every catchphrase about economics that came into her head. Some commentators, like CNN’s Campbell Brown, have argued that it’s sexist to keep Sarah Palin under wraps, as if she were a delicate flower who might wilt under the bright lights of the modern media. But the more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that’s causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb.
Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president. She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start. The next administration is going to face a set of challenges unlike any in recent memory. There is an ongoing military operation in Iraq that still costs $10 billion a month, a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is not going well and is not easily fixed. Iran, Russia and Venezuela present tough strategic challenges.
Domestically, the bailout and reform of the financial industry will take years and hundreds of billions of dollars. Health-care costs, unless curtailed, will bankrupt the federal government. Social Security, immigration, collapsing infrastructure and education are all going to get much worse if they are not handled soon.
And the American government is stretched to the limit. Between the Bush tax cuts, homeland-security needs, Iraq, Afghanistan and the bailout, the budget is looking bleak. Plus, within a few years, the retirement of the baby boomers begins with its massive and rising costs (in the trillions).
Obviously these are very serious challenges and constraints. In these times, for John McCain to have chosen this person to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible. McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, it is simply not true.
Next up: Biden and Palin debate in St. Louis
(CNN) — Now that Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have their first presidential debate out of the way, the focus turns to their running mates.
Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain will campaign together before the VP debate.
Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin will face off Thursday at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
There’s a lot of anticipation surrounding the VP debate because Palin has remained largely on script in her first month on the campaign trail.
Although Biden has a reputation for impetuous and brutally honest remarks, he’s also a long-time senator with decades of experience in the public eye.
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the 65-year-old Delaware senator is well versed on foreign policy.
Biden has done nearly 100 interviews since being picked as Obama’s VP on August 23.
Palin, on the other hand, did her third interview with a national television network last week. On Wednesday, she held her first media availability with her traveling reporters.
The Republican VP candidate has received less than stellar reviews in the few interviews that she has done.
Palin’s interview Wednesday with CBS’ Katie Couric drew criticism when the Alaska governor was unable to provide an example of when McCain had pushed for more regulation of Wall Street during his Senate career.
Palin was also criticized last week for appearing not to know what the Bush Doctrine was during an interview with Charlie Gibson.
Ed Rollins, a CNN contributor and Republican strategist, said Palin has lost her confidence in recent weeks.
“This was a very confident woman, the first presentation she made — she walked in the biggest crowd she ever had,” Rollins said, referring to her debut as McCain’s VP. “The second was the convention. She had great confidence. She’s lost her confidence.” Watch an analysis of the first presidential debate »
Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, said the “public opinion is turning” on Palin, and that could affect her at the upcoming debate.
Palin was criticized heavily for comments she made about Russia in her ABC interview and her claim that her state’s proximity to the country bolstered her foreign policy credentials.
Asked by Couric to clarify what she meant, Palin said, “That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada.”
Begala saw that as a flop both for her and the McCain campaign.
“Candidate confidence is one of the most important things, set aside my own ideology concerns for her. They undermined that confidence,” he said. “You know, to use a sports analogy, it’s like if a pitcher throws a bad game, or — you know, you put him right back in. Right? You have to show the candidate that you have faith in him or her, in this case.
“And she should have had a good answer, though, and she didn’t. And that suggests that they’re not building her confidence or briefing her the way they are,” he said.
But Palin has shown that she can play the role of attack dog, as she did in her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention this month.
In that speech, she tore into Obama as two-faced, inexperienced and intoxicated by the sound of his own voice. Biden praised her speech as “incredibly well crafted and delivered” but said Palin’s rhetoric lacked substance.
In what could play to Palin’s benefit, campaigns try to downplay expectations for their candidates while raising expectations for their opponent, as they did before Friday’s presidential debate.
Palin was to spend Saturday and Sunday preparing for the debate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She’ll campaign with McCain in Columbus, Ohio on Monday, and will spend the rest of the week practicing for the debate in St. Louis.
Biden was campaigning with Obama in North Carolina on Saturday.
The vice presidential debate has a slightly different setup from the presidential debates.
One of the presidential debates is set up like a town hall meeting, but in the other two, there are approximately eight 10-minute segments. The moderator introduces each segment with an issue and gives each candidate two minutes to respond. Then there is a five-minute discussion period, when direct exchanges between the candidates will occur.
The vice presidential debate will resemble the traditional presidential event. However, the New York Times reported last Sunday that the McCain campaign sought to limit the time for freewheeling discussion in the vice presidential debate.
Advisers to Palin were reportedly worried that format could put the Alaska governor — a relatively inexperienced debater — on the defensive most of the evening.
The agreed-upon format for that debate now includes an abbreviated two-minute discussion period during which the candidates can engage each other.
Palin giving back tainted money from gov. campaign – Associated Press
By STEVE QUINN and JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press Writers 1 hour, 7 minutes ago
JUNEAU, Alaska –, touted by as a reformer when he picked her to be his , says she will donate to charity more than $1,000 in campaign contributions from two Alaska politicians implicated in a federal corruption probe.
Palin said Thursday she also is giving back $1,000 from the wife of one of the men. The move came a few hours after The Associated Press reported that Palin had accepted the money during her successful 2006 run for governor. Palin was elected easily after she promised to rid Alaska’s capital of dirty politics.
“has made a career of holding herself to the highest standards of ethics. As soon as the governor learned of the donations today, she immediately decided to donate them to charity,” campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said.
Palin took aim at gift-giving to state officials as part of her ethics agenda but has kept more than $25,000 in gifts in the 20 months she has been governor, The Washington Post reported in a story in its Friday editions. A review of state records shows that gifts came from industry executives, municipalities and a cultural center whose board includes officials from some of the largest mining interests in Alaska, according to the newspaper.
The Post reported that the 41 gifts Palin accepted included artwork, free travel, a gold-nugget pin valued at $1,200, a $2,200 ivory puffin mask, a woven grass fan worth $300 and a $150 ivory necklace. A spokeswoman for McCain’s campaign said the gifts had no undue influence on Palin, according to the newspaper.
Over the years, McCain and Democratic nominee Barack Obama have both returned campaign donations tied to corruption.
Obama’s campaign says he’s given to charity $159,000 tied to convicted Chicago real estate developer Antoin “Tony” Rezko. In the early 1990s, McCain returned $112,000 from Charles Keating, a central figure in the savings-and-loan crisis, after a Senate ethics inquiry.
The two politicians in this case were snagged in a federal investigation revolving around an oil field services company once known as VECO Corp. Executives from the company are at the center of the trial of , R-Alaska, that began this week in Washington.
Palin felt so strongly about the indictment of once-powerful Sen. John Cowdery that she urged him to resign. He was indicted in July on two federal bribery counts; the other donor, former Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, is awaiting trial. Both are Republicans, and their contributions were to the joint campaign of Palin and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. Neither had any obvious connection to the rising star before she took office.
In the Stevens case, prosecutors say he lied on his financial disclosure forms about more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts he received from VECO. In Alaska, the government has leveled more serious charges: That the company and its bosses tried to corrupt lawmakers by plying them with money or gifts in exchange for their votes.
On Aug. 31, 2006, FBI agents searched the offices of six state lawmakers, including Cowdery and Weyhrauch.
The government had secretly taped Cowdery in a conversation that prosecutors say proved he conspired with VECO officials to bribe legislators to support changes in Alaska’s oil tax structure. Weyhrauch allegedly promised to support VECO’s position in exchange for consideration for future work as a lawyer.
VECO quickly came to symbolize outsized corruption in Alaska and Palin was able to capitalize: As the GOP nominee for governor, she campaigned as an outsider and made a public point of saying she didn’t want money from the company or its employees.
By October 2006, Palin’s campaign had received $30 from Weyhrauch in addition to Cowdery’s $1,000. Separately, Cowdery’s wife, Juanita, contributed $1,000; she is not accused of any wrongdoing, but Palin is giving that money back, too.
The fact that Palin had kept Cowdery’s donation was notable, given that on July 10, the day after he was indicted, the governor issued a statement asking him to “step down, for the good of the state.”
Justin Pritchard reported from. Associated Press writer Sharon Theimer in Washington contributed to this report.
Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes
WASILLA, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin lives by the maxim that all politics is local, not to mention personal.
So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.
Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.
When Ms. Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.
And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.
“You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”
Ms. Palin walks the national stage as a small-town foe of “good old boy” politics and a champion of ethics reform. The charismatic 44-year-old governor draws enthusiastic audiences and high approval ratings. And as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, she points to her management experience while deriding her Democratic rivals, Senators Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr., as speechmakers who never have run anything.
But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.
Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.
Still, Ms. Palin has many supporters. As a two-term mayor she paved roads and built an ice rink, and as governor she has pushed through higher taxes on the oil companies that dominate one-third of the state’s economy. She stirs deep emotions. In Wasilla, many residents display unflagging affection, cheering “our Sarah” and hissing at her critics.
“She is bright and has unfailing political instincts,” said Steve Haycox, a history professor at the University of Alaska. “She taps very directly into anxieties about the economic future.”
“But,” he added, “her governing style raises a lot of hard questions.”
Ms. Palin declined to grant an interview for this article. The McCain-Palin campaign responded to some questions on her behalf and that of her husband, while referring others to the governor’s spokespeople, who did not respond.
Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell said Ms. Palin had conducted an accessible and effective administration in the public’s interest. “Everything she does is for the ordinary working people of Alaska,” he said.
In Wasilla, a builder said he complained to Mayor Palin when the city attorney put a stop-work order on his housing project. She responded, he said, by engineering the attorney’s firing.
Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.
Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process.
When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.
“Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.
State legislators are investigating accusations that Ms. Palin and her husband pressured officials to fire a state trooper who had gone through a messy divorce with her sister, charges that she denies. But interviews make clear that the Palins draw few distinctions between the personal and the political.
Last summer State Representative John Harris, the Republican speaker of the House, picked up his phone and heard Mr. Palin’s voice. The governor’s husband sounded edgy. He said he was unhappy that Mr. Harris had hired John Bitney as his chief of staff, the speaker recalled. Mr. Bitney was a high school classmate of the Palins and had worked for Ms. Palin. But she fired Mr. Bitney after learning that he had fallen in love with another longtime friend.
“I understood from the call that Todd wasn’t happy with me hiring John and he’d like to see him not there,” Mr. Harris said.
“The Palin family gets upset at personal issues,” he added. “And at our level, they want to strike back.”
Through a campaign spokesman, Mr. Palin said he “did not recall” referring to Mr. Bitney in the conversation.
Laura Chase, the campaign manager during Ms. Palin’s first run for mayor in 1996, recalled the night the two women chatted about her ambitions.
“I said, ‘You know, Sarah, within 10 years you could be governor,’ ” Ms. Chase recalled. “She replied, ‘I want to be president.’ ”
Ms. Palin grew up in Wasilla, an old fur trader’s outpost and now a fast-growing exurb of Anchorage. The town sits in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, edged by jagged mountains and birch forests. In the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration took farmers from the Dust Bowl area and resettled them here; their Democratic allegiances defined the valley for half a century.
In the past three decades, socially conservative Oklahomans and Texans have flocked north to the oil fields of Alaska. They filled evangelical churches around Wasilla and revived the Republican Party. Many of these working-class residents formed the electoral backbone for Ms. Palin, who ran for mayor on a platform of gun rights, opposition to abortion and the ouster of the “complacent” old guard.
After winning the mayoral election in 1996, Ms. Palin presided over a city rapidly outgrowing itself. Septic tanks had begun to pollute lakes, and residential lots were carved willy-nilly out of the woods. She passed road and sewer bonds, cut property taxes but raised the sales tax.
And, her supporters say, she cleaned out the municipal closet, firing veteran officials to make way for her own team. “She had an agenda for change and for doing things differently,” said Judy Patrick, a City Council member at the time.
But careers were turned upside down. The mayor quickly fired the town’s museum director, John Cooper. Later, she sent an aide to the museum to talk to the three remaining employees. “He told us they only wanted two,” recalled Esther West, one of the three, “and we had to pick who was going to be laid off.” The three quit as one.
Ms. Palin cited budget difficulties for the museum cuts. Mr. Cooper thought differently, saying the museum had become a microcosm of class and cultural conflicts in town. “It represented that the town was becoming more progressive, and they didn’t want that,” he said.
Days later, Mr. Cooper recalled, a vocal conservative, Steve Stoll, sidled up to him. Mr. Stoll had supported Ms. Palin and had a long-running feud with Mr. Cooper. “He said: ‘Gotcha, Cooper,’ ” Mr. Cooper said.
Mr. Stoll did not recall that conversation, although he said he supported Ms. Palin’s campaign and was pleased when she fired Mr. Cooper.
In 1997, Ms. Palin fired the longtime city attorney, Richard Deuser, after he issued the stop-work order on a home being built by Don Showers, another of her campaign supporters.
Your attorney, Mr. Showers told Ms. Palin, is costing me lots of money.
“She told me she’d like to see him fired,” Mr. Showers recalled. “But she couldn’t do it herself because the City Council hires the city attorney.” Ms. Palin told him to write the council members to complain.
Meanwhile, Ms. Palin pushed the issue from the inside. “She started the ball rolling,” said Ms. Patrick, who also favored the firing. Mr. Deuser was soon replaced by Ken Jacobus, then the State Republican Party’s general counsel.
“Professionals were either forced out or fired,” Mr. Deuser said.
Ms. Palin ordered city employees not to talk to the press. And she used city money to buy a white Suburban for the mayor’s use — employees sarcastically called it the mayor-mobile.
The new mayor also tended carefully to her evangelical base. She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.
“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”
Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.
But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.
“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”
“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”
Restless ambition defined Ms. Palin in the early years of this decade. She raised money for Senator Ted Stevens, a Republican from the state; finished second in the 2002 Republican primary for lieutenant governor; and sought to fill the seat of Senator Frank H. Murkowski when he ran for governor.
Mr. Murkowski appointed his daughter to the seat, but as a consolation prize, he gave Ms. Palin the $125,000-a-year chairmanship of a state commission overseeing oil and gas drilling.
Ms. Palin discovered that the state Republican leader, Randy Ruedrich, a commission member, was conducting party business on state time and favoring regulated companies. When Mr. Murkowski failed to act on her complaints, she quit and went public.
The Republican establishment shunned her. But her break with the gentlemen’s club of oil producers and political power catapulted her into the public eye.
“She was honest and forthright,” said Jay Kerttula, a former Democratic state senator from Palmer.
Ms. Palin entered the 2006 primary for governor as a formidable candidate.
In the middle of the primary, a conservative columnist in the state, Paul Jenkins, unearthed e-mail messages showing that Ms. Palin had conducted campaign business from the mayor’s office. Ms. Palin handled the crisis with a street fighter’s guile.
“I told her it looks like she did the same thing that Randy Ruedrich did,” Mr. Jenkins recalled. “And she said, ‘Yeah, what I did was wrong.’ ”
Mr. Jenkins hung up and decided to forgo writing about it. His phone rang soon after.
Mr. Jenkins said a reporter from Fairbanks, reading from a Palin news release, demanded to know why he was “smearing” her. “Now I look at her and think: ‘Man, you’re slick,’ ” he said.
Ms. Palin won the primary, and in the general election she faced Tony Knowles, the former two-term Democratic governor, and Andrew Halcro, an independent.
Not deeply versed in policy, Ms. Palin skipped some candidate forums; at others, she flipped through hand-written, color-coded index cards strategically placed behind her nameplate.
Before one forum, Mr. Halcro said he saw aides shovel reports at Ms. Palin as she crammed. Her showman’s instincts rarely failed. She put the pile of reports on the lectern. Asked what she would do about health care policy, she patted the stack and said she would find an answer in the pile of solutions.
“She was fresh, and she was tomorrow,” said Michael Carey, a former editorial page editor for The Anchorage Daily News. “She just floated along like Mary Poppins.”
Half a century after Alaska became a state, Ms. Palin was inaugurated as governor in Fairbanks and took up the reformer’s sword.
As she assembled her cabinet and made other state appointments, those with insider credentials were now on the outs. But a new pattern became clear. She surrounded herself with people she has known since grade school and members of her church.
Mr. Parnell, the lieutenant governor, praised Ms. Palin’s appointments. “The people she hires are competent, qualified, top-notch people,” he said.
Ms. Palin chose Talis Colberg, a borough assemblyman from the Matanuska valley, as her attorney general, provoking a bewildered question from the legal community: “Who?” Mr. Colberg, who did not return calls, moved from a one-room building in the valley to one of the most powerful offices in the state, supervising some 500 people.
“I called him and asked, ‘Do you know how to supervise people?’ ” said a family friend, Kathy Wells. “He said, ‘No, but I think I’ll get some help.’ ”
The Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government. Ms. Palin appointed Mr. Bitney, her former junior high school band-mate, as her legislative director and chose another classmate, Joe Austerman, to manage the economic development office for $82,908 a year. Mr. Austerman had established an Alaska franchise for Mailboxes Etc.
To her supporters — and with an 80 percent approval rating, she has plenty — Ms. Palin has lifted Alaska out of a mire of corruption. She gained the passage of a bill that tightens the rules covering lobbyists. And she rewrote the tax code to capture a greater share of oil and gas sale proceeds.
“Does anybody doubt that she’s a tough negotiator?” said State Representative Carl Gatto, Republican of Palmer.
Yet recent controversy has marred Ms. Palin’s reform credentials. In addition to the trooper investigation, lawmakers in April accused her of improperly culling thousands of e-mail addresses from a state database for a mass mailing to rally support for a policy initiative.
While Ms. Palin took office promising a more open government, her administration has battled to keep information secret. Her inner circle discussed the benefit of using private e-mail addresses. An assistant told her it appeared that such e-mail messages sent to a private address on a “personal device” like a BlackBerry “would be confidential and not subject to subpoena.”
Ms. Palin and aides use their private e-mail addresses for state business. A campaign spokesman said the governor copied e-mail messages to her state account “when there was significant state business.”
On Feb. 7, Frank Bailey, a high-level aide, wrote to Ms. Palin’s state e-mail address to discuss appointments. Another aide fired back: “Frank, this is not the governor’s personal account.”
Mr. Bailey responded: “Whoops~!”
Mr. Bailey, a former midlevel manager at Alaska Airlines who worked on Ms. Palin’s campaign, has been placed on paid leave; he has emerged as a central figure in the trooper investigation.
Another confidante of Ms. Palin’s is Ms. Frye, 27. She worked as a receptionist for State Senator Lyda Green before she joined Ms. Palin’s campaign for governor. Now Ms. Frye earns $68,664 as a special assistant to the governor. Her frequent interactions with Ms. Palin’s children have prompted some lawmakers to refer to her as “the babysitter,” a title that Ms. Frye disavows.
Like Mr. Bailey, she is an effusive cheerleader for her boss.
“YOU ARE SO AWESOME!” Ms. Frye typed in an e-mail message to Ms. Palin in March.
Many lawmakers contend that Ms. Palin is overly reliant on a small inner circle that leaves her isolated. Democrats and Republicans alike describe her as often missing in action. Since taking office in 2007, Ms. Palin has spent 312 nights at her Wasilla home, some 600 miles to the north of the governor’s mansion in Juneau, records show.
During the last legislative session, some lawmakers became so frustrated with her absences that they took to wearing “Where’s Sarah?” pins.
Many politicians say they typically learn of her initiatives — and vetoes — from news releases.
Mayors across the state, from the larger cities to tiny municipalities along the southeastern fiords, are even more frustrated. Often, their letters go unanswered and their pleas ignored, records and interviews show.
Last summer, Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage, a Democrat, pressed Ms. Palin to meet with him because the state had failed to deliver money needed to operate city traffic lights. At one point, records show, state officials told him to just turn off a dozen of them. Ms. Palin agreed to meet with Mr. Begich when he threatened to go public with his anger, according to city officials.
At an Alaska Municipal League gathering in Juneau in January, mayors across the political spectrum swapped stories of the governor’s remoteness. How many of you, someone asked, have tried to meet with her? Every hand went up, recalled Mayor Fred Shields of Haines Borough. And how many met with her? Just a few hands rose. Ms. Palin soon walked in, delivered a few remarks and left for an anti-abortion rally.
The administration’s e-mail correspondence reveals a siege-like atmosphere. Top aides keep score, demean enemies and gloat over successes. Even some who helped engineer her rise have felt her wrath.
Dan Fagan, a prominent conservative radio host and longtime friend of Ms. Palin, urged his listeners to vote for her in 2006. But when he took her to task for raising taxes on oil companies, he said, he found himself branded a “hater.”
It is part of a pattern, Mr. Fagan said, in which Ms. Palin characterizes critics as “bad people who are anti-Alaska.”
As Ms. Palin’s star ascends, the McCain campaign, as often happens in national races, is controlling the words of those who know her well. Her mother-in-law, Faye Palin, has been asked not to speak to reporters, and aides sit in on interviews with old friends.
At a recent lunch gathering, an official with the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce asked its members to refer all calls from reporters to the governor’s office. Dianne Woodruff, a city councilwoman, shook her head.
“I was thinking, I don’t remember giving up my First Amendment rights,” Ms. Woodruff said. “Just because you’re not going gaga over Sarah doesn’t mean you can’t speak your mind.”
No wonder they don’t want her talking to the press!
|Alaska Rep. Accuses McCain-Palin Campaign of Witness Tampering|