New Pic of Bristol! DON’T LOOK!

6 09 2008

Hat tip to Mudflats reader Drew Brown for this TIVO capture.

You looked, didn’t you. So did I. What do we make of that?

How do we sort out the rumor, policy issues, competence issues, judgement issues and gossip? Where do the lines blur between them? Is it fair to talk about her pregnant teen daughter Bristol? Is it fair to ask questions about her marital fidelity, or if she is Trig’s real mother? When does gossip become a rumor, and rumor become plausible, and plausible rumor become verified fact? These questions are good because they make us at least stop and examine how the media does business, and how we judge our political candidates, and ultimately where we place the only real power we have – our vote.

Is Bristol fair game? Our first instinct is probably, no. Family is off limits. But what happens when family matters demonstrate decision making ability, criteria for judgment, and how the candidate will enact potential policy decisions? That changes things.

Sarah Palin has repeatedly said that having her baby is Bristol’s ‘decision’. And isn’t Bristol lucky to have a decision, and a supportive family, and someone who wants to marry her, and parents who are well-off and willing to help her, and the help of a nanny. Yes, she is. And, frankly, it would be a mistake to question the family’s decision because it is their decision, and that’s the point. The crux of this issue is that Palin believes other girls like Bristol should have no decision – not in the case of rape, or incest, or both. Not if you’re 12 or 20 or 55, rich or poor, married or alone, sick or well, able or disabled.

Palin believes her daughter should not have had a choice, even if she had been raped, even if she had been 12, and even if she had been a victim of incest, or all three. And she doesn’t think any other family should have a choice either. Really. Entitled to her opinion? Yes. Will mainstream America agree? Not if you believe the statistics.

So, given the fact that teens will be teens, and subject to the potential of hormone-induced bad judgment, what is Palin’s solution? Surely, we all want to prevent as many unwanted pregnancies as possible. Right now, because of Roe v. Wade, choice is the law. We know that all across the country, teenage girls, like her daughter, are getting pregnant by accident and having legal abortions. What would Palin propose to do about it? Something that doesn’t work. Her solution is abstinence only. No sex education. No information. No birth control. Just say no. She, herself, can see in a real and clear way, that this doesn’t work. Just ask Bristol. And just ask Sarah, who was pregnant when she married Todd.

So what does all this this tell us? She makes important policy decisions based on religious conviction. She sticks with failed policy, even when the failure is obvious and hard-hitting. She believes in taking away currently available decisions for all of America, despite the fact that the majority of Americans oppose it. Qualities we want in a president?

And yes, I say president, and not vice president. Anyone accepting the role of Vice President stands a very real chance of becoming president by succession. The odds are better than 30%.

When looking at the scandalous pictures, and reading the scads of gossip that is bubbling up in Alaska and wending its circuitous way toward main stream media coverage, we need to ask ourselves how they may demonstrate Palin’s stated policy decisions, decision making ability and the criteria she uses to make them. And we will, no doubt, get caught up in the personal scandals, because we’re human. But let’s watch what else they teach us.

And just for good measure, what does John McCain feel about this?

The Associated Press reported that Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, opposed funding to prevent teen pregnancies, a position that Palin also took as governor. “The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support,” she wrote in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates.Reporters asked McCain in November 2007 whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives or whether he supports President Bush’s policy of promoting abstinence.

“Ahhh, I think I support the president’s policy,” McCain said.

Ahhhhh, I think we’re in trouble.


First Post-Palin Poll Numbers in From Alaska.

6 09 2008

There’s been lots of talk, Sarah-mania, Sarah-despair, and gossip up here in Alaska.  But now the first poll numbers are in and we can see how Palin’s nomination has affected Alaskans’ opinions of our governor and wannabee Vice President.  Comparing the poll numbers taken August 9-12, and August 30-September 2, here’s how they compare.

What is your opinion of Sarah Palin?

Positive:  80.2% -> 81.6%

Negative:  13.2% -> 13.1%

Neutral: 6.4% -> 5.4%

The first poll finished up the day before the infamous taped phone call between Frank Bailey and Trooper Mike Dial, where Bailey pressured Dial to axe Palin’s ex-brother-in-law Trooper Mike Wooten.  So, if there had been any negative effect, it doesn’t show here.  Palin’s popularity had dipped to 67% at one point after Troopergate, but she’s back up into the 80s.   So, if you loved her before, you still do.  If you didn’t, you still don’t.  End of story.

But here’s an interesting twist.  When asked if McCain’s choice of Palin helped or hurt the Republican’s chances this fall:

Helps: 65.2%

Hurts: 20.2%

Not Sure: 14.6%

There’s clearly a segment of people who, although they like Palin in Alaska, aren’t as confident that she brings much to the national ticket.

And Now for Something Completely Different.

6 09 2008

Yes, there is life beyond Palin. It may seem hard to believe, especially here in Alaska, where the media is swarming on the small town of Wasilla like ravens on a dumpster full of french fries. (Trust me, it’s a good metaphor)

As everyone in the Lower 48 + Hawaii is finding out, the cast of characters in Alaskan politics is full of…well…characters:

Walt Monegan, the noble Police commissioner who said, “I’d gladly die for the governor, but I would never lie for the governor”

Chuck Kopp his non-vetted replacement who famously proclaimed, “I am not a sex harasser!”

Mike Wooten, the trooper in Troopergate who has a list of offensive deeds, but was axed by whom Palin wanted to axe for what many feel is personal revenge.

Stephen Branchflower, the rock solid non-partisan investigator, and Thomas Van Flein, his nemesis and the private attorney now representing Palin. Palin’s new private attorney.

And the whole supporting cast of children, children’s boyfriends, extended family, ex-coworkers, the almost fired librarian saved by the outraged masses at the last minute*, the fired police chief, and of course, Palin herself – the lip-sticked pit bull moose-skinning gun-toting mother of 5 (or 4 say some), who either rose like a star, or flimflammed her way to the top…depending who you ask.

But, yes, there is a whole political landscape outside the governor’s little world. There is big news developing with two of those characters who haven’t been discussed much lately – Don Young, and Sean Parnell.

Don Young. That’s him up there standing in front of the giant portrait of himself, wearing an Alaska state flag bolo tie. When people who don’t know about Don Young ask about Don Young, they are met with one of three reactions: the eye roll, the head shake/chuckle combination, or an expletive. It never fails. He is absolutely indescribable, but I’ll try. He is a cocky, loud mouthed, angst-ridden, bloviating, jaw-dropping bully. He looooves pork, and people that love pork, love him. He’s a porketarian of the highest order. His annual fundraiser is even a pig roast and he’s proud of it. The grill at the event is usually a $30,000 barbeque donated for the event by Veco corp, the now defunct oil services company whose president and vp have plead guilty to felony counts of bribery and agreed to dish the dirt on what feels like half the Republican politicians in Alaska…and one Democrat just for the heck of it. Many are either on their way, or already in prison.

Don Young himself is currently under investigation by the FBI, and has spent more than a million dollars from his campaign fund on lawyers and hasn’t even been indicted yet. All of this does not keep Alaskans from voting for him. He’s been holding Alaska’s lone seat in the House of Representatives since 1973, and most Alaskans just look upon him as an inevitability, like snow. He just keeps coming back, no matter what you do. And besides, we’ll overlook a lot, as long as we get our pork.

The last time Don Young was up for reelection, the Democratic challenger (a woman, and Alaska native) Diane Benson got 40% of the vote. While this may not sound like much in other elections, 40% against Don Young with a progressive female candidate on the ballot was huge. This proved that Young was vulnerable. Smelling blood in the water, hoards of lower level politicians began circling the wounded bloviator.

This time around, he may go down. State legislator Ethan Berkowitz, a rising Democratic star, stand a very good chance of unseating him in the upcoming election. Progressive Alaskans are doing the happy dance all over the state. For them, it is a dream come true. But…there’s one more hurdle to overcome. The hurdle is named Sean Parnell. Sean Parnell is what many like to call a ‘Palin-bot’. He shares Palin’s idealogy, and is “supportive” of her administration. Translated, this means whatever she says goes, and he doesn’t argue. Critics say he’s an empty suit and an empty head. He also doesn’t like to show up at debates, or give interviews…too uncomfortable (sound familiar?). BUT, he has Sarah Palin’s ‘full support’, which is enough for many in the state.

Berkowitz doesn’t fare as well against Parnell in the polling, and it might be a tight race if that was the match-up in November. Parnell might very well swoop into office exactly like Palin, by getting the anyone-but-the-incumbent-as-long-as-I-can-still-vote-Republican vote. That’s a big slice of the pie up here.

I went down to Convention Central at the Egan Center in Anchorage on primary night, just to watch the returns. And, as many predicted, the race of the night turned out to be Young vs. Parnell. We all bit our nails, drank $8 beers at the bar in the corner, chomped peanuts and watched the big board. At times there were only four votes separating the two candidates. Progressives stopped doing the happy dance and started worrying. Many Democrats and independents I know voted for Young, simply to assure that he would stay in the race long enough to be taken down by Berkowitz. (The Alaskan version of Rush Limbaugh’s operation Chaos, urging Republicans to cross over and vote for Hillary). They will be happy they did. At the end of the night, only about 150 votes separated the two candidates, with Young holding a razor thin lead over Parnell, and hanging on by his fingernails.

Then the absentee voting began. There were 25,000 votes to be counted. The result? After more nail-biting ups and downs and the Division of Elections working into the night, Young maintains his lead by a scant 239 votes. With still more absentee ballots to be counted from overseas, this is about as close as it gets. The last of the absentee ballots will be rounded up by Wednesday, and it’s anyone’s guess. There will likely be a recount.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that the Division of Elections is under the purvue of none other than…the Lt. Governor, Sean Parnell? Oh, it’s true. Who said life beyond Palin would be boring?

Now that you’ve welcomed a new Alaskan eccentric into your political world, please sit back and enjoy this little homage to Don Young from TPM Muckraker who refers to Young as a “one man mud wrestling match”. Enjoy.

*correction from previous post