Stevens and Begich on Palin. Two Bad Answers. One Hot Shower.

31 10 2008

I listened to the Senatorial debate last night, and expected that most of the questions and answers I’d heard before.  But Stevens’ recent conviction, I thought, might engender some interesting conversation.  The thing I didn’t expect was the two candidates’ take on Sarah Palin.

Remember, Sarah Palin, who launched her political career at the feet of Ted Stevens, and served as the Director of his 527 group “Excellence in Public Service, Inc” which could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors, has recently turned on her former mentor.  At first she was lukewarm in her condemnation suggesting that he “do the right thing.”  But 24 hours later, after her running-mate asked him to step down, Palin fell in line.  Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s other Type-A red-suited political woman of power, and Junior Senator for the state, is standing by her man.  She was even one of the speakers at Ted’s recent Welcome Home rally, urging Alaskans to vote for Stevens and give him a “hero’s welcome.”  And our other congressional delegate, Representative Don Young is saying that Ted didn’t get a fair trial.  So, although Palin fell in line with national Republicans, she went out on a Republican limb in the state of Alaska when she threw Stevens under the bus.

Apparently Stevens didn’t get the memo.  After endorsing her candidacy, and waiting unsuccessfully for Palin’s endorsement of his senate campaign, he had this to say about whether he thought she was qualified to be Vice President:

Tracy (moderator): Is Gov. Palin qualified, sir, as president?

Stevens: Yes she is. Yes she is. I think she is. She’s had experience as a mayor. She’s had experience, really, as a governor. And she is what I think the American women have sought for a long time, she’s another candidate for a presence of a woman in our national leadership. So I think she’s qualified and I think our people would like to see her become president… vice president.

I’d like to see her become president, as a matter of fact.

So, she’s qualified to be President of the United States because she’s had “experience as a mayor”, “experience, really, as a governor” and she is a “candidate for a presence of a woman in our national leadership.”  After a few moments of stunned silence, I started thinking about why Stevens said that.  To quote Dr. Seuss, “And I puzzled and puzzled, til my puzzler was sore.”

The only answer is that Stevens isn’t taking it personally.  He knows that Palin had no option with the national Republicans, and he’s willing to take one on the chin and still support his party.  He’s been around the block enough times in 40 years to know she’s not even close to being qualified.  But what’s the alternative – say she’s not qualified and risk his endorsement being the thing that makes Alaska go blue in the Presidential race?  He’d never live it down.  He’s a Republican through and through, even from the pavement under the bus, and even if it means Palin being President of the United States. 

Mark Begich had the opportunity to answer the same question.  Actually he had an opportunity before Stevens did.  Here’s how it went.

Moderator John Tracy: If elected, and if it becomes necessary, is Gov. Sarah Palin qualified to serve as president of the United States?

Begich: I’ve answered this question a lot of times. And my view is, the voters are going to make that decision. If she wins her election as the vice presidential nominee, as she is now, wins as vice president, come Nov. 4, that tells us she’s qualified.

Tracy: I’m going to come back. Sen. Stevens?

Stevens: Well I don’t understand your question in relation to his answer.

Tracy: Yeah, well I said I’m going to come back. But I’m going to give you a chance first.

You saw Stevens’ response above.  After he had his say (and left me slackjawed for a minute), Tracy came back to Begich.

Tracy: Mr. Mayor, I’m going to insist on a yes or no answer.

Begich: Well John, on this one I think, again, the voters are going to make this decision. I think she has proven that she has some strong mettle out there. She’s been out there on the campaign trail. I think that the issue that I have not heard a lot about is where she stands on a lot of foreign policy issues, domestic policy.

I’ve heard her repeat more of the McCain line, but I’m interested in what she’s about. I’ve seen some interviews with her, but they’re not in depth and so I can’t judge that at this point. What I can tell you is, she has made the nomination. She will be there on the ticket on Nov. 4. If she wins, I guarantee you that she’s going to have to be ready.
… Your theory there is something’s going to happen to Sen. John McCain if he’s president.

Carey: It’s not my theory. I simply asked you if you thought she was qualified to be president.

Begich: The President. Well, she’s running for vice president, and she’s on the ticket.

That was Mark Begich’s 162 word response to a yes or no question.  Now, I like Mark Begich, and I’m going to vote for him.  But, he’s not doing himself any favors with answers like this.  Mark Begich can’t really come out and say Palin is an incompetent and unqualified candidate in a state where 62% of the population still thinks she’s doing a good job.  And he can’t do what Stevens did and say she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread because everyone who works for him, campaigns for him, or is related to him would never speak to him again.   I get it.

But there were two appropriate answers to the question that would have done the job, and kept him from looking like a Class A weasel.

Answer #1:  You know John, I have to admit that I have some concerns, and I’m not the only one.  Many prominent national leaders from both sides of the aisle have concerns.  It shows we’re thinking, and it shows we care.  However, anyone who lives in Alaska knows that Sarah Palin is a determined, confident and talented person who has risen to challenges before.  CAN she do it?  I don’t have a crystal ball, but I remain hopeful that this would be a challenge she would navigate successfully if she were put in that position.

Answer #2:  (Holds up hand, palm out, laughing)  John, I’m not touching this one with a 10-foot pole! 

Either one of those approaches would have been better, in my humble opinion.  But Alaskans are tired of lying and partisanship (Stevens), and they’re also tired of tap dancing and non-answers (Begich).

There are no easy answers in Alaska politics, and sometimes the muck gets deep fast, both for those running for office, and for the rest of us trying to figure those people out.  So I’m going to take off these muddy boots, and get out of these wet things, and go take a nice hot shower.

 

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Interesting Show With Breaking News Today on KUDO 1080am.

31 10 2008

There is some interesting news regarding Troopergate fallout coming momentarily on KUDO! CC’s show starts in just a few minutes.

You can stream it live HERE.

Highlights:

*Sarah Palin claims that her first amendment rights are threatened because the media is criticizing what she is saying on the campaign trail. Interesting claim that the freedom of the press to ask questions of politicians infringes the first amendment rights of the politicians… (head is spinning)

*Ted Stevens claimed last night during the Senatorial debate that he “hadn’t been convicted of anything.” Attorney Meg Simonian explains that under sentencing guidelines, Stevens’ continued denial of responsibility for his actions could serve to increase his sentence.

*Juror #4, the one who left the Ted Stevens trial to attend her father’s funeral, is summoned back to D.C. to explain her actions. She was not able to be contacted at the appointed time to discuss if she would be able to return to the trial last Monday.

*Palin has waived her confidentiality in the Personnel Board investigation, to allow public scrutiny. However, the other members of her staff who are being investigated have not. Therefore nothing is being released to the public. There are no guidelines in existence to determine what happens when a group is being investigated, and only one member has waived this right.

The question is, WHY has her staff refused to waive confidentiality. Palin, up until the point she was tapped to be the VP nominee told her staff to cooperate with any and all investigations. We’ve been given no explanation as to why the staff isn’t waiving this right.

It’s possible that this is, of course, a big PR move so Palin can appear to want open, honest process while knowing all the while she wouldn’t be accountable because of her uncooperative staff.

BREAKING NEWS – PRESS RELEASE CALLS FOR APOLOGY FROM THE McCAIN CAMPAIGN

BIPARTISAN CALL ON McCAIN CAMPAIGN FOR APOLOGY

TO FORMER ALASKA PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER

Campaign Attacks Career Law Enforcement Office Called “Unconscionable”

ANCHORAGE – Today a bipartisan call was made on the McCain Campaign for an apology to former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. The bi-partisan call was made by former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Gail Phillips and former Senate President Chancy Croft. Both legislators expressed dismay at the negative characterizations made by McCain’s campaign staff that traveled to Alaska in September and October in an unsuccessful attempt to derail the Legislature’s bi-partisan “Troopergate” investigation. That investigation resulted in a report that was released, on a unanimous vote of the Alaska Legislature’s Legislative Council, on October 10, 2008.

Mr. Monegan, as conceded by Governor Palin in hiring him for the position, earned great respect throughout Alaska for his dedicated law enforcement work.

Former Speaker Phillips offered the following statement about Mr. Monegan, a former U.S. Marine, widely-respected career police officer, Anchorage Police Chief and State Public Safety Commissioner” “It’s unconscionable that an outside campaign organization which had no knowledge of the history, background or understanding of an Alaskan issue would come to our State to destroy the reputation and life of a dedicated Alaskan public servant, Walt Monegan. Senator McCain’s attempt to insert his campaign into action taken by the Alaska Legislature was wrong and poorly thought out.”

Former President Croft noted “Walt’s good reputation has become a casualty because of people who never met him, don’t live in Alaska and who valued political attack over honor. Gail and I are speaking for thousands of Alaskans of all political loyalties and we would like to help Walt get back his earned reputation for honesty and dedicated public service.”





The Veco Corruption Scandal. Who’s Next?

31 10 2008

New information and new names have surfaced in the Veco corruption scandal, that has been rocking Alaska’s political world for the past two years.  Bill Allen, former CEO of Veco Corp. made a deal to trade all the dirt in exchange for immunity for his son Mark, and others relatives involved in the scandal.  He had lots to tell.  Former lawmakers are in prison, and more are on the way.  The biggest fish ensnared in the net so far, of course, has been Senior Senator Ted Stevens, now convicted on seven felony counts.  But the FBI isn’t finished yet.

Newly filed court documents outline the extent of Allen’s initial revelations to the FBI, including his interactions with public figures that haven’t previously been reported — and who haven’t been charged.

In his first interview, the same day he learned of the investigation, Allen told the FBI about financial favors sought by and given to politicians.

Land deals were made, lawyers were hired, gas tanks were filled, floors were refinished, cash exchanged hands, pigs were roasted.

The new documents — summaries of Allen’s initial interview with the FBI and a subsequent interview — were filed earlier this month during the trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in Washington, D.C. The summaries were attached to motions filed by Stevens’ lawyers. The summaries recount what Allen told investigators, and make no attempt to verify his assertions.

The first interview occurred on Aug. 30, 2006, after agents brought Allen into FBI headquarters in downtown Anchorage and he agreed to cooperate. The broad, multi-faceted investigation into Alaska corruption wouldn’t become public knowledge until the next day, when federal agents swarmed legislative offices with search warrants. The FBI had been monitoring Allen’s phone calls for months.

Allen pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in May 2007.

One of the conclusions reached by Allen, was that Rep. Don Young, who is currently running for re-election against Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz, “couldn’t be bought.”  Interesting, considering that after the investigation of Allen began, Young tried to reimburse Allen for more than $37,000 in pig roast expenses for Youn’s annual fundraiser.  Yes, folks, the King of Pork had an annual pig roast fundraiser, paid for by an oil service company.  Perhaps they should have hired a skywriter to surmount the event with the words “INVESTIGATE ME!”   When Allen didn’t cash this belated reimbursement check, Young sent it directly to the U.S. Treasury.  Then he got out a “wet wipe” and tried to get all that pig money off his hands.

Don Young has spent well over a million dollars in campaign money on legal fees….and he hasn’t even been indicted yet.

The other notable name mentioned in the new paperwork is Ben Stevens, son of Ted Stevens.  I remember breaking the news to a couple people when Ted Stevens was indicted.  The response from each person was, “Wait….TED Stevens or BEN Stevens??”  Everybody was expecting Ben would be first.  There’s a lot to cover with Ben, but these documents talk about the fact that Ben was getting paid for a lucrative “consulting” position, even when he wasn’t “consulting.”

Bill Allen told Ben Stevens (president of the State Senate at the time), when he needed money, to bill Veco $10,000 a month.  Stevens stopped sending invoices after his Senate offices were raided.  Go figure.

Think of all this as “scenes from next week” in the never-ending saga of Alaska political corruption.

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Bed Time in Alaska – Open Thread

31 10 2008

On my way to work yesterday, I noticed an Obama-Biden yard sign I hadn’t seen before. It seemed strange that it was stuck there in a snow bank on the side of the road, because there was no particular house associated with that piece of land. As I got closer, I realized that someone had used a black Sharpie to put an “N” in front of Obama, and also had put a red diagonal line through the O. I pulled over, of course, yanked the sign and stuck it in the trunk. I thought about all the people that have been losing yard signs, and it made me mad that this one got destroyed.

Then, this morning, I found out that Spouse had been very clever, and using rubbing alcohol had managed to remove all traces of marker from the sign! It was as good as new! I wish I knew where it had come from, but since I didn’t….I now have an Obama yard sign! It has survived its first 24 hours without incident, I am happy to report.

So for all of you lamenting the loss of yard signs, maybe…just maybe…it’s in my yard!

Here’s a fun daily summary from TPMMuckraker. 5 days to go! Night all!





Rule #1 – Know Your Audience.

30 10 2008

Public speaking.  It puts fear in the hearts of many, but if mastered, it can be an invaluable skill and can launch wildly successful political careers.  And as any public speaker can tell you, the first thing to do, before putting pen to paper, is to know your audience.  Here are some helpful tips from “School for Champions.”

Your purpose in speaking to a group is to inform, persuade, or entertain the audience. Your motivation is to get satisfaction from expressing your ideas and getting recognition or applause from the audience.  In order to achieve your purpose, as well as to get the expression and applause you desire, you must satisfy the audience with something in which they are interested. Thus, it is important to know what your audience is interested in, what their expectations are and even what mood they are in.

Makes sense.  And I’ll bet it’s really helpful to know your audience when you’re speaking all over the country in different places, and to different people all the time. It’s a chance to make them feel special, and like you really care about them, and have bothered to learn a little something about their needs, and interests.  But, how do you know what your audience will be like?  How do you learn about them?

You can find out about the audience through research before you speak, through interaction at the beginning of your talk, and by making adjustments during the speech. 

Before you speak–and even before you prepare your speech–you should know what sort of audience you will have. What is the nature of the group? What do they expect to hear from you? Do they have any special interests or prejudices about which you should be aware?

Yes…research.  I bet it’s really handy when out on the campaign trail to have a crackerjack research team, so you know who you’re speaking to, and what sort of “special interests or prejudices” they might have.  Unless, maybe they took the day off, or maybe you think you know about sports geography on the East Coast.

Yes, that’s Sarah Palin today in Erie, thinkin’ all Pennsylvanians must just love those Phillies.  Errrr…. Big mistake.  But, if we’re feeling generous, we could remember that Alaska has no major league baseball teams, so maybe she just couldn’t believe that a tiny little state like Pennsylvania would have MORE than one, and that Pirates fans might not share the love.

But sometimes, no matter how many excuses you make for someone, the fact that they just aren’t thinking is hard to hide.  For instance, take Palin’s recent visit to a solar technology startup company in the battleground state of Ohio. 

Palin spoke after touring Xunlight Corp., one of a handful of solar technology startup companies in Toledo, a struggling industrial city in this swing state. The city’s leaders are hoping that the solar companies will create jobs to replace some of those lost by downsizing in the auto industry.

But Palin made only a passing reference to solar power in her speech and instead renewed her call for more drilling in U.S. coastal waters. She repeated her signature anthem, “drill, baby, drill,” which seemed to fall a bit flat on the audience at the plant even as it’s become a popular chant at her rallies.

I think I actually would have paid money to be present in the audience at a solar technology company, and hear Sarah Palin start chanting, “Drill Baby Drill!” 

Isn’t that right Toledo?!?  How ’bout them Phillies!?!  YEAH!!!

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Sarah Palin is a Socialist, and She Can’t Buy My Vote.

30 10 2008

Oh, how quickly they forget. While watching John McCain, and Sarah Palin decrying Obama for his “socialist” tendencies, I have found myself becoming increasingly amused. One of the things that defined Sarah Palin’s pre-VP candidate career in Alaska was the fact that nobody seemed to know what to make of her. I refer you to my comments on this, back in the beginning of June, 2008 titled “McCain’s a Greenie. Palin’s a Socialist. Hillary’s the President.”

I’m holding my sides laughing about the Newsweek article that has Alaskan’s all a-twitter, comparing Sarah Palin to Hugo Chavez. Having claimed my staunch neutrality about Sarah Palin, I’m enjoying standing in the middle of the swirling tornado that has become the Palin phenomenon and enjoying my popcorn. Is she a crazy creationist wingnut? A big business-hating, free-gas-doling socialist? A maverick hockey mom? The next Vice President? No one seems to know.

Obviously to regular readers, my “staunch neutrality” about Palin has gone the way of the Steller’s Sea Cow. (For you non-Alaskans; it’s extinct). I did not vote for Palin, but was willing to give her a shot. I like to think I’m open-minded. So, knowing what I know, and  all the recent “socialist talk” made me look up this old post, and I was amused.

I got my $1200 energy rebate check from Sarah Palin a couple weeks ago, and so did every other human being in Alaska.  This money, which came from the wealth of oil companies doing business in Alaska, got spread around by the Governor to help Alaskans defray the rising costs of energy that made the oil companies profitable enough to provide Alaska with the money for the rebate check that defrays the cost of energy…..(you get the circular idea).

At the Alaska Women Reject Palin rally here in Anchorage, a woman drove by as I was returning to my car. She leaned out of her window and said, “Are you going to get a $1200 check this year?” “You mean the rebate check? Yes,” I said. “So how can you hate Sarah Palin!?!” she quipped, looking angry and smug at the same time. “Are you going to SPEND it???” she spat. I said the first thing that came to mind, “Yes, I’ll probably donate it to the Obama campaign.” She screeched away. And I didn’t tell her the whole truth. I’ve actually spread my wealth around to lots of good progressive candidates, both in Alaska and outside.

It was an interesting exchange, though, and I’ve thought about it many times. I’ve heard other people use this logic, although not quite as directly. The basic question is “How can you vote against someone who hands you cash?” It’s really very startling. It presupposes not only that cash-in-hand is the ultimate goal we humans seek, but also that I am not making good on my end of this deal. I’ve been paid for my services, and now I’m not willing to deliver. Does this make anyone in Alaska who votes for Obama, a political prostitute who gets paid in advance, and then takes off with the cash without delivering the vote, thereby breaking some kind of implied, perverse, money-for-votes pact?  To the woman in the red car, apparently it does.

I’ve seen a few references in the mainstream media to Palin’s socialist tendencies, which is good. The fact that in a society that has public education, fire departments, public libraries, police service, Medicaire, and Social Security,  it seems odd to be having the conversation at all. But if Sarah Palin is going to use the term to cut down Barack Obama, she needs to be reminded that 12 weeks ago, she was being compared to Hugo Chavez by her own party, in her own state. And anyone in Alaska who IS voting for Palin because of that $1200 for every man, woman and child in the state, needs to come to terms and make peace with their “inner Socialist.”

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Ted Stevens Numbers Slide After Conviction

30 10 2008

The Ted Stevens/Mark Begich Senate race in Alaska was a toss-up before the jury came back with the verdict of guilty on all seven felony counts for failure to disclose gifts and services totaling more than $250,000.

And, despite the amped up, frenzied Stevens supporters who crowded into an airplane hangar for Stevens’ Welcome Home rally last night, the scale has started to tip decidedly for Democratic challenger Mark Begich.  It’s a toss-up no more.  It isn’t over yet, but Uncle Ted’s chances are looking pretty slim.

Rasmussen released the following numbers, taken the day after Stevens’ conviction.
Begich (D) – 52%
Stevens (R) – 44%
Bird (AIP) – 3%
Undecided – 2%

Only 74% of Republicans say they will vote for the nominee of their party while 21% of GOP voters will cast their ballot for Begich, the mayor of Anchorage.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of Alaska voters say Stevens should resign while 39% disagree. Republican leaders including John McCain, his running mate Sarah Palin, the current governor of Alaska, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have all called upon Stevens to step down.

Stevens is now viewed favorably by 43% of Alaska voters, down from 54% before the trial began. Still, even after the guilty verdict, 52% of voters say Stevens is about as ethical as most politicians. Fifteen percent (15%) say Stevens is more ethical than most of his peers while 31% say he is less ethical. These reactions say as much about perceptions of politicians as they do about Stevens.

This must explain why 51% of Alaska voters say that Sarah Palin is more ethical than most politicians.

Palin earns good or excellent reviews as governor from 61% of voters in her home state, virtually unchanged from polling last month. Eighty-five percent (85%) of Republicans and 59% of unaffiliated voters give Palin positive marks.

Overall, just 22% rate her job performance as poor, a figure that includes 44% of Democrats.

If this makes you want to bang your head on the desk….stop. Remember that Sarah Palin’s approval rating was hovering around 90% at one point. So, step back, and think of how it would look on a graph. Time on the X-axis, and favorability ratings on the Y-axis. After the third time I banged my head on the desk, a vision of this graph popped in to my mind, and I stopped. Once the fun of having a local politician on the national stage is over, and she gets back home, the numbers will continue to slide. Stay tuned.

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