Palin vs. Murkowski….Another Epic Battle?

2 12 2008

athenaToday an article in Huffington Post has picked up on what could be, in Alaska, an epic battle come next year. In a tale worthy of Greek Mythology, Sarah Palin could be preparing to take on Senator Lisa Murkowski for her seat which becomes available in 2010.

Our story begins In 2002, when Frank Murkowski decided he’d had enough time in the Senate, and came home to Alaska to run for Governor. Murkowski, who had held the senate seat since 1981, won the gubernatorial bid. But who was to take his now vacant place in the senate? In his first wildly unpopular decision as governor, Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa to the seat. It also became increasingly obvious over time that Frank was not cutting the mustard. Gas pipeline debacles and battles with the Legislature caused his popularity to plummet like a lead balloon. Adding insult to arrogance, he purchased a private jet to fly himself around the state and elsewhere. There was a radio contest to name the jet, and the winning entry was “The Bald Ego”.

Here’s where you picture Frank in a toga, being fed grapes, and fanned by his staff. Every once in a while, he’d make some bombastic proclamation that made the villagers angry, but other than that he had a pretty good life up on Mt. Olympus. Now and then, he’d wave over to the next mountain top where his daughter Lisa was actually not doing such a bad job being a senator according to the villagers. She wasn’t quite so conservative, appeared to be more ethical, worked harder, and actually seemed to care. Go figure.

Then came a young upstart from one of those outlying provinces from whence heroes always come. She was young, ferocious, and beautiful, and she had her eye on that throne. It was promising to be an epic battle. Troops on both sides rallied. Murkowski’s minions dropped their wine jugs and their platters of figs, and grabbed up weapons. They looked at the rag-tag team of outlanders, and decided that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. All they had to do was keep the power they already had. They had the advantage. How hard could it be? But then the primary battle came, and in David vs. Goliath fashion, with one well-placed stone flung by her sling, Murkowski was struck smack between the eyes by the young woman from the village, and went down like a bag of dirt with a 19% approval rating.

After the stunned silence, the rejoicing began. We did it! One of US beat the grape-eating guy who was making everyone miserable! Sa-rah! Sa-rah! Sa-rah! And the Bald Ego went up for sale in the public marketplace, and Sarah reassigned the grape-peeler to another job, and the villagers loved her. They loved the idea of her. It was perfect. We needed a hero and we got one. Of course, over the months, many of the villagers began to see things they didn’t like. The new Queen started to pull people in from the obscure outlying province and put them in positions of power that they weren’t qualified for. People from the village started disappearing, banished to the hinterlands. She got rid of her humble toga, and started dressing more and more like a grape eater. She started visiting other kingdoms far away where people cheered for her, and attending parties far and wide, while her own kingdom suffered. Some of the villagers who were paying attention started to get a little nervous, and then a little disgruntled, and then downright mad.

But others remembered that humble young girl who flattened Murkowski, and refused to give up their dream. Heroes don’t come easy, and heroic tales must stay as they are written, otherwise it would just be too depressing. Alaskans have lost other heroes lately to greed and corruption and hubris, and this one would be just plain heartbreaking.

And now our Queen is looking around. She’s scanning the horizon, looking at other mountain tops, and new thrones, and new lands to conquer. She remembers Lisa, daughter of Frank the vanquished. Lisa rules the mountaintop over there, closer to all those parties, and cheering crowds. That throne might be nice…

But Lisa feels the gaze of the restless Queen, the one who flattened her father with a stone. She has been holding a white-hot hatred for the Queen who is now known as “Murkowski slayer.” It’s uncomfortable to live one mountain away from someone with that nickname when your own name is Murkowski. She’s been stifling her desire for vengeance, but this frontal assault on her own mountain would be just too much.

Murkowski says a run against her would be fraught with risk. If Palin lost, her stock would drop just ahead of a potential 2012 presidential run. And if she won, she’d be a backbencher in a chamber that is dominated by seniority — and would have to begin her presidential campaign as soon as she took office.

“If she wants to be president, I don’t think the way to the presidency is a short stop in the United States Senate,” Murkowski said.

Asked Monday to respond to Murkowski’s comments, Palin’s communications coordinator, Kate Morgan, said only, “The governor has never stated her intention or desire to run for that office.”

True, she has not stated her intention or desire to run for that office. But there’s an awful lot of activity on Mt. Olympus these days. The blacksmiths are busy, the horses are being counted, and the royal court has a strange glint in their eyes. And one thing we do know is that Queen Sarah’s restless nature is no longer content on her own mountain. Her destiny lies elsewhere. She likes the thrill of the battle, and the villagers know that Queen Lisa’s mountain is the most advantageous to conquer.

So what will the villagers do when 2010 comes? Whose side will they choose? The discontented villagers who’ve been paying attention to Queen Sarah and seeing the same arrogance and hubris that took down her predecessor will rally behind Lisa who has been doing better than her father. Others, who love their heroes, will remember how Lisa got to be Queen of her mountain, and they will remember her father the grape-eater with the jet, and the epic saga of the battle won for the people by that unlikely girl with the sling.

And others of us are still waiting for a brand new, and as yet unknown hero to arrive, and slay them both.

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Interesting Rumors from a Reliable Source…

22 11 2008

It’s a relatively quiet day on the Mudflats. That always makes me nervous. It usually means that shortly there are going to be so many things hitting the fan, I won’t even have time to cover them all. That’s been the pattern, anyway.

There’s a little fallout from Turkey Gate. New news is promised on Monday regarding the crazy Stevens trial revelations which one reader brilliantly described as “Dynasty meets Northern Exposure meets The Sopranos.” But other than that, not much news. This gave lots of time today for speculation about things here in Alaska. Will the Governor be running for Lisa Murkowski’s senate seat in 2010, or will she try for another term as governor? And WHO will rise up and run against her? Will Ted Stevens win his appeal? Will I actually be able to consume turkey this Thanksgiving after witnessing Joe the executioner and his cone of death?

But a couple hours ago, I heard a little sound…..a sound you can only hear when it’s quiet. Like a paper envelope being slid under a door. (OK, this happened via email, but it doesn’t make as good a story) Minding my own business, sitting at my rolltop desk, watching the snow fall, the sound made me look up. I turned around, and sure enough I spotted it – an envelope, face down on the wide plank entryway floor. I stood and hurried over to the door, flung it open, and looked right….nothing. Looked left….and I just about made out a glimpse of a black cape as it whisked around the corner and out of sight. Hmmmm. I thought about pursuing the caped stranger, but as I had just been blogging, and following the proper dress code rules, I was in my pajamas and didn’t feel like racing out in the cold.

“Mudflats”. Yes, it was addressed to me. I slit open the envelope, intrigued. No return address, and the letter was signed “A Reputable Source.” (That means I know who it is, but I can’t tell you).

And the contents of the mystery note? A clue. A clue, which addressed one of the very questions I had just been pondering, and it wasn’t the one about the turkey, which won’t be answered until Thanksgiving Day.

The question? Who will step up to be the dragon slayer in 2010? Who has the smarts, the experience, the integrity, and the chutzpah to go toe-to-toe with Sarah Palin, whether she runs for governor, or senator. And there was the answer, scrawled in unfamiliar penmanship – Democratic State Senator Hollis French.

Ahhh. This is good. He is very qualified, has an impressive resume, and is one of the White Knights of the Legislature. Before he gets the official Mudflats endorsement, however (not that this endorsement is particularly coveted), I’m going to wait and watch and see what happens when the Legislature meets again. They have much on their plates, and they need to know they are supported, but they have some tough decisions ahead and people will be watching.

I saw Hollis French on Thursday. He was on line at Costco. That’s why I love this state. Our representatives aren’t somewhere distant, holed up in a marble tower. They don’t seem alien and unapproachable. They are on line at Costco, buying fruit. LOTS of fruit. The man really loves fruit. So, when it becomes appropriate to send something to Hollis French when he becomes our next Governor, or Senator, I’ll make it a fruit basket, and make it under $250.





Alaska’s Senate Race – The Morning After

19 11 2008

Alaska has a Blue Senator. Mark Begich has won the election.

So where do we stand, and what does this mean?

Mark Begich – It means that Mayor Senator Begich gets to pack his bags and head to Washington DC, with his wife and son, to start giving progressive Alaskans and centrists, and people who don’t want a convicted felon representing them in our nation’s capitol, a voice. If he’s wise, and smart, he will take the Ted Stevens debacle as a cautionary tale. If he plays his cards right, he could be there for a long long time, but the Republican party will have him in their sights, and be watching for every little slip-up.

If the Democrats in the Senate are wise and smart, they’ll be really nice to Senator Begich and give him a couple nice feathers in his cap to wear home to Alaska. They know the kind of bombastic, blow hards Alaska is capable of sending to the capitol, and they probably don’t want it to happen again. And they sure don’t want Sarah Palin gunning for an open senate seat in 6 years. Mark Begich will be like salve on a wound for many who have had to endure Ted Stevens for decades.

Who will fill Mayor Begich’s seat after he leaves? Anchorage Assembly Chair Matt Claman. Matt just took over the chairmanship of the Assembly when a surprise progressive majority took over the paralyzingly conservative Anchorage Assembly that had previously been populated by junior versions of the aforementioned bombastic, blow hards. When the Assembly shifted to the left, Claman was chosen. I know Matt Claman and he’s a good guy. He lacks the extroversion and charisma of Begich, but his principles are sound, and he’s a concensus builder, and a rational thinker. He’ll probably do a pretty good job. He’ll be there until April, when the mayoral elections happen. He may decide to run for the position officially at that time. There are several others who have thrown their hat in the ring too. And this may cause some interesting wrangling, since one of those candidates is Assembly Vice Chair Sheila Selkregg. Today’s Anchorage Daily News has an interesting article on these behind the scenes goings on.

Sarah Palin – Well, God sent a message to Sarah. She said if God opened a door, even a crack, she’d “plow through it”. But tonight, when Begich won a clear victory, and the four decade era of Ted Stevens ended, the door firmly shut tight. She will undoubtedly be looking for another door. The three that may open up next are:

  • The Don Young Door – Congressman Don Young will be up for re-election in 2010, but may be out before then. He’s already spend a whopping 1.2 million dollars on legal fees in anticipation of his own coming indictment. Alaskans have been waiting for that shoe to drop for a while now….and it’s coming. It’s just a question of when. Look for headlines coming soon to a paper near you, now that Alaska politics has wormed its way into the national consciousness. But even if Young survives this, his 19th term in Congress, I don’t think Sarah Palin is gunning for his job. I just don’t think Congress is her style.
  • The Lisa Murkowski Door – Now we’re talking. Sarah unseated Lisa’s father Frank Murkowski when she became governor in 2006. This would be the second Murkowski trophy head on her wall. Murkowski hasn’t done a bad job in most Republican’s minds, but she hasn’t knocked their socks off either. It’s not a sure thing by any means that she’d be able to hold her seat against Palin. And the Senate, as we have just witnessed, can be an effective stepping stone to the Presidency, which is what Palin is gunning for in the long run. That’s the door she thinks God will open for her – the big fat door to the Oval Office. She’s “wired for the mission” and would be ready to run in 2012, or 2016.
  • The Direct Door to the Presidency – If Palin can hold on to office for another term, she may be banking on her national celebrity, and name recognition, and her Christian conservative buddies in high places to take her from the governorship to Pennsylvania Avenue…or so she hopes. She’s up for re-election in 2010. And who knows…she may feel fully qualified by that point to throw her hat in the ring anyway.

And what about Ted Stevens, and his suddenly awkward and very visible namesake – The Ted Stevens International Airport. Before we break out the chisels and hammers, the Anchorage Assembly and the Public Facilities Advisory Commission, and who knows who else, will have to do some political soul searching, and have lots of meetings.

Stevens’ legal appeal process moves forward, and he’ll fight tooth and nail, like he always does. And amazingly, he is still eligible, despite his seven felony convictions, for his senate pension of $122,000 a year, courtesy of taxpayers. Although there is a recently-passed federal law that prohibits felons from collecting on these pensions, Stevens’ particular felonies were not on the list, and they were committed before the law went into effect. Maybe next time.





Palin’s Audacity of Hype – Coming to a Bookstore Near You!

17 11 2008

Are you ready for the hard-bound copy of The Audacity of Hype?  Well, Sarah Palin may just oblige, at least, if the law allows.  Poised to rake in a cushy book deal of reportedly up to $7 million, Palin may have to weigh her options.  Alaska state law says that a sitting governor can only hold down one job.  So, “best-selling author” may be an illegal line on the resume…at least for the next two years of her term.

From TimesOnline:

She failed to save John McCainfrom presidential election doom, but Sarah Palin, the Republican senator’s controversial running mate, may yet emerge as the saviour of the American publishing industry. Literary agents are queueing up to sign her to a book deal that could earn her up to $7m.

With Barack Obama’s election victory certain to generate dozens of volumes from politicians, strategists and journalists – and with another shelfload of memoirs expected from members of President George W Bush’s administration – Palin’s personal account of her tumultuous introduction to national politics is widely regarded as the book most likely to repay a multi-million-dollar advance.

“She’s poised to make a ton of money,” said Howard Rubenstein, New York’s best-known public relations adviser.

[snip]

With publishers as nervous as everyone else about next year’s economic prospects, Palin’s popularity has become a boon. “Nobody is waiting for George W Bush’s memoirs,” one New York agent noted.

A provision of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act restricts outside employment. It says: “The head of a principal executive department of the state may not accept employment for compensation outside the agency that the executive head serves.”  So, it sounds like Sarah Palin must continue to live the ascetic life of a state governor, and forego the lucrative, glittering life of a celebrated author and multi-millionaire.

Not so fast…

It would mean this, IF you assumed that Palin thought that the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act was actually binding.  If you will recall, the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act is that very same act that was referred to in the Branchflower Report of the Troopergate Investigation by the Alaska Legislature.

Let’s see…..yes, it’s still right here on my desk…under….this pile of papers… (thumbing through).  Ah.   Page 8, section II – Findings: (clears throat and uses ‘official sounding voice’)

Finding Number One – For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.  Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides

“The legilature reaffirms that each public officer holds ofice as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust”

(Closes giant 264-page report)  So, there you have it.  If she feels comfortable violating THATone, then a job-on-the-side book deal is cake!  It shouldn’t be long before you can pre-order on Amazon.  I’m guessing it’ll be out in time for her 2010 bid for the Senate, when Lisa Murkowski comes up for re-election.

There’s only one thing that would actually make me buy this book, and it’s not going to happen.  I would consider buying the book if, and only if, Palin wrote it herself.  Or better still, if she dictated it verbatim.  I’d put it on my “humor” shelf, and use it as a constant source of entertainment.

But I have a feeling that once an editor (God help the poor soul) got finished with it, and removed all the “also”s and “too though”s, and the rest of the Palinese word salad, and created actual sentences, with subjects and predicates, and got rid of the syntax mutilation, there wouldn’t be much left to say, or much left to be amusing.  And I can imagine shocked colleagues walking into said editor’s office on Monday morning to find him/her lying on the floor, still seated in the toppled chair, gripping a red pen, and muttering quiet little word bits at the ceiling, staring upward with unblinking eyes, gazing into the literary abyss…”must shore up..work together…solutions also…energy independence…don’tcha know…progress the country…”

More likely, since command of the language completely eludes her, there would be a ghost-writer involved somehow, and that would just be no fun at all.





Mark “Stomach of Iron” Begich Speaks.

13 11 2008

begich-kos

Mark Begich made a radio appearance on the Ed Schultz show today. He sounded pretty confident, but not cocky. He’s been through this before. When he was elected Mayor of Anchorage, he won by 18 votes. So his current lead of 814 seems like a landslide! His strong showing in districts with military bases, and out in rural Alaska speak volumes, coming from areas that have traditionally gone to Stevens.

He also discussed Sarah Palin’s potential plans for the future, including either throwing her hat in the ring if Stevens wins and is booted out by the Senate, running in 2010 for the Senate seat currently held by Lisa Murkowski, or running for President in 2012. He also used the word “debacle” when describing the McCain-Palin campaign, which made me smile.

Begich picked up on Palin’s recent quote, “I am not one to appoint myself or a member of my family to take the place of any [Senate] vacancy.” As you all know by now, she couldn’t do that anyway because it’s illegal…but it was a pretty obvious jab at Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was appointed to that position by her father Frank Murkowski when he left his Senate seat to become Governor of the state. He’s the one Palin trounced in the primary when she ran for the position. She may have Murkowski #2 in her cross hairs.

Begich also mentioned that his need to keep his operation going an extra week or two, means he is still welcome donations to the campaign. So, if you want to help him keep the staff he needs to make sure that this counting process goes smoothly, and keep everyone running full steam until the vote is finalized, you can throw him a little love at www.begich.com

Donations big or small would be most appreciated, I’m sure.





So, What’s Next for Sarah Palin?

5 11 2008

palin-183

Sarah Palin has taken the collective soul of national politics, divided and conquered. In eight short weeks, a political unknown from Alaska went from hockey mom Governor, to national megastar, and finally came to rest with the simultaneous titles of “Conservative Rising Star” and “Most Feared Woman in America”. It’s been quite a ride.

Alaskans are sitting here wondering exactly what will happen. A political hush has fallen on the land. There’s been a lot happening up here while our Governor was whisked away to tour the nation, soak up the limelight in front of cheering crowds, and get a taste of political life outside her borders. She was confident, she told us. Confident in her readiness. She was wired for the mission. And no one who was paying attention would argue that point.

But, what IS the mission? When Palin was asked, months before her selection as the VP running mate for John McCain, if she was interested in the position, she came back with her now famous quote, “I’d have to know what it is that the VP does every day.” But, she then went on to say that she would need to know that the position would be “fruitful, especially for Alaska.” She finished up the interview by saying, “This job is pretty cool too.” That made Alaskans feel good. It made us feel like our Governor was special enough to be considered for a spot on the presidential ticket, but wans’t interested in all that. She was thinking of us first, and her commitment to the people of Alaska.

Then a strange transformation began to happen before our eyes. After the surprise nomination, and the subsequent campaigning, our hometown girl started acting differently. Maybe it was the crowds, maybe it was the taste of power, maybe it was Neiman Marcus. But suddenly here was our governor talking about expanding the powers of the Vice President, dropping tens of thousands of dollars in other people’s money on fancy clothes, smearing local politicians and public servants back home, and dropping hints that she’s entered the national scene and may not want to leave, at least for the long term. That was a lot to take for many Alaskans.

We sort of feel like the high school sweetheart whose steady girlfriend went off to the big city and found somebody better, somebody more worldly, somebody with more money, and dropped us like a hot potato. Only now he broke up with her, and she’s on her way back. Awkward.

It remains to be seen if Alaska, the jilted boyfriend will take Sarah back. There are lots of fences to be mended, and relationship counseling in our future. While there are many Sarah fans who will welcome her back with open arms, there are many who have turned their back, and others who feel downright vengeful. It will be a tangled knot to untie.

The Alaska Legislature upon whose bipartisan support Palin depended to actually accomplish things is now fractured. She never had solid Republican support, and depended heavily on friendly Democrats…friendly Democrats that she didn’t think twice about throwing under the bus during the Troopergate investigation. Keep in mind that when I refer to “the Troopergate investigation”, I mean the real one, conducted by the Alaska State Legislature. I don’t mean the one that Palin instigated herself, to investigate herself, to clear herself which was conducted by a 3-person board, appointed by the governor, that reports to Palin herself. Just so we’re clear on that point.

Chances are, too, that the very engaged, very motivated Obama supporters in Alaska were not too pleased with our Governor as she whipped crowds across the nation into a froth about their candidate “palling around with terrorists (plural),” resulting in shouts of “Kill him” and “Terrorist”. We now learn that Palin decided to bring Bill Ayers into the picture without clearing it with the McCain campaign, and that the Secret Service reported an upsurge in threats against the President Elect and his family right around the time that Palin began amping up the divisive rhetoric.

And don’t forget, Palin asked for Republican Senator, and Alaska political icon Ted Stevens to step down after his seven felony convictions for failure to disclose gifts on his Senate disclosure forms. This may seem like an eminently rational thing to do, but remember that Stevens is currently out front in this hotly debated Senate race. The results are so close, we won’t know for two weeks whether Alaskans have indeed elected an 84-year old convicted felon to the U.S. senate. But about half of Alaskans like him enough, despite that fact, to vote for him anyway. This is Stevens country, and Uncle Ted’s troops will be looking at Palin with a critical eye when she pops back into our lives, after shoving him on to the ice floe in front of the nation.

This is the new Sarah Palin, who went from an approval rating hovering at 90% after her election, to inspiring the largest political rally in the history of Alaska – not a rally to congratulate her, but a rally to demand that she come clean with her promise of “open, honest, and transparent” government. And then there was the second-biggest political rally – Alaska Women Reject Palin. And the third biggest – Alaskans for Obama. Any way you look at it, there is now a rabid, engaged group of considerable size that opposes Palin with every fiber of their being, where there used to be none at all.

But, this is also the same Palin who got a hundred or so supporters to line the streets in Wasilla before daybreak to wave signs as her motorcade passed on the way to the airport to join John McCain after she voted in Wasilla on the morning of the 4th. And this is the same Sarah Palin on the presidential ticket that won the state of Alaska handily, despite the amazing organization of the opposition.

Palin has sliced her state down the middle and polarized her constituents in a way that I would not have imagined possible just a few months ago. The majority of Alaskans still support her, but her negative ratings have soared as Alaskans and the rest of the country have gotten to know her, and her political life will not be the cake walk it once was. And there are many investigations, and skeletons in the closet that are just beginning to emerge.

As for her future aspirations? She refuses to give a clear cut answer about 2012, saying that “Oh, you know, it seems like so far.” But Palin has tipped her hand as a political opportunist, and as one who has tasted power, celebrity and adoring crowds, and she likes what she sees. How will she handle going back to li’l old Wasilla? It’s anyone’s guess.

Her next opportunity to move upward on the national politial scene comes if Ted Stevens is elected, and subsequently expelled by the Senate. She is not able to appoint herself or anyone else to the seat, but she is eligible to run for that seat in a special election. Failing that, the next window of opportunity comes in 2010, when Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is up for re-election, as is Republican Congressman Don Young. It is also the year she would run for her next term as Governor. There are many options, but there is a lot of ground to cover between now and then.

Has she so damaged herself politically in the state, that she will become an ineffective Governor, and one-term wonder? Has her foray into national politics captured the imagination of the people so much that they will want to see her back in DC, perhaps making her own presidential bid? Has the national Christian Conservative base found their dream girl? Or has the country, perhaps, in its landslide election of President Elect Obama shown itself to have evolved beyond the culture wars, and to have transcended the divisive politics of the past which Palin has now come to symbolize for so many.

It may be that Palin has found her national niche, but that this niche, with the help of a two-term Bush presidency and a weary nation, has proven too narrow to wield any actual power in turning a national election. Whatever the outcome, there is no question that Sarah Palin has been let out of the box.





McCain Asks Stevens to Step Down. Palin Tiptoes Through the Muck.

28 10 2008

“It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all.”

So says John McCain in a written statement. He joins ranks with other national Republican leaders in quickly distancing himself from the man who, as a former President Pro Tem of the Senate, was a mere two heartbeats away from the presidency.

Sarah Palin has stopped short of throwing Stevens under the bus. But she did stand there with her arms folded, shaking her head, and watching McCain throw him under the bus. Stevens might view this as “depraved indifference.”

I remember when Palin was running for governor. In the general election, she ran against former two-term Democratic governor (yes, we had one of those once!) Tony Knowles. Whose endorsement helped Palin, a virtual unknown, soar to victory over this battle-tried political veteran? You guessed it – Uncle Ted. It can be argued that Palin’s TV commercials featuring the Stevens endorsement, put her over the top.

To take a quick glance at Palin’s earlier political involvement:

Palin’s name is listed on 2003 incorporation papers of the “Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.,” a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. The group was designed to serve as a political boot camp for Republican women in the state. She served as one of three directors until June 2005, when her name was replaced on state filings.

So, one might argue that Palin’s political career had its start in the metaphorical living room of a convicted felon.

Remember that Ted Stevens was indicted on the charges for which he now stands convicted back in July of 2007. We knew this was coming. The FBI has a pretty good track record of conviction for Alaska legislators who have crawled in bed with oil services company, Veco. As a matter of fact, that track record is 100%.

Ever since that time, Palin has been trying to negotiate her relationship with Stevens. And he with her. Stevens has endorsed McCain and Palin. She has not endorsed him. Neither has she endorsed Mark Begich, Stevens’ Democratic opponent. Now that the verdict has come down, and Stevens has been found guilty of seven felony counts of failure to disclose gifts and services received from Veco, she has still fallen short of condemning him or asking him to step down.

She’s tiptoeing around the issue by saying:

“This is a sad day for Alaska and for Sen. Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. … As governor of the state of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I’m confident Sen. Stevens will do what’s right for the people of Alaska.”

Palin, if she does think there’s a reasonable chance that she will have to step down from her place on the national stage, and return to lowly Alaska, does not want to alienate the significant number of Stevens fans that still abound. And the Republican Party in the State has told everyone that convicted felon status should not affect their vote. So, taking the tough national Republican stand and demanding he step down would be burning a lot of bridges here in Alaska.

There has been some widespread speculation about what Palin will do if Stevens does step down, or if the Senate votes to remove him from his seat. Until recently, Palin would, as Governor, have been able to fill that seat with an appointment. But that is no longer the case.

In another bizarre chapter of Alaskan politics, the Frank Murkowski administration covered that one. Frank Murkowski was Alaska’s junior senator from 1980-2002. He decided to run for Governor, and won. That left, an empty senate seat. What to do….what to do…. Murkowski decided to fill the seat, as he was legally allowed to do at the time, with his daughter, Lisa Murkowski. There was a huge uproar. Cries of nepotism! Furious Democrats! Disgruntled Republicans who were vying for the coveted seat. Nobody was happy.

So, when the next election came, there was a ballot initiative which declared that it should not be legal for Governors to make Senatorial appointments. We had learned from THAT mistake. We’re not THAT stupid….no siree. However, at that very same election, the citizens of Alaska re-elected Lisa Murkowski. No, I have no explanation for that one.

This is one of those stories in which the post-election chapters will be far more fascinating that what’s happening now. Right now the national spotlight is shining on Palin and Stevens. But when the lights click off, the party goers leave, and we’re left with a sink full of dirty dishes and some half-inflated balloons, the true picture will emerge.

Uncle Ted is due back in the state tomorrow….to start campaigning. Let the games begin.

UPDATE:

Well, now, according to the New York Times, Sarah Palin has abandoned her thin veil of neutrality, and her red stiletto-heeled foot has met Ted’s butt. KATHUNK… That was the sound of Stevens getting booted under the Straight Talk Express bus.

“I had hoped Senator Stevens would take the opportunity to do the statesman-like thing and erase the cloud that is covering his Senate seat,” she said in a statement. “Alaskans are grateful for his decades of public service, but the time has come for him to step aside. Even if elected on Tuesday, Senator Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress.”

Guess she decided to burn those bridges to nowhere after all. There are many Alaskans who still stand by Stevens, and this will not play well to “the base.” Palin and Murkowski now stand firmly on opposite sides of this issue. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out.

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