Sarah the ‘Fiscal Conservative’ Comes Out of the Closet.

5 11 2008

‘If people knew how frugal we are,’ said Sarah Palin. She told Fox News that her ‘favorite’ store is an Anchorage consignment shop called Out of the Closet. That was how she defended herself from the accusations of an over-the-top shopping spree at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and other high-end clothing stores.

An article coming out in Newsweek tomorrow has more information from behind the scenes. According to the article, Palin spent far more on her family’s wardrobe than the originally reported amount of $150,000 that was reported last month.

NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin’s shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain’s top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family — clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent ‘tens of thousands’ more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide … said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.”

Newsweek reports that McCain rarely spoke to Palin during the campaign and aides kept him in the dark about the details of her spending on clothes because they were “sure he would be offended.”

An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast,” and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

While already being labeled as a “drag” on the McCain campaign, Palin may end up being her own worst enemy. She’s back home in Alaska now, and her antics on the campaign trail of this supposed ‘fiscal conservative’ will follow her. Not merely an obscure Alaskan politician who will fade into the woodwork, Palin’s unlikely celebrity will continue to fuel her coverage in the media over the coming months.

Expect Palin’s wardrobe, and other evidence of her fondness for suspect spending to come out of the closet. Pass the popcorn, and put it on my tab!

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Fellow Navy P.O.W. Speaks About McCain.

3 09 2008

Wow.

In addition to raising important issues of temperament, this also raises health issues that people may not be thinking about. My dad was a P.O.W., and I remember when he got ill during my childhood, my mother quoted his doctor as saying that after going through that experience, he “wouldn’t make old bones”. My dad passed away at 65. John McCain just turned 72.

McCain has said that sometimes he makes rash decisions, and that sometimes they come back to bite him, but he always takes responsibility and lives with the consequences. That’s nice, but what happens when it’s not just McCain, but the world that is asked to live with those consequences?

There has been lots of discussion about John McCain’s judgment in choosing Palin as a running mate. To be honest, I am still amazed that Sarah Palin actually accepted this position in the first place, and what it says about her judgment. I have mentioned before, that many Alaskans, including State Senate President Lyda Green (a long time critic of Palin) have questioned her qualifications to be governor. “She’s in over her head” was a common sentiment on the blog comments in the Anchorage Daily News well before the VP rumors began to swirl.

So, knowing that she was facing investigation, knowing that a significant chunk of Alaskans questioned if she was ‘over her head’, knowing that the media is ruthless in its ‘vetting’ process of candidates, knowing that Alaska is facing some pretty big issues of its own (new pipeline project), and knowing that every waking moment of her time will be spent trying to get up to speed while her family, her friends, and her town are put under a giant magnifying glass…she took it. Knowing that she has 3 school age children, a pregnant unwed teen and a special needs infant that will need a tremendous amount of love and care, she took it. Knowing that she’d only been out of the country once, in 2007, knowing that she held a journalism degree and has no foreign policy background or experience, and knowing that she’d have to be on national television debating Joe Biden, she took it. Knowing that historically, she has a statistical 1 in 3 chance of being the president of the United States by succession, not including the four bouts with skin cancer and the P.O.W. factor, she took it.

Would you have taken it? I’m guessing that most of us would think, “Are you kidding? No way!” And we would be right, and prudent, and we would be putting our country first.





Heading Home Through SarahLand.

1 09 2008

 

Last week - prescient black cloud appears over Republican booth at the State Fair

Last week - prescient black cloud appears over Republican booth at the State Fair

I’ll be heading back home to Anchorage today, and passing through Wasilla…Alaska’s new most famous (or infamous) small town and home of Governor Sarah Palin.  I’ve got camera in hand and will post a “Valley Gallery” tonight.  I’ve already got some great shots, and I think you’ll enjoy the virtual tour.

Just talked to a Valley resident who works for the state and is a registered Independent.  I asked, “So, what do you think of our new Veep candidate?”  The answer (after chuckling and shaking his head) “What a way to commit suicide.”  He’d just gotten back from the Alaska State Fair.  That’s where Palin was when she got “the call” from John McCain asking her to be his running mate.  The first run of McCain/Palin T-shirts were already sold out.  But there were a few bumper stickers left….right next to the ones that say “Liberalism is a Curable Disease”.  Nothing like a little brotherly love in the Alaska Republican booth.





Breaking News: Palin Says Teen Daughter is Pregnant

1 09 2008

The story has broken and we now know which version of “Babygate” is true.  Palin’s unwed 17-year old daughter is pregnant. 

Palin, who arrived in St. Paul today to accept the Republican nomination for vice president, sent out a joint statement with her husband, Todd.

“Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned,” they said. “We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.

“Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi’s privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates,” the Palin family statement concluded.

This confirms three very important things:

  1. Trig is Palin’s baby, and the strange strange circumstances of his birth (delivering a speech in Texas while in labor, and taking the prolonged two-pronged commercial airline flight during a high-risk pregnancy without notifying the flight crew, then driving past two hospitals in Anchorage to deliver in a facility an hour drive away with no neonatal ICU) are apparently true.  Todd Palin’s reason for making those potentially life and death decisions about his wife and unborn son?  “You can’t have a fish-picker from Texas.” 
  2. The fact that Palin had a 16-year old who got pregnant out of wedlock was presumably unknown by the McCain people.  After all, he only met her twice, and probably never met any of her children.  And it was obviously too much of a bother to vet the candidate and at the very least know in advance what kind of sensational and unwanted headlines might follow.  AND, Palin didn’t volunteer this information.
  3. Our Republican Vice Presidential candidate is a person of questionable judgment. I don’t think there are many out there who would disagree with this statement at this point.

So, in the first three days, she’s lied about saying “Thanks but no thanks” on the bridge to nowhere, and withheld information from the campaign she’s supposedly trying to help, that could be devastating to McCain.  At the very least, it sure doesn’t help.  What’s next?

As I said before, this may be the tip of our Alaskan iceberg.  There are ‘gates’ a-plenty out there that are just waiting for some pretty basic investigation to reveal their secrets.





What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective.

29 08 2008

Downtown Wasilla, Alaska

“Is this a joke?”  That seemed to be the question du jour when my phone started ringing off the hook at 6:45am here in Alaska.  I mean, we’re sort of excited that our humble state has gotten some kind of national ‘nod’….but seriously?  Sarah Palin for Vice President?  Yes, she’s a popular governor.  Her all time high approval rating hovered around 90% at one point.  But bear in mind that the 90% approval rating came from one of the most conservative, and reddest-of-the-red states out there.  And that approval rating came before a series of events that have lead many Alaskans to question the governor’s once pristine image.

There is no doubt in my mind that many Alaskans are feeling pretty excited about this.  But we live in our own little bubble up here, and most of the attention we get is because of The Bridge to Nowhere, polar bears, the indictment of Ted Stevens, and the ongoing investigation and conviction of the string of legislators and oil executives who literally called themselves “The Corrupt Bastards Club”.

So seeing our governor out there in the national spotlight accepting the nomination for Vice Presidential candidate is just downright surreal.  Just months ago, when rumors surfaced that she was on the long version of the short list, she was questioned if she’d be interested in the position.  She said she couldn’t answer,

“until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day. I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here….”

There is no doubt that Palin has fierce territorial loyalties.  When elected governor there was much concern because she came right out and said she would favor her own home town of Wasilla (where she was mayor) and its surrounding environs collectively known as “the Valley” while leading the state.  And it’s obvious from her statement that Alaska was on her mind when accepting the VP nod (see my emphasis above).

So what is it that we’re “trying to accomplish up here”?

  • Palin is currently in the middle of a controversial gas pipeline project in Alaska.  She’s favored the ‘Trans Canada’ proposal that will run the pipeline through Canada, in effect shipping US jobs over the border.  Many Alaskans, including former governors, have favored the “All Alaska Route”.
  • She is also suing the federal government over listing the polar bears as a threatened species.  The science was even compelling enough to convince the Secretary of the Interior that the bears needed to be listed.  But acknowledgement of this issue, and the potential disruption to development on Alaska’s oil-rich north slope spurred Palin to attempt to stop the listing.
  • Does she want to open ANWR?  Yes.  Every politician in Alaska wants to open ANWR.  It’s basically a requirement if you ever hope to get elected for anything.  Even Mark Begich, the progressive Democrat running against the indicted Senator and Alaskan institution Ted Stevens, is pro-drilling.  That’s the sea we swim in up here.  There are a few anti-drilling folks, but you have to look hard to find them, and work hard to have them admit it.

Will all this wash with voters in the ‘Lower 48’?  Time will tell.

18 Million Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

It was obvious anyway, but became beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-two-by-four obvious when Palin referenced the ‘glass ceiling’ line, that this choice is a blatant pander to women.  I would like to believe that women will actually feel insulted by this.  Yes, it would have been historic if Hillary had gotten the nomination.  It was historic that she made it as far as she did.  Yes, it would be great to have a woman in the oval office, or in the VP slot if they are the right woman…a woman who got there with her own drive, grit, determination, intelligence, skill and merits.  When you’re hand-picked by a man to win votes simply because you are a woman, that doesn’t count, and it doesn’t break any kind of ceiling.  Would we have had a Stan Palin as our VP pick?  No.  So choosing a woman because you think her gender will get votes is insulting.

Governor “Squeakyclean”….or not.

Another focus of Palin’s introduction today was her reform image.  Listen to John McCain and you’ll hear about a maverick reformer who took on big oil, took on corrupt Alaska politicians, and whose ethics are unquestioned.

Alaskans really want to like Sarah Palin.  In a state where corruption is the rule, and the same faces keep recycling over and over and over again like a bad dream, a new face, with a promise of reform seemed like a breath of fresh air.  Palin defeated incumbent governor Frank Murkowski (father of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski who he appointed to his own Senate seat when he was elected governor) because he was such an obnoxious, bloviating, downright BAD politician.  This staunchly republican state voted with relief, not having to cross over and vote Democratic, but still able to get Murkowski the hell out of office.  In the general election Palin swept into office running against a former Democratic governor, Tony Knowles, who was capable but came with baggage.  And he represented to Alaskans more of the same, tired old-style politics, and special interests that we have come to loathe.

So, if McCain had made his selection six months ago, the squeaky-clean governor meme would have made a little more sense.  But, Sarah Palin is currently under an ethics investigation by the Alaska state legislature.  The details of this investigation read like a trashy novel, and I suspect that the players will soon have new found celebrity on the national stage.  I’ll try to explain for all you non-Alaskans who suddenly have good reason to want to know more about Sarah Palin.  For those of you not interested in trashy novels, feel free to skip ahead.  Here it is…what we in Alaska call “TrooperGate”.

Sarah Palin’s sister Molly married a guy named Mike Wooten who is an Alaska State Trooper.  Mike and Molly had a rocky marriage.  When the marriage broke up, there was a bitter custody fight that is still ongoing.  During the custody investigation, all sorts of things were brought up about Wooten including the fact that he had illegally shot a moose (yes folks this is Alaska), driven drunk, and used a taser (on the test setting, he reminds us) on his 11-year old stepson, who supposedly had asked to see what it felt like.  While Wooten has turned out to be a less than stellar figure, the fact that Palin’s father accompanied him on the infamous moose hunt, and that many of the dozens of charges brought up by the Palin family happened long before they were ever reported smacked of desperate custody fight.  Wooten’s story is that he was basically stalked by the family.

After all this, Wooten was investigated and disciplined on two counts and allowed to kept his position with the troopers.  Enter Walt Monegan, Palin’s appointed new chief of the Department of Public Safety and head of the troopers.  Monegan was beloved by the troopers, did a bang-up job with minimal funding and suddenly got axed.  Palin was out of town and Monegan got “offered another job” (aka fired) with no explanation to Alaskans.  Pressure was put on the governor to give details, because rumors started to swirl around the fact that the highly respected Monegan was fired because he refused to fire the aforementioned Mike Wooten.  Palin vehemently denied ever talking to Monegan or pressuring Monegan in any way to fire Wooten, or that anyone on her staff did.  Over the weeks it has come out that not only was pressure applied, there were literally dozens of conversations in which pressure was applied to fire him.  Monegan has testified to this fact, spurring an ongoing investigation by the Alaska State Legislature.  But, before this investigation got underway, Palin sent the Alaska State Attorney General out to do some investigative work of his own, so she could find out in advance what the real investigation was going to find.  (No, I’m not making this up).  The AG interviewed several people, unbeknownst to the actual appointed investigator or the Legislature! Palin’s investigation of herself uncovered a recorded phone call retained by the Alaska State Troopers from Frank Bailey, a Palin underling, putting pressure on a trooper about the Wooten non-firing.  Todd Palin (governor’s husband) even talked to Monegan himself in Palin’s office while she was away.  Bailey is now on paid administrative leave.

As if this weren’t enough, Monegan’s appointed replacement Chuck Kopp, turns out to have been the center of his own little scandal.  He received a letter of reprimand and was reassigned after sexual harassment allegations by a former coworker who didn’t like all the unwanted kissing and hugging in the office.  Was he vetted?  Obviously not.  When he was questioned about all this, his comment was that no one had asked him and he thought they all knew.  Kopp, defiant, still claimed to have done nothing wrong and said to the press that there was no way he was stepping down from his new position.  Twenty four hours later, he stepped down.  Later it was uncovered that he received a $10,000 severance package for his two weeks on the job from Palin.  Monegan got nothing.

After extensive news coverage about all this nasty behind-the-scenes scandal, which is definitely NOT squeaky clean, Palin’s approval ratings fell to 67%, still high, but a far cry from the 90% number that’s being thrown around so glibly by the Republicans today.  Alaskans are quickly becoming disillusioned once again.

“Executive Experience”

Before her meteoric rise to political success as governor, just two short years ago Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla.  I had a good chuckle at MSN.com’s claim that she had been the mayor of “Wasilla City”.  It is not a city.  Just Wasilla.  Wasilla is the heart of the Alaska “Bible belt” and Sarah was raised amongst the tribe that believes creationism should be taught in our public schools, homosexuality is a sin, and life begins at conception.  She’s a gun-toting, hang ’em high conservative.  Remember…this is where her approval ratings come from.  There is no doubt that McCain again is making a strategic choice to appeal to a particular demographic – fundamentalist right-wing gun-owning Christians.  And Republican bloggers are already gushing about how she has ‘more executive experience’ than Obama does!  Above is a picture of lovely downtown Wasilla, for those of you unfamiliar with the area.  Behind the Mug-Shot Saloon (the first bar I visited when I moved to Alaska long ago) is a little strip mall.  There are street signs in Wasilla with bullet holes in them.  Wasilla has a population of about 5500 people, and 1979 occupied housing units.  This is where your potential Vice President was two short years ago.  Can you imagine her negotiating a nuclear non-proliferation treaty?  Discussing foreign policy?  Understanding non-Alaskan issues?  Frankly, I don’t even know if she’s ever been out of the country.  She may ‘get’ Alaska, but there are only a half a million people here.  Don’t get me wrong….I love Alaska with all my heart.  I’m just saying.

I, and all Alaskans will be interested to see how this whole process unfolds.  This is definitely a gamble for McCain, and in my humble opinion, a gift to Obama and to Joe Biden who just got thrown a big hunk of red meat for the vice presidential debate.

This is the wedge-issue, desperate ‘Hail Sarah’ pass of the McCain campaign.

Now I’m off to get some Jiffy Pop.





Palin’s VP Prospects Circling the Drain

21 07 2008

After much speculation about what Sarah Palin actually meant when she said the reason she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was to take the department “in a new direction”, the governor has finally given us an explanation. Unfortunately, the explanation is feeble at best.  At worst, disingenuous.

Apparently the ‘new direction’ involves increasing recruitment and dealing with alcohol and substance abuse problems in the bush. ……ohh kay….. how is this different? And how was Walt Monegan not doing this? Palin’s “new direction” is basically a carbon copy of material released by Walt Monegan and Colonel Audie Holloway at the beginning of the year.  In other words, the new direction is the old direction.

So, what does this mean?  Several things, potentially.

  1. The ‘new direction’ is a lame attempt to explain why Monegan got fired, when, in fact, his firing had nothing to do with direction, and everything to do with not firing Palin’s ex-brother-in-law and Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, despite being pressured to do so.
  2. The governor thinks we are not paying attention.
  3. The governor thinks we are not very bright.

So, what does the Legislature think of all this? Buckle your seatbelts Alaska, and prepare for…..another investigation.

Senate President Lyda Green (fellow Wasilla Republican and Palin arch-nemesis), and Senate Judiciary Chairman Hollis French  have said that an investigation is likely, and Senator Johnny Ellis stated this weekend, “There will be an inquiry. Any use of public position for personal use or gain is wrong. We will get to the bottom of it.”  Same story in the House.  And the House and Senate are talking about holding hearings regarding the Monegan firing.  It’s only a matter of time before the can is opened and the worms come out.

This investigation will have a slightly different flavor than the others to date. So far we’ve had investigations (with accompanying indictments and convictions) of state legislators, and of oil service execs. We’ve got investigations of our congressional delegation, and likely an ex-governor.  But now we’re going to have an investigation of not only a sitting governor, but a potential Vice Presidential candidate. Until now, Palin has been the darling of the right, and on McCain’s short list for VP running mate.   She’s cute, she’s tough, she wears red suits, she’s a social conservative, she’s pro-life, she’s a woman, she’s a hockey mom with 5 kids, and most of all she’s squeaky squeaky clean!  …  Uh oh.

Truth is, her reputation for sweeping the state clean of corruption, and restoring ethics and transparency to government was the foundation on which all those other things rested. Take that away, and  it all falls like a house of cards.  McCain isn’t considering her as a running-mate to secure Alaska’s three electoral votes, that’s for sure.  He wants her image. And now, that image is sullied, which means right about now her chances for the VP nod are circling the drain.  In this election, no one can afford to be linked to another corrupt Republican….least of all a corrupt Republican.

UPDATE:  The Anchorage Daily news has linked to an interview with Walt Monegan that aired today on KUDO 1080-AM.  More discussion on KUDO was promised for tomorrow.

UPDATE #2 8/29/08:

Let me be the first to say I was wrong.  The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s VP running mate proves how foolish I was for imagining that the Republican’s weren’t that stupid!





OMG!! Palin for V.P.!!! :)

2 06 2008

 

I don’t get it.  What’s with this groundswell of Alaskans who are so excited about the prospect of Sarah Palin being John McCain’s running mate?

There’s no question she’s a wildly popular governor.  I don’t remember what her last approval rating was… 80% ?  90%?  Something crazy.  So why then are all these people who are so ga-ga over the Gov, dying to get rid of her?   If she’s supposed to be the Salvation of Alaska, Murkowski-Slayer, and bestower of the glittering free-fuel debit card, then why are they so anxious to boot her out?  Then what?  Sean Parnell?  What if he wins his battle with Don ‘the bitin’ mink’ Young?  Sounds like taking what Alaskans seem to think is a good thing, and chucking it for a whole lot of uncertainty.

Is it because Republicans really believe that if Barack Obama gets the nomination, all the disgruntled Hillary fans will suddenly vote for anyone on either ticket who has ovaries and two X chromosomes?  And that would mean what….women don’t vote issues, they only vote gender?  A tad insulting.  I’m sure there are some women who can’t see past gender, just as some men can’t see past gender, and some whites and some blacks can’t see past race, but I don’t think Sarah Palin is the magic bullet that will restore the brand name of the Republican party to viability.  At least not with McBush heading the ticket.

I suspect it’s just the cool factor.  ” It would be so cool to have an Alaskan be the Vice President!  Wow!”  And isn’t that just sort of…pathetic in a way?  Like the mile long line when we open a K-Mart.  Are we really that desperate for something….ANYthing that will make us feel noticed up here? 

Mind you, the only tears I’ll cry if Palin leaves are the ones because John McCain would, by implication, be president. I doubt that’s going to happen.  But,  I’m not a huge fan of Palin, and I suspect that the longer she’s in office, the more her popularity will erode.  But it will be interesting to see this story develop.