I declared "honeymoon over!" this week. So have a lot of other Alaskans. At the Mat-Su Democrats Egan Dinner last Friday, standing around talking afterward, one could tell, listening to Valley progressives and moderates who had had high hopes for Palin, that this past week marked a turning point.
I've never been in Saradise, like some of my progressive and moderate friends, but, up until this week, my admiration for Governess Sarah Palin's ability to learn from experience outweighed my skepticism about her ability to escape the demands of her political base to the point where she could set long-term policy on a rational base.
The first inkling, from my point of view, was when her administration stonewalled University of Alaska Anchorage Professor Rick Steiner, in his efforts to obtain documents from the state regarding the issue of dealing with the status of Polar bears. My first really sad moment was listening to longtime friend, Attorney General Talis Colberg on APRN's Alaska News Nightly, defending the stonewalling, and my other friend, Rick Steiner calling Colberg's stance on this "bullshit!" Steiner was right. And I could sense that - underneath Colberg's dutiful statement - that Talis knew Rick was right.
I've been watching this remarkable woman since she was on the Wasilla Planning Commission. Her move from there to the Wasilla City Council was made with the strong encouragement of the Mayor of Wasilla at that time, John Stein, a Republican. When Palin decided to challenge Stein for the mayor's job, I had my first chance to watch her "base" at work. Their issues were that Stein had introduced a sales tax, and that Stein's wife, the late Karen Marie, had kept her maiden name after their marriage. That was it. And - she won.
At that time, Palin used a lot of the same terminology in her public speeches that Vic Kohring used - very Libertarian. And, she used a lot of fundamentalist-evangelical code words. Early in her first mayoral term, Palin and I both had responsibilities at the graduation ceremony of a group of home schoolers. I directed the music there, she gave the commencement speech. In her address, Palin spoke of how "government schools" (a Kohring-inspired code word) were never the answer, that God must be an integral part of everyone's education, and so on.
I spoke to her afterward, telling her that I hoped she would come to realize that home schooling and parochial or private schools couldn't possibly be everyone's answer. She eventually came to rely upon the "government school" system for her own growing family. And, she used the money that came from John Stein's evil Wasilla sales tax to fuel her growing stature as a politician. And she did appear to be able to learn from experience, unlike most conservative Republicans.
Palin has, up until now, been lucky. She used the model city administration John Stein built to catapult herself into the public eye. She used the too obvious sleaze of the slimy Randy Reudrich to launch her "ethical maverick" image. She ran on that image precisely when the beginnings of the FBI GOP corruption scandal started to bloom. And she became governor right when Alaska's oil wealth once again - after 20 years of mostly limping along - became a HUGE factor in state budgeting.
For me, after the Steiner matter, the main reason I kept respecting Palin to a high degree, was her ability to marginalize the major oil producers here in the negotiations on how to build the natural gas pipeline. The major producers don't want the gas pipeline. But we need it.
Now, though, with her interjection of Hatfield-McCoy-style feuds into the political dialogue, during one of the most important special session of our state's legislative history, I've got to ask myself, as others have this past week, "Who is going to start willfully leaving this administration, and when?"
My only prediction so far is my friend the Attorney General. He's going to be under a lot of pressure to appoint a "special investigator" for "Palingate." Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell has hopes of leaving soon. In my book, he should have resigned soon after he declared his candidacy in the GOP primary for the AK-AL U.S. House seat. He was one of the people behind the scenes in the moves last winter to keep State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux from raising campaign funds while performing the duties to which she had been elected. But Parnell has been doing just that. For months.
The only major politician in Alaska smiling really big smiles over this is Don Young. I'm sure he's thinking that it is pretty hard for Sean Parnell to ride somebody's coat-tails when the latter has her butt caught in the wringer.
image of Sarah Palin yesterday - by Dennis Zaki