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letter to my family

Sent after receiving a link from my brother to the video of Palin addressing her church.

You know what?

My problem with Palin is not that she's a staunchly pro-life, creationist, climate-change denying, polar bear hating, Rapture-believing hard-right ideologue. In an ordinary election cycle that would be enough to turn me off, but after all, she's a VP pick, not a presidential one, and her main job is to be a benchwarmer against the possibility that something bad happens to McCain. Let's assume that (per Lieberman's urging on the teeve tonight) McCain remains hale and hearty throughout his theoretical presidency.

Furthermore, I think Bristol Palin's pregnancy is an irrelevant sideshow, aside from a little snarky schadenfreude about the limitations of abstinence-only education. I spent enough time in Montana to know that teen pregnancy just isn't as big a deal in places like Montana and Alaska, and if Bristol thinks she's ready to have a kid, that's her deal and more power to her. I think the Republicans have been dangling that story as bait in front of the dumber elements of the left, and to its discredit, a lot of douchey dudes on the left have gone for the bait with gusto. Same goes for Palin being a working mom. I'm all in favor of her dude taking care of the kids while she does her job.

Let's even leave aside the sad, pathetic spectacle of Steve Schmidt claiming that Palin's titular leadership of Alaska's National Guard somehow meaningfully amounts to experience useful on a global stage. And Cindy McCain's game but eyeball-rolling claims about Alaska's proximity to Russia (which, you know, gives Palin immigration experience too -- don't forget the Bering Land Bridge!). Let's just take them at their words that her "executive experience" is somehow more authentic than Obama or Biden's.

Here's some of what does really bother me (and you can ask Ali, it bothers me a whole lot): Sarah Palin ran for mayor of Wassila on an explicitly ideological platform, bringing in all kinds of culture-war baggage and Rovian campaign tactics. Seriously, imagine that a candidate for mayor of, oh, Aloha ran on a pro-life, evangelical platform and painted the opposition in starkly Manichean terms. It makes no sense. Culture-war ideology has nothing to do with the pragmatic, local concerns relevant to the governing of a smallish suburban community.

Then, once she was elected, she immediately set about purging the city government of people she felt were insufficiently loyal to her cause -- including the city librarian (for being hesitant to support Palin's effort to ban books) and the well-liked local chief of police. She explicitly said she was looking for personal loyalty from city workers. She was forced to partially back down on the purge after citizens rallied to the librarian's defense and (separately) started a recall effort. This all foreshadows Troopergate (which I'm guessing y'all have already heard about) pretty neatly.

Not to mention that she promised to cut waste while campaigning, but took a balanced city budget and left the Wassila government in hock to the tune of over $20M. The most expensive project she started was an athletic center on land with a murky title, and it's still not built (and already waaaaay over budget) today. And then campaigned against her own mother-in-law when she was term-limited out.

Then, of course, there's the way she's run the state as governor, which is better documented in the mainstream media. It's pretty clear to me that saying she's not corrupt by Alaskan standards is both strictly accurate and damnation by faint praise; she's on the record as supporting all kinds of earmarks that McCain explicitly opposed, and, among other things, used to run one of Ted Stevens's 527 organizations. The Alaskans I'm reading are pretty much derisive of her gas pipeline project, saying that she's devoted a ton of time, (other people's) money and energy to a project which is going to end up going nowhere. It's true she's made lots of enemies within the Alaska GOP, but that's largely because she strategically used her whistle blowing to further her ambitions, not because she was an anti-corruption paladin.

Not only that, there's the association with the Alaskan Independence Party. I know the RNC has documentation of her party affiliation throughout the 90s, but it's also documented that her husband was a member, and she did deliver a video address to their convention just this year. The AIP are lunatics, and do not differ in any substantive way from the Freemen and black-helicopter militias who were so entertaining and terrifying in Montana near the end of my time there. The very most charitable way to interpret Palin's flirting with the AIP is that she's dedicated to doing well for Alaska (especially the Wasilla Valley -- the only earmark headed for her home town that she's nixed as governor is a recycling center, which I find an amusingly telling detail) -- an interpretation that is boundlessly supported by almost everything Palin has said in public before about a week ago.

The picture that emerges is of an incredibly ambitious politician with a paranoid, defensive governing style, who prizes loyalty over competency, who does everything in her power to wield all the power provided by a unitary executive and then some, who is nearly totally parochial in her interests and seems to be seeking the vice presidency as much to bring home the bacon for her home town / state as anything else. And is, on top of that, someone with whom I disagree ferociously on pretty much every ideological and political issue that matters.

We've already had a vice president like that. For the last 8 years. His name is Dick Cheney. Palin is pleasanter, far less tempered by realpolitik, and less likely to tell you to go fuck yourself (or shoot you in the face), but I have no desire whatsoever to live in a country with another paranoiac control freak rampaging around the vice president's office, doing who knows what. If McCain and Palin win (assuming Palin lasts until November), I'm going to seriously start looking at Vancouver and Toronto again. And Ali (who I'm CC'ing on this) feels pretty much the same way.

That said, I think she was a disastrously bad pick for McCain for anything other than political reasons, and I'm reasonably confident (non-evangelical) voters will eventually figure out that the things she brings to the ticket have more to do with getting McCain elected (most notably by appeasing the evangelical hard right) than with making up a solid Republican government. I think this election's going to be a nail biter, but I'm pretty sure McCain and his team are going to make a few more fuckups like this (and make no mistake, this choice demonstrated that McCain is impulsive and reckless to a near-astonishing degree) and Obama and Biden will win.


Wow, that is scary. Thank you for doing the research. I had written her off as another dopey, lightweight, W-type ideologue, but the fact that she combines Bush's intellectual dullness with Cheney's paranoid power-mongering is now officially scaring the crap out of me.

The worst of both worlds, indeed. Perhaps she was created in a lab in 1964 from the seed of then 18-year old Bush and 23 yr-old Cheney, a la Twins.