Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pulse: First Swings at Palin

As soon as Palin's name was announced it seems like a number of people have shot off several initial problems. Berkeley Economist Brad DeLong's blog has been buzzing with a short list of problems and a long list of harsh critique. Like the claims being made, I think the bloggers, reporters, and commentary are a bit too quick on the draw for their own confidence; however, the true implications are yet to be seen.

I'll list the issues here and flesh them out below. For your own education, I suggest reading the past week and a half of DeLong's blog. It's okay to skim. Also check out Wikipedia's article on the "Bridge to Nowhere" and Palin's firing of the Public Safety Commissioner. They don't cover everything, but some of the basic, factual issues.

The first big issues is the firing. The claims are that Palin fired the commissioner for not firing her ex-brother-in-law trooper on "trumped up charges." Second, Palin was in support of the "Bridge to Nowhere," one of the biggest porkbarrel fiascos this decade, and is now parading that she was against it. Third and more generally, reports are comming in from Alaskan bloggers and reporters that McCain's campaign did not do any background investigation into Palin. Essentially he's going in blind on the second most important government official and his second in command.

The story on the firing is probably the most well-documented and contentious. There is ample evidence that the commissioner was pressured to fire the trooper. There were complaints lodged against the ex-brother-in-law trooper (by Palin family), and some of them were substantiated (a verbal death threat, illegally shooting a moose, and tasering his son [which he claims his son wanted to know what it felt like and he used the "training setting"]). The trooper was reprimanded and suspended for ten days. Nine months later, Palin is elected governor. In another month, the Palin family and gubernatorial staff began pressuring the new commissioner to have the Trooper fired, despite the fact that the only complaints in his file were those lodged by the Palins. Nothing happened with the Trooper as pressure continued. Six months into it, the commissioner was fired.

The state senate has since started an ongoing investigation which should present its findings before the election. The Attorney General also just finished an investigation into the situation revealing that Palin and her office did "improperly" speak of the trooper in one of the twenty-four instances recorded. Palin denies applying any pressure. The result was a two month paid leave for a gubernatorial official. I'm waiting for the senate's investigation before settling on a full opinion, especially since the timeline and quotes found on DeLong's blog indicate a much more troubling version than Wikipedia and the AG's report.

The second issue is the "Bridge to Nowhere." It was bridge designed to connect a 8,000 person town to the second busiest airport in Alaska (there's now a ferry that runs ever 15-30 minutes). The cost: over $400 million. I haven't looked up the actual value, but $400 million is enough. The Federal Gov. committed to picking up half the bill through Sen Ted Stevens. After the recent outrage over pork-barrel spending, the government gave Alaska the money, but did not earmark it for the bridge. What happened to that money is explained by the story of Palin.

Palin was governor at the time. She supported the bridge until the government pulled its earmark funding. After the pork-barrel outrage and funding changes, she did an about-face and spent the money for the bridge on other highway projects. The issue now is that she parades the fact that she was against the bridge as a part of her responsible government appeal. In my mind, it's riding the political wave and smoothing over inconvenient history through clear lying.

All of this ultimately points, for DeLong and detractors, to McCain's absolutely poor judgement and renegade temperament. During the investigations into Palin's background by bloggers and journalists, it keeps coming up that no one has asked for any of her records. Also, as soon as what has been called (lamely) "Troopergate" started coming out nationally, the McCain team immediately hit the ground in Alaska apparently to do
background research. Even in the reports given by major news outlets, McCain had only met Palin once before (and maybe once during) the Veepstakes and his staff met with her three or four times at most before she was selected. This is not the way to select the most important partner in this country.

The poor judgement has to do with not doing background research and selecting an apparently unvetted and unseasoned politician with little national or international experience. The renegade temperament is lodged for the seemingly hasty, intuitive choice contra the mainstream voices of who were fitting options. DeLong is putting as if McCain is not a maverick, but uncontrollably temperamental.

Like I said in the beginning, the truth of these claims and their import should be fleshed out in the coming weeks. I'll be there with more from the political pulse.

1 comment:

DirtyGaijin said...

I had heard snippets about both "Troopergate" and the "Bridge to Nowhere," so first of all thanks for clarifying a lot of that information, and providing links.

While like you I am not eager to jump to any real conclusions about Palin just yet, and willing to wait a few weeks for some more information to come to the front, I will say that I think choosing her is a huge shot in the foot by McCain. Unlike Obama, who by choosing Biden has shored up numerous supposed weaknesses (experience, international diplomacy, etc.), McCain hasn't really strengthened himself all that much with his VP choice. In fact, it may have even weakened him.

My first thought when I saw that Palin was the chosen running mate was that McCain was trying to pull the disenfranchised Hillary supporters to the Republican side, and he may very well snag a few. However, from what I understand, there was no real need to do this since they were Republican prior to Hillary's campaign, and would probably go back to their original loyalties. Not much of a gain.

McCain further ostracizes himself from the feminists due to Palin's anti-abortion and anti-sex education stances, and may negate any Log House Republican votes due to her opposition to gay marriage. If nothing else, she is more conservative than McCain, and I don't see that really helping an already very conservative candidate.

Any claims of Obama being "inexperienced" are now pretty much null and void, what with Palin's whole 20-month career as a governor. Her lack of any experience and links to possible corruption may even turn away some Republican voters, as they note that McCain is a 72 year old cancer survivor, and may very well have one foot in the grave already.

The only positive McCain has in choosing her that I can tell is it may pull some more right-wing Christian voters back from Bob Barr. Does anyone else have any solid ideas as to why he chose her?