Before her selection as John McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin was an unknown “hockey mom” who hunted moose. On further investigation, America’s voters found that she was the governor of Alaska, a state of 627,000 residents, and the former mayor of Wasilla, a town of 7,000 (pictured at right). John McCain’s campaign was quick to point out that she has five kids and is such a fierce opponent of abortion that she knowingly gave birth to a Down Syndrome baby. She was head of a Christian group at high school and belongs to the Pentecostal Church of God. And, oh yes, she was also a former Miss Congeniality.
She was hailed by some as the perfect vice presidential candidate – fresh, tough, attractive in a robust, outdoorsy kind of way and unconnected with the power brokers in Washington. According to McCain’s campaign, she rose to power in Alaska by fighting corruption in her own party. She’s a maverick!
Well, America is finding out more about the 44-year-old candidate who could become America’s first female vice president (perhaps even president). For one thing, she isn’t just a moose hunter who would rather have a pipeline than polar bears. A wildlife group circulated a gut-wrenching video today showing the kind of aerial hunting that she encourages. According to the group, Governor Palin has:
– Proposed paying a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf
– Approved a $400,000 state-funded propaganda campaign to promote aerial hunting
– Introduced legislation to make it even easier to use aircraft to hunt wolves and bears.
How tough is that? Too tough for me – but there are those who find that kind of ruthlessness “appealing.” They argue that’s the kind of frontier fighter America needs to whip Washington into shape. But Palin’s credentials as a resolute crusader against Congressional pork barrel projects have now come into question. She presents herself as an opponent of Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” which McCain has repeatedly held up as an example of pork-barrel abuse. But she was for the Ketchikan’s Gravina Island bridge before she was against it. The Alaska governor campaigned in 2006 on a build-the-bridge platform, telling Ketchikan residents she felt their pain when politicians called them “nowhere.”
Also, Palin (with McCain at left) was lauded for her attack on Ted Stevens, a long-time Alaskan senator who is accused of taking favors from government contractors. But she accepted at least $4,500 in campaign contributions in the same fund raising scheme that led to Stevens’ indictment. The contributions, made during Palin’s failed 2002 bid to become Alaska’s lieutenant governor, were not illegal. But critics say she obviously isn’t averse to accepting tainted cash.
What I personally find more troubling is that her religious beliefs include the notion of a Holy War in Iraq. Addressing a graduating class at her one-time church, Wasilla Assembly of God, Palin asked her audience to “pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right.” She also asked listeners to pray for “this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”
As for the Constitutional separation of Church and State, you can forget about it. The Alaska governor further asked her audience to pray for a $30 billion national gas pipeline project that she wanted built in the state. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she said.
Her religion apparently does not rule out vindictiveness, however. Her dismissal of Walt Monegan, Alaska’s public safety commissioner, after he refused to fire a state trooper who had been married to her sister, has sparked a legislative probe. She is also accused of requiring public employees to declare their loyalty to her when she became the part-time mayor of Wasilla. When Police Chief Irl Stambaugh wavered, she gave him the boot. She also threatened to fire the city’s librarian for refusing to remove books that Palin wanted banned from the library but relented after her precipitous actions gave rise to a recall campaign
Then there was her reaction to remarks made by a radio interviewer about the state’s Senate president, Lyda Green, her bitter political enemy. Palin had no comment when radio host Bob Lester referred to Sen. Green as a jealous woman and “a cancer” (Lyda Green is a cancer survivor). And when Lester questioned Green’s motherhood, Palin laughed. She laughed again when he said, “Governor you can’t say this but I will, Lyda Green is a cancer and a b—-.”
Voters have also found out that Palin’s teen-age daughter is pregnant, which really has nothing to do with the Alaska governor’s fitness to be vice president – but it’s ironic that she opposes sex education and staunchly supports abstinence as the only form of birth control. It’s also ironic that as governor she cut state funding for unwed teen-age mothers.
McCain’s campaign insists the one-time sportscaster is a seasoned executive because she has been governor of Alaska for a couple of years (and mayor of tiny Wasilla). Both Barack Obama and Joe Biden are senators and have no governing experience, the campaign points out. But, when asked to describe Palin’s foreign policy experience, McCain’s spokesman Tucker Bounds could think of just one thing – that she was the commander of the state’s National Guard, a largely symbolic position that comes with being governor. That interview made McCain so mad that he abruptly canceled a scheduled appearance on Larry King Live as retribution.
Why do I have the feeling that American voters still have a lot to learn about Governor Sarah Palin? I know, they’ve learned plenty in just a few days, but I know there’s more. There has to be.
P.S. (Sept. 5, 2008): I knew there had to be more, and additional revelations can be found here:
It’s an email published in the Anchorage Daily News after being circulated widely on the Web. It was written by Anne Kilkenny of Wasilla – stay-at-home mom, letter-to-the-editor writer and longtime observer of Alaska politics – who has known Palin and followed her career for many years. I promise that you will find it enlightening.