Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why Sarah Palin Quit: The Five Best Explanation

By JAY NEWTON-SMALL / ANCHORAGE Monday, Jul. 06, 2009

Sarah Palin, announcing that she is stepping down from her position as Alaska governor in Wasilla on July 3, 2009
Robert DeBerry / The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman / AP

When Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced her intention to resign on July 3, many assumed there must be a looming scandal. Why else make the surprise announcement late in the afternoon before the July 4 holiday — the equivalent of a news black hole — in tones that varied from angry to anxious? Palin even hauled her husband back from a commercial fishing trip to be by her side.

In the days since, however, it has become clear that no other shoe is likely to drop. No federal investigation or teen pregnancy or hikes along the Appalachian Trail. Alaskan politicos who have worked with Palin for years say her reasons for leaving are multilayered, and largely personal. Her unhappiness in the job came as no surprise in Alaska. In fact, given her history — and how miserable the past eight months have been for her — perhaps the surprise is that more people didn't see it coming. Here are the most important factors that Alaska insiders say went into Palin's sudden decision.

1. If It Worked Before, Why Not Try It Again?
Palin's 2004 protest resignation from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) catapulted her into the political limelight. Appointed to the AOGCC by then Governor Frank Murkowski, Palin quit when fellow board member Randy Ruedrich, who was also chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, refused to give up his party role despite what many saw as a conflict of interest. Palin accused Ruedrich of engaging in politics on government time, and he was ultimately fined $11,000 — the largest ethics fine in Alaska's history. He resigned his AOGCC post (he remains to this day head of the Alaska GOP). Palin was perceived as a whistle-blower, willing to call out her own party. Less than two years later, Palin won Murkowski's job. "She was going to stand up to the corrupt administration, she was going to expose wrongdoing, she was going to slay the evil dragon," says Larry Persily, a former Palin aide who now works for a Republican state legislator. "She knows how to position herself. She knows how to appeal to the public, and that was a great move."

In her announcement on July 3, Palin sought to portray her resignation in much the same way: a selfless act that should earn her kudos for saving taxpayers' money. "Many just accept that lame-duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck and milk it. I'm not putting Alaska through that — I promised efficiencies and effectiveness," she said. "I love my job, and I love Alaska. It hurts to make this choice, but I am doing what's best for Alaska."

Perhaps. But this time around, her motives don't ring as true. "In some ways, she is trying to repeat that feat," Persily says. "But there are some flaws in the argument. Under her thinking, every second-term governor or President was a misfit for staying in office because you can't run for re-election. That doesn't make sense."

2. Bye-Bye, Bipartisanship
At the start of her term in 2006, Palin's platform looked much more Democratic than Republican. She picked up on Dem calls for ethics reform and backed Democratic stands against oil- and gas-company interests. She made limited mention of abortion and other social-conservative issues. She would also visit the legislative offices, sometimes bringing fresh baked cookies and bagels. "I'm sure she visited some Republicans, but mostly the people she visited were Democrats," says Alaska representative Harry Crawford, an Anchorage Democrat who has known Palin for more than a decade. "With Sarah, we were able to do things that we'd been trying to do for 25 years. Everything she can point to in terms of achievements was done with nearly uniform Democrats votes and just a smattering of Republican votes."

But her vice-presidential candidacy remolded Palin in the eyes of Alaskan Democrats from a moderate willing to reach out across the aisle to a bomb thrower who accused Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists." As she became more partisan, she lost support in Alaska — her favorable poll numbers are now in the mid-50s, down from the 80s before she was tapped for VP. Without the Democrats, her agenda has gone nowhere, and she's now attacked from both the left and the right. "I saw her on the elevator in the beginning of session in January," Crawford says. "I said, 'Good afternoon.' She didn't even reply. She was standing there six inches from me, and she didn't say a word. We've hardly seen each other since. This was someone I considered a friend."

Other legislators lay the blame at the Democrats' door. "I believe the word came down from national Democrats to local Democrats to do everything in their power to take her down," says state senator Gene Therriault, a Republican who represents the town of North Pole. "We started seeing a proliferation of ethics complaints against her. It was an orchestrated effort to take her down." Either way, all sides agree that the relationship is irreparable.

3. Do-Nothing Governor
Palin knew that coming back to Alaska wasn't going to be fun and that she'd face a lot of criticism. Her response has been to withdraw. Excluding the budget and appropriations bills, which are mandatory, she has introduced next to very little legislation. In his third legislative session in office, Murkowski introduced 32 bills and saw 19 made into law. In her third session, Palin has introduced 12 bills — none that could be considered sweeping measures — and only one has made it into law.

But Palin has spent a lot of time saying no. She fought to reject federal stimulus money, even though Alaska's legislature is expected to override her final veto of 3% of the funds intended for Alaska. She also spent a great deal of effort trying to keep a Democratic representative from taking a vacant state senate seat. Juneau representative Beth Kerttula, a former Palin ally on energy issues, made the mistake of going on national TV and saying that Palin wasn't ready for higher office. Over the space of six weeks, Palin not only rejected Kerttula but every Democrat put forth by the Juneau Democratic Party for the vacant seat, bringing the state senate to a near standstill. On the last day of session, Palin finally accepted a neutral candidate, former Juneau mayor Dennis Egan. "The governor was on the brink of being taken to court in violation of appointment statutes," says senator Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat. "All because she was trying to rebuke Beth, who during the campaign said one or two things that weren't ingratiating to the governor."

4. Remember Me, America?
Meanwhile, Palin's attempts to engage on the national stage have flopped. Partly because Alaska is so far away, her trips outside the state were noticed by Alaskans, and may well have affected her ability to govern. When she nominated a highly controversial figure for state attorney general, for example, most members of her own party joined the vote to reject him. Palin might have been able to persuade them to support the nomination, but she was out of the state, speaking to a pro-life group in Evansville, Ind.

She has also found it increasingly difficult to campaign and fundraise for 2010 congressional candidates, and her Twittering from Wasilla is like shouting from the top of Mount McKinley for all that it's heard in the lower 48. The only news that does break through nationally are tabloid items like her fights with Levi Johnston and David Letterman. "I buy that you want to spend more time with your family, the stress and demands of five children and a husband. I can buy that you want to push your conservative agenda. I would buy that she thought that she could do more on a national scale because of her popularity and because of her Hollywood stature," says representative Charisse Millett, an Anchorage Republican. "But the lame-duck analogy — you don't do that. You don't quit the game. I wish that she could've been a better example for my daughter and Alaska's daughters."

5. Show Me the Money
Between her husband's income and her own salary, Sarah Palin is by no means poor. But the Palins have had to spend more than $500,000 to deal with the 15 ethics complaints filed against Palin by various outside groups in the past eight months. Palin has been exonerated in all cases, but Alaskan law states that she has to use her own money to defend herself. More cases were expected, which could've become expensive with four kids (and a grandchild) still living at home.

Quitting frees up her time for speaking engagements; politicians of Palin's stature get as much as $50,000 a pop. "I don't think Sarah Palin is a politician. I don't think she wants to be a politician. I think she wants to be an inspirational leader," says representative Mike Doogan, an Anchorage Democrat. "She has the opportunity to make a drop-dead amount of money in the next 18 months." Without resigning, she might have been looking at more than $1 million in legal fees over her remaining 16 months in office. Now she's looking at an unlimited, and very green, horizon.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Palin's speech had shades of Nixon, circa '62

By Andrew Malcolm and Johanna Neuman
July 5, 2009
The announcement by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that she was bowing out of Alaska politics on the eve of the Fourth of July left a lot of people scratching their heads. Palin's friends report that she is genuinely sick of the attacks that seem to be part of the fabric of national politics these days.

But Palin's hastily announced news conference also had all the earmarks of Richard Nixon's famous concession speech in 1962, after he lost the campaign for California governor to Democrat Pat Brown. Nixon's rant was also a last-minute affair. Reporters had been told that Nixon -- a former congressman and senator who served as Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice president from 1952 to 1960 and lost the 1960 presidential race to John F. Kennedy -- would not be making a public appearance.

Instead, Nixon surprised even his staff by taking the microphone and, at the end of a rambling, 16-minute discourse on national and state politics, he dramatically left the stage:

"I leave you gentleman now and you will write it. You will interpret it. That's your right. But as I leave you I want you to know -- just think how much you're going to be missing. You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference, and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you."

Like Nixon, Palin seemed fraught with emotion. Like Nixon, she seemed angry at her critics.

Of course to the surprise of his detractors, Nixon recovered. He spent the next six years stumping the country, piling up chits from grateful politicians who benefited from his endorsements, chits he cashed in during his successful 1968 run for the presidency.

Palin gave no hints of her future, except to say that a person can influence from outside the electoral process as well as inside the governor's office. Maybe Palin, who landed on the national political map in August when Republican John McCain plucked her from Wasilla, Alaska, as his vice presidential running mate, is planning to follow the Nixon playbook on that front too.

Fox News has Obama to thank

President Obama may be obsessed with the critical coverage of Fox News, as often reported. But the cable news channel sure must love him.

The latest ratings out for the second quarter show that the top-rated FNC had one of the best quarters in its history, with prime-time ratings jumping an astounding 34%. That 8-to-11 p.m. slot, which includes Fox's showcase "The O'Reilly Factor," is crucial for viewers -- and ad dollars.

Throughout the viewing day, Fox News did even better, with its 1.2 million viewers, on average, more than doubling CNN's 598,000 and more than tripling MSNBC's 392,000.

Loyal Ticket readers will recall back in May when White House official Kareem Dale revealed in a speech that MSNBC was the Obama administration's favorite TV channel. And that liberal affection seems to have rubbed off on Obama backers, helping the NBC outlet to barely squeak past CNN in weekday prime-time average audience, 946,000 to 939,000.

Will Lakers fans forgive Obama?

Chicagoan and basketballophile Obama appears to be writing off the California vote in 2012, at least the basketball fans around Los Angeles.

In a pre-holiday interview with the Associated Press, Obama was asked who was the better player -- six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan or four-time champion Kobe Bryant?

Without a moment's hesitation, the ex-senator from Illinois blurted out, "Oh, Michael!"

Then, apparently realizing what he'd said and the profound effect on any 2012 election, the new president hastened to add: "I mean, Kobe's terrific. Don't get me wrong. But I haven't seen anybody match up with Jordan yet."

Too late.

Obama correctly picked the Los Angeles Lakers to thump the Orlando whatevers in the NBA Finals this year. And he was also right in picking North Carolina to win the NCAA championship this spring.

But then he also picked tax delinquent Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services.

Now, we'll see how the left-handed White Sox fan does on the mound at the upcoming All-Star Game in St. Louis.

Neuman writes for The Times.

Rove: Palin part of 'risky strategy'

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's potential presidential rivals says her abrupt resignation won't allow her to dodge scrutiny over her family.
And George W. Bush's former chief political aide says Palin's strategy is unclear, at best.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Sunday that Palin's announcement that she is resigned while still in her first term doesn't make sense in a conventional political setting.
Bush's political adviser Karl Rove says Palin has engaged in a "risky strategy."
Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008, says he isn't sure if he'll run in 2012. He does say that Palin remains a viable candidate despite her decision to quit the governor's office.
Huckabee and Rove appeared on "Fox News Sunday."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.