What Alaskans Are Saying About Palin

By: - September 3, 2008 12:00 am

Sept. 2, 2008, 6:45 p.m. EDT
With the exception of Gov. Sarah Palin’s lawyer, it appears U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign staffers didn’t ask key Alaskans what they thought about the first-term governor before naming her his running mate, the Anchorage Daily News , The New York Times and others report.
If they had, McCain’s people might have heard something like this:

“She’s a total beginner on national and international issues,” the Anchorage Daily News wrote in an editorial , it’s her “one huge weakness.”

“Most people would acknowledge that, regardless of her charm and good intentions, Palin is not ready for the top job,” the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner wrote.

“At the national level Palin will have to be much more than a fresh and pretty face. Even in the next 24 hours she’ll need a boatload of schooling on a shipload of issues, and the savvy to convince others she really does know what she’s talking about,” The Juneau Empire wrote.

The Juneau paper continues: “For Palin and her handlers to say she’s reformed a corrupt political system in her first two years as Alaska’s governor is a stretch at best. So is saying she boldly bucked the influences of big oil in the state, and that she flatly said no to Ketchikan’s infamous ‘bridge to nowhere,’ that had been earmarked in the federal budget.”

The editorial writers also noted some serious political risks, among them an ongoing investigation into Palin’s termination of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Some charge Monegan was fired because he failed to bow to pressure from Palin’s allies to fire a state trooper who had a messy divorce from Palin’s sister.

“It’s a gamble that could pay off big, or it could be a bust of unparalleled proportions,” The Juneau Empire wrote of McCain’s choice.

The Fairbanks paper concluded, “It’s clear that McCain picked Palin for reasons of image, not substance. She’s a woman. She has fought corruption. She has fought the oil companies. She’s married to a union member. These are portrayals for campaign speeches; they are not policy positions.”

But all three papers say the attention paid to Alaska is good for the state.

And the Anchorage paper notes that Palin offers a compelling political image. “Palin is comfortable around guns and snowmachines and fishing boats. She has a son in the military, soon to be deployed to Iraq. Those nontraditional female credentials help communicate the toughness that Republicans want to project in their campaign. Her youth and good looks are a handy complement to McCain, who is the oldest first-time presidential candidate in U.S. history.”

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.