Posted by: Michelle Mitton | September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin from an Inside View

Last Friday I did my little nod to the minor news of John McCain’s vice-presidential selection but I didn’t really say much. I’m not a political blogger, not interested in stirring up the deep feelings that political posts can produce, but I have received so many emails–even telephone calls–over the past week asking what I thought about Sarah Palin, if I knew much about her, if I could hand out a quote that might give voters an idea of who they were dealing with that I’m having a hard time keeping quiet.

First of all, it’s a little strange to see Alaska and our governor as the center of national attention. I don’t think we’d receive more attention if Japan decided to invade us up here–and the way the media are suddenly swarming over the town it’s as if we have been invaded by Nikon.

She’s our governor and we’re a pretty private people generally–why else does one move to Alaska? It’s far enough away that we’re a bit distant from the things that go on in the Lower 48 and to have the glare of the camera on our executive and her home town is a little unnerving. What if she pulls a Dan Quayle? It’s going to leave us looking like Hicks Supreme and we just don’t need more of that kind of an image–the duct tape is doing a fine job as it is.

So I’m slightly wary of what all this attention will mean for Alaskans in general and Alaska as a state though I’m not exactly losing sleep over it. Frankly, part of being Alaskan is caring very little about what everyone else might think of you when you show up to the party in Carharts.

Having said that the excitement that this surprise has generated here is palpable. We traveled through Wasilla last weekend and all along main street there were signs saying “Congratulations Sarah” and “We’re proud of our governor.” Not everyone voted her into office but you just can’t help but be a teensy bit proud that our star rookie has been called up from the Farm League into the Majors and will be pitching the opening game of the World Series.

What do I think about Governor Palin? I didn’t vote for her though I usually vote Republican. I wondered about how staunchly conservative she was, whether that conservatism would allow her to work well with the legislature and business communities and whether she had enough experience to handle the governor’s seat–oddly enough some of the same issues that have surfaced again this week.

I can say that despite my initial hesitation I soon felt she was doing an admirable job of supporting Alaskan interests and cutting wasteful spending. One of the more sensational items was the private jet purchased with state funds by our former governor Frank Murkowski, a former U.S. Senator who, after winning the executive position, appointed his daughter Lisa to take his place in the Senate despite first saying he had no intention of doing so.

Palin put the jet up for auction on ebay–a small issue but a symbolic one which was not lost on us. We’re just not the private jet kind of people and maybe if Frank hadn’t spent so many years living in Washington D.C. he’d have remembered that and not lost his bed in the Governor’s mansion.

Palin has stood up to her party when she disagreed, she’s stuck by her views and has generally done a terrific job in supporting the issues she believes in and has fought hard for the natural gas pipeline–probably the largest issue here and stands alongside opening ANWR in importance to Alaskans. She’s been able to set herself apart from much of the conservative status quo that has been Alaskan politics for a decade or two and has kept herself free from the corruption scandals facing some of our state legislators and even Senator Ted Stevens–probably because she’s really not like the “good ol’ boys” that have been running the show for a while here.

I have several friends who know her personally–including my father who worked with her when she was mayor of Wasilla–and all accounts say she is as personable, friendly and down-to-earth as she appears. I’ve read criticism of her that she’s somehow giving off a grand act, that her nod to Hillary and Geraldine Ferraro in her speech this week was affectation but I’d bet otherwise because not only is that not her reputation here but affectation isn’t something you get in Alaska much anyway. From what I’ve heard you could find Sarah Palin equally at home walking the streets of Juneau with her kids or riding the snowmobiles at her home in Wasilla–you won’t find her on her private Hawaiian beach or in one of her half-dozen country homes. Not unless perhaps there were moose to hunt.

When I found out Governor Palin was expecting her fifth child in March I tried to get an interview with her after the legislative session was over, there had already been tiny rumors about the possibility of her being a vice presidential nominee but few took it seriously. I figured if this really is a blog about motherhood in Alaska then some perspective about how it feels to be a mother and a governor might be very interesting but unfortunately she retired to Wasilla in peace to deliver her child without talking to me. Do you know how many times this past week I’ve agonized about the interview that got away?

Because of the things I’ve heard about her personality and character and the way she’s performed while in office I trust her as much as I’ve ever trusted any national politician before–and given the things that have come out about Congressman Don Young (R) and Senator Ted Stevens (R) it’s been hard to trust anyone and in fact this November I’m voting for Ted Stevens’ rival, Mark Begich (D), another mayor I trust. I feel that Palin will be prepared to do what she thinks is right and will be honest in her duties which for me is a selling point that trumps all others and has by and large been lost in Washington. You know, taking the “vice” out of “vice president.”

If “having experience” means living in the Beltway, going to the right parties and knowing how to play the Washington game then I’m thanking my stars that Senator McCain was brave enough to find someone who hasn’t been tainted by that environment. Let’s hope Governor Palin can keep all that she’s got going for her should the election send her to the capitol. To claim she has no experience merely ignores the work she has done in two executive positions and insinuates that both jobs are so easy and insignificant they don’t count. It ignores the work she has done with the major oil companies and Canadian government to bring about the natural gas pipeline and implies that one state is more important than another–that if she’d been governor of Nevada, Vermont or Arkansas that that would be something.

But the bottom line is that despite all the frenzy and hype over her family issues (and I ask you is there one amongst us who can’t pull out just as many crazy family stories about our own kin as the media has pulled out about the Palins? ) I say: If you agree with the McCain/Palin view of politics and the way they do business then vote for them. If you don’t, don’t. It doesn’t have anything to do with family sagas or whether or not she is well known or whether she has children or how she does her hair it’s about the choices she would make once in office and the way she has functioned as our governor satisfies me that she is capable of making those good and tough choices.

I’m voting for the Palin/McCain ticket–oops, I mean McCain/Palin–and no matter what happens in November Alaska is the only state that is guaranteed good news. We either get her for our vice president or for our governor so both ways I’m happy.

***

There’s one more day to win tickets to the Touchpoint Conference this month–see Wednesday’s post for details!

Sponsored by Rick Rack Attack–Vintage aprons that aren’t just vintage reproductions they’re vintage pieces.

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