I was just doing a bit of reading about John “Yes, I’m that crazy” McCain’s pick for his running mate, Sarah Palin. (that is Newsweeks’ interview, here’s my previous coverage).
I was reading a bit about her fighting corruption and crime when she came into office, which is no doubt something many will claim to be a strength for her in the campaign.
Then I started to think a bit about Alaska, the type of people there, the type of government there, and a bit of the history of the place.
My general understanding is that Alaska is something of a strange place with a strange economy. With 1.1 people per square kilometer, it makes sense why. Wyoming is relatively bustling with just over 5 per sq/km. As a natural result of their low population (0.5% of U.S.) and huge natural resource reserves (+20%), they are swimming in cash, land, and privacy. Pretty much the opposite of the rest of the United States. As a “freak state” (like Hawaii) you have to have a valid U.S. passport to get there over land (thanks, Patriot Act!).
In such an environment the government functions more as a distributor of that natural wealth (which has quintupled in the last 6 years) rather than trying to make do with generated wealth. This can be a very corrupting environment, as we have seen in many oil-based economy driven governments. We can see that corrupting influence in action by taking a historical look at that maverick reformer from Alaska.
Stevens soon gained a reputation as an active prosecutor who vigorously prosecuted violations of federal and territorial liquor, drug, and prostitution laws, characterized by Fairbanks area homesteader Niilo Koponen (who later served in the Alaska State House of Representatives from 1982-1991) as “this rough tough shorty of a district attorney who was going to crush crime.” Stevens sometimes accompanied U.S. Marshals on raids. As recounted years later by Justice Jay Rabinowitz, “U.S. marshals went in with Tommy guns and Ted led the charge, smoking a stogie and with six guns on his hips.” However, Stevens himself has said the colorful stories spread about him as a pistol-packing D.A. were greatly exaggerated, and recalled only one incident when he carried a gun: on a vice raid to the town of Big Delta about 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Fairbanks, he carried a holstered gun on a marshal’s suggestion.
Yup, another gun-toting Alaskan, bringing law and order to the frontier. Who then became fat and happy and corrupt in an environment where the biggest debate is how big the checks are going to be from from the government.
So what does this say about Palin? Not much, other than that she is following the pattern.
What does this say about the pattern? That, I think, is the point.
Now someone could make the argument that Palin hasn’t been in Alaskan politics long enough to become corrupted by the twisted relationship relative to most government/governed setups. But we’ve already seen some evidence that she is willing to use her power to settle personal scores.
In 2005, Ms. Palin alleged to Mr. Wooten’s supervisors that he had threatened to harm her sister and father and had engaged in numerous instances of misconduct, including using a stun gun on his 10-year-old stepson, according to state documents.
In one instance, she told state investigators, she overheard him on the telephone threatening her sister: “I’m gonna f-kin” shoot your dad. He’s gonna get a lead bullet.”
Mr. Wooten told investigators he tested a Taser stun gun on the boy at his request but never threatened the Palins. An internal police investigation substantiated the stun-gun incident and some other charges but threw out most of the rest. Mr. Wooten was suspended for five days in 2006.
Through a spokesman with the Public Safety Employees Association, he declined to comment.
On July 11 of this year, Ms. Palin fired Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Mr. Monegan then complained that she and her husband had pressured him to fire Mr. Wooten.
Ms. Palin, in a statement, denied that, saying she had removed the commissioner she had appointed 18 months earlier because she wanted “a new direction.”
She said she will cooperate with the legislative probe, which is expected to be completed by November.
My guess is that the “probe” will complete sometime around November 6th or 7th. It’s an old school tactic, delay until after the election.
Given that in a year-and-a-half-of-executive-experience she has already shown some sides of abusing her power, is that really what the U.S. needs right now?