Over the past couple of weeks a number of people—from friends to readers contacting me through this website—have called or written asking for my thoughts on Sarah Palin. Given that I wrote about politics and growing up in Alaska in Smile When You’re Lying, including a section about my time working as a staffer in the state legislature in Juneau, I suppose the queries are inevitable.
The comments below represent an amalgam of about ten or twenty emails I’ve dashed off in recent days. Since it seems pointless to rehash issues I’m sure most people have already made up their minds about—does Palin’s background make her more or less qualified to step into the presidency, etc.—I’ll try to inject one or two more overlooked items into the discussion.
My first reaction to Palin’s nomination remains my primary explanation for it: oil.
As anyone who has read chapter two of Smile knows, the government of the State of Alaska represents merely a confluence of oil interests (not just oil companies, but oil construction and supply firms, land holders, contractors, lobbying groups, etc.). As anyone who has spoken with me in the past eight years knows, I believe that the Bush administration is THE oil company in this country, that our federal government is essentially at this point run as a massive oil concern. Alaska is far and away the biggest domestic producer of and most important domestic future supplier of oil and natural gas. Thus, for THE oil company, a compliant Alaskan government ally is crucial to long-term strategy.
For those who might disagree with these statements, OK, but at least please spare me the “conspiracy theory” accusation—all of this oil-company profiteering under the guise of government is more of less being conducted in the open (if you don’t believe me, ask Alan Greenspan), which sort of takes the “conspiracy” part out of the equation. They named a state after Washington. They named cities and schools after Jefferson and Lincoln. They named a national park after Teddy Roosevelt. They named an aircraft carrier after FDR. They named a space center after Kennedy. They named a Chevron oil tanker after Condoleezza Rice. They name these things for a reason.
As a state bureaucrat and elected official, Palin is an oil flunky start to finish. (This assessment has nothing to do with her personal life or skills as a mother, issues I know and care absolutely nothing about.) Applied to Palin’s public record, the word “reformer” has as much credibility as “No Child Left Behind,” “Clear Skies Initiative,” “Mission Accomplished,” and “Country First.” Half of America seems to have embraced Orwellian doublespeak, but take even a cursory look and you’ll see it’s been business as usual in Alaska for the past two years. Record oil profits. Record payoffs to Alaskans to go along with the corporate-socialist program. A massive PR and lobbying push more development.
I’m not necessarily complaining about this. To me oil isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a political issue. It’s an economic issue and, perhaps sooner than we’d like, a survival issue for all of us. If given the choice, I’d say let’s not drill in ANWR. I dislike this incredibly stupid “Drill, baby, dill” mantra—the reality in Alaska, and one I think Palin might even embrace, is closer to “Drill, drill, drill, kill, kill, kill.” But at some point, I don’t think we’re going to have a choice about pulling more oil and natural gas out of there. It’s just going to happen. Insofar as elements necessary to sustaining “our way of life” and “our freedom,” oil ranks a very close third behind oxygen and water. I wish it weren’t true, but we need the stuff that much.
To me, these observations are pretty self-evident; which is why it continues to amaze me that I have yet to see any mainstream media put two and two together on the Palin pick. To paraphrase Slick William, “It’s oil, stupid.” Virtually every major issue facing this country can be reduced to oil dependency: Iraq, Iran, terrorism, national security, economy, gas prices, housing market collapse, decline of the auto industry, national debt, China as America’s banker overlord and economic and political threat, climate change … go down the list, it all comes back to oil. Empires fight over the most valuable and precious commodities of their times: gold, spices, land. Today it’s oil. What’s so hard to understand?
Given this pragmatic view of American politics, the Palin choice makes a certain amount of sense, assuming that you don’t mind having an oil company for a government. Unfortunately, I do mind. I think turning over our federal government to oil concerns has and will for decades have cataclysmic repercussions for Americans.
I no longer live in Juneau, but I’m up there a lot (as recently as two weeks ago, again in November), and still consider myself a Juneauite, if in self-imposed exile. Much is made of Palin’s vaunted popularity in Alaska, but she isn’t at all popular in the state capital, where she seems to have gone out of her way to make herself disliked.
In Smile I wrote, “It’s impossible for me to be civil about Anchorage given the fact that those scheming oil whores have been trying to steal the capital from Juneau ever since I was a kid.” In the roll call of contemporary schemers, Palin ranks first. Although Alaska voters have never approved a capital move (voter approval for capital relocation is required by Alaska law, per a measure called the FRANK Initiative), during her term Palin and her legislative cronies have been brazenly circumventing state law and the will of the people of Alaska by simply ordering the relocation of offices of commissioners and state departments from Juneau to Anchorage. Palin is the first governor to refuse to be inaugurated in Juneau. She is the first to convene a “special session” (to discuss, what else, oil) of the legislature outside of Juneau; a one-day session she then hailed as a precedent-setting success laying the groundwork for a new “legislative hall” she wants constructed outside of Juneau.
The idea is simple—remove the apparatus and employment and money from Juneau, but let the little town with the destroyed economy keep the star on the map as it dies away and is forced to further sell itself out as a theme park for cruise ship lines and plundering ground for timber and mining companies. That’s Palin’s idea of small-town values, but I suppose turning your back on something you supposedly believe in so strongly is a small sacrifice to make in order to make business easier for the oil concerns and lobbyists who own you and who have grown weary of doing business in the real Alaska.
If you need a start for daily newspaper stories about Palin ignoring the will of voters on this issue, start here: http://www.juneauempire.com/stories/021708/opi_247904221.shtml
Oh, and where would the new legislative hall for the state be built? If you guessed in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla (the latest capital move bill was introduced in the Alaska House of Representatives by her Wasilla Republican cohort Rep. Mark Neumann) you’d not only be right, you’d also be my kind of malcontent.
Barnburner that it is up north, the capital-move issue is not one likely to arouse the interest of many voters outside the state. But I bring it up for two reasons. First, to cop to my regional antipathy for Palin. More importantly, though, to provide a preview of what Americans might expect from an administration in which Palin holds the number-two post. Circumventing public will and ignoring the constitution and other laws is standard operating procedure for twenty-first-century Republicans. Nothing new there. Palin will fit right in. As I said, her nomination makes a certain amount of sense from a GOP standpoint. Just please don’t call her a “reformer.”
The other Palin issue is religion. As for all the Bible whomping, I have to admit that although I never much liked Palin, until recently I knew nothing about her strange rapture tendencies and belief that God Himself is laying plans for that natural gas pipeline across the state. But that is the way of these fake Christians who have taken over so many key government positions. Hide your true nature from the infidels (i.e., fellow Americans) who are your enemy, reveal your true self only to fellow “believers” and deceivers.
A day or two after the Palin pick was announced, I wrote an email to a friend saying that oil was the obvious reason she’d been chosen to run with McCain. I ended that email saying, “What confuses me is, why Palin? There are plenty of oil whores in Washington with much more experience and credibility than her. Why wouldn’t they have let a more known quantity supplicate the party to oil concerns?”
The video of Palin addressing her Wasilla church, asking the flock to pray for that natural gas pipeline, standing by while some nut job talks about Wisconsin and Alaska as prophesied “refuge” states for end-of-days crackpots, answered my questions. “Energize the base” is the latest code word for “pander to fake-Christian zealots while we pillage the treasury and retain power.” The strategy appears to be paying off. They’ve even got these people believing that “God” (whatever that means to them) is actually rooting for an unholy alignment of corporations and government and military to bring oil from the Middle East and Arctic to the United States to power our SUVs. Don’t these people even pretend to read The Bible anymore?
But the most mysterious thing about Palin—as incomprehensible to me as the theory of relativity and Tracy Morgan’s enduring popularity—is that a number of intelligent people who I know, respect, and in some cases love, actually intend to vote for her (not the top of the ticket). For years, I’ve worked in offices with unhappy, harpy co-workers (of both sexes) and their nasty harangues and mean little snide comments and lies about co-workers they don’t like and inferiority-complex disregard for education (if you support the American Veep contestant who disdains Harvard and went to five colleges in six years, dial 666 on your cell phone!) and the only thing they’ve ever got me excited to do was rush out the door at 5:30 and start drinking beers so I could forget for a few hours that I had to see them again the next morning.
Like what’s going to happen again in Ohio and Florida and, who knows this time, Michigan and Pennsylvania and wherever else the Democrats are characteristically ignoring, most of the back story surrounding Palin is a fraud. In other words, she fits right in. Now, please stop asking me about this. I can’t take much more of the fourth-grade “coverage” of this ridiculous bunch of people and a media that has somehow come to confuse “objectivity” with giving equal air time to actors who don’t even act well, allowing them to lie, cheat, and steal with zero accountability or retribution. I don’t want any more fights with good people whose point of view on this thing is as foreign to me as German opera. I’ve had a stomach ache since Palin’s “I’m running for student council so vote for me!” speech in Minnesota, and talking about this more isn’t going to change anybody’s mind. Or make the pain go away.