Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin as Mayor

(Yup, that's City Hall, although the entire building's a bit bigger than this picture shows.)

The Washington Post has a good piece on Sarah Palin's career as mayor of tiny Wasilla, Alaska. It's well worth reading the whole thing, but here's a taste:

Since joining the Republican ticket, Palin has faced questions about whether she is qualified to be vice president or, if necessary, president. In response, the first-term Alaska governor and Sen. John McCain point to the executive qualifications she acquired as Wasilla mayor, a six-year stint from 1996 to 2002 that represents the bulk of her political experience.

Palin says her time as mayor taught her how to be a leader and grounded her in the real needs of voters, and her tenure revealed some of the qualities she would later display as governor: a striving ambition, a willingness to cut loose those perceived as disloyal and a populist brand of social and pro-growth conservatism.

But a visit to this former mining supply post 40 miles north of Anchorage shows the extent to which Palin's mayoralty was also defined by what it did not include. The universe of the mayor of Wasilla is sharply circumscribed even by the standards of small towns, which limited Palin's exposure to issues such as health care, social services, the environment and education.

Firefighting and schools, two of the main elements of local governance, are handled by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the regional government for a huge swath of central Alaska. The state has jurisdiction over social services and environmental regulations such as stormwater management for building projects.

We already covered the book-banning story in earlier posts. Meanwhile, this paragraph leapt out at me:

Palin took office as mayor in October 1996 with a show of force. She fired the museum director and demanded that the other department heads submit resignation letters, saying she would decide whether to accept them based on their loyalty, according to news reports at the time. She clashed with Police Chief Irl Stambaugh over his push for moving bar closing time from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. and for his opposition to state legislation to allow people to carry guns in banks and bars.

5 a.m.?!? That's a hard-drinking town (in an area dubbed the meth capital of Alaska a few years back). And gosh, what negative consequences could possibly result from people being allowed to carry guns into banks and bars?!? (Ah, in Palin's case, those "authentic small-town values" stand for far more than merely lying constantly.)

This story doesn't cover Palin's stint as governor, which is obviously relevant, but the idea that Palin's experience in any way trumps Obama's, Biden's, or McCain's has always been laughable (Hilzoy and Publiius hit the key points nicely). Meanwhile, we know from Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson that her knowledge and level of engagement aren't terribly high, either. We'll see how her charisma, crowd-pleasing lies and clear lack of fitness for VP play out in the coming weeks.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

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