Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Excellent Overview on Palin

The Corner points to an excellent overview of Sarah Palin's career in Alaska, placing in context how the various aspects of her life led her to this point, and what she has accomplished already.
Wasilla's population of 9,000 would be a small town in Britain, and even in most American states.

But Wasilla is the fifth-largest city in Alaska, which meant that Palin was an important player in state politics.

Her husband's status in the Yup'ik Eskimo tribe, of which he is a full, or "enrolled" member, connected her to another influential faction: the large and wealthy (because of their right to oil revenues) native tribes.

All of this gave her a base from which to launch her 2002 campaign for lieutenant (deputy) governor of Alaska.

She lost that, but collected a powerful enough following to be placated with a seat on, and subsequently the chairmanship of, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which launched her into the politics of Alaska's energy industry.

Palin quickly realised that Alaska had the potential to become a much bigger player in global energy politics, a conviction that grew as the price of oil rose. Alaska had been in hock to oil companies since major production began in the mid-1970s.

As with most poor, distant places that suddenly receive great natural-resource wealth, the first generation of politicians were mesmerised by the magnificence of the crumbs falling from the table. Palin was the first of the next generation to realise that Alaska should have a place at that table.

Her first target was an absurd bureaucratic tangle that for 30 years had kept the state from exporting its gas to the other 48 states. She set an agenda that centred on three mutually supportive objectives: cleaning up state politics, building a new gas pipeline, and increasing the state's share of energy revenues.

This agenda, pursued throughout Palin's commission tenure, culminated in her run for governor in 2006. By this time, she had already begun rooting out corruption and making enemies, but also establishing her bona fides as a reformer.

With this base, she surprised many by steamrollering first the Republican incumbent governor, and second, the Democratic former governor, in the election.

Far from being a reprise of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Palin was a clear-eyed politician who, from the day she took office, knew exactly what she had to do and whose toes she would step on to do it.

The surprise is not that she has been in office for such a short time but that she has succeeded in each of her objectives. She has exposed corruption; given the state a bigger share in Alaska's energy wealth; and negotiated a deal involving big corporate players, the US and Canadian governments, Canadian provincial governments, and native tribes - the result of which was a £13 billion deal to launch the pipeline and increase the amount of domestic energy available to consumers. This deal makes the charge of having "no international experience" particularly absurd.
Read the whole thing, of course.

This puts a whole new perspective on things. It deepens her reform agenda, and McCain's, because it shows that Palin has really led nothing less than a revolution in the way things are done in Alaska. And an overwhelmingly successful and popular one, at that.

Palin helps McCain again in precisely inverting one of the common slams on the Bush Administration -- that they were the servants of Big Oil, through and through. Well, in Alaska, Palin made certain that Big Oil served the people of Alaska.

A similar thing has occurred, interestingly enough, in Iraq. Prior to our invasion, oil served to benefit only a small elite around Saddam. Now the oil wealth is widely dispersed, being given not only to Saddam's Sunni Arab base, but also to the Shi'ites and Kurds who actually live above Iraq's largest oil fields. But I digress.

McCain would do well to take his cues from this article and better articulate just how revolutionary Palin has been in Alaska, and that he and his running mate intend to do the very same in leading the United States, not merely with oil but in making sure all energy sources -- nuclear, solar, wind and geothermal -- are rapidly and efficiently put into service to the American people.

I think that would be yet another devastating blow to an Obama campaign which has no practical experience in these matters, and whose policy prescriptions, while admirable, are almost entirely in the realm of government subsidies and government-funded research.

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