Sarah Palin, con­ser­va­tive mav­er­ick

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

There is a great deal to ad­mire about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s run­ning mate and only the sec­ond woman in Amer­i­can his­tory to run for vice pres­i­dent on a Demo­cratic party or Repub­li­can Party ticket.

Mrs. Palin, a 44-year-old mother of five, now in her sec­ond year as gov­er­nor, is tremen­dously pop­u­lar in her home state. She has ap­proval rat­ings above 80 per­cent, and for good rea­son.

Mrs. Palin is a strong fis­cal con­ser­va­tive who shares, if not ex­ceeds, Mr. McCain’s determination to op­pose waste­ful gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­tures. She is pro-life and pro-gun (a life­time mem­ber of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion), and a stal­wart op­po­nent of tax in­creases. She has been un­afraid to fight cor­rup­tion or the ap­pear­ance of cor­rup­tion — even if it oc­curs in her own party.

Un­like Mr. McCain and the Demo­cratic Party ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Bi­den, Mrs. Palin sup­ports drilling for oil in her state’s Arc­tic Na­tional Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). But her will­ing­ness to chal­lenge oil-com­pany roy­al­ties in Alaska will make it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for the Democrats and lib­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists to dem­a­gogue against her when she sen­si­bly calls for more drilling.

Un­til Aug. 29, when he an­nounced the Palin se­lec­tion, Mr. McCain had been ex­pected to make a “safe” choice (i.e., a male politi­cian with with a great deal of ex­pe­ri­ence in Wash­ing­ton and/or the cor­po­rate world.) But the Ari­zona se­na­tor con­founded the skep­tics. His se­lec­tion of Mrs. Palin is any­thing but the kind of pre­dictable po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion that Wash­ing­ton politi­cians typ­i­cally make.

Mrs. Palin is a for­mer beauty queen, a high-school bas­ket­ball star, a marathon run­ner and a mem­ber of Fem­i­nists for Life, which works to make health care and child care avail­able to young stu­dents who be­come par­ents (thereby less­en­ing de­mand for abor­tion.) Her el­dest son en­listed in the Army on Septem­ber 11, 2007. Last April, Mrs. Palin gave birth to her fifth child, who has Down syn­drome. Sarah’s hus­band, Todd Palin, is a North Slope pro­duc­tion op­er­a­tor.

Af­ter a six-year term as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Mrs. Palin ran un­suc­cess­fully in the Repub­li­can pri­mary for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor in 2002. But af­ter los­ing, she was ap­pointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion, where she played a role in an ethics probe di­rected at the chair­man of the state Repub­li­can Party which ul­ti­mately forced his res­ig­na­tion from the com­mis­sion.

Mrs. Palin’s role in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion made her some­what un­pop­u­lar with the party lead­er­ship. But the pub­lic at large was a very dif­fer­ent story. In the spring of 2006, she op­posed in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Gov. Frank Murkowski, who had won five con­sec­u­tive statewide elec­tions, in the pri­mary and won hand­ily. In Novem­ber, she de­feated Demo­cratic for­mer Gov. Tony Knowles to win the gov­er­nor­ship.

Since her elec­tion to of­fice, Mrs. Palin has con­tin­ued work­ing to make things un­com­fort­able for politi­cians in the Repub­li­can Party on the is­sue of pork. With her en­cour­age­ment, Lt. Gov. Sean Par­nell chal­lenged Rep. Don Young, the state’s only con­gress­man for the past 36 years, in the Sept. 2 Repub­li­can pri­mary. Mr. Young, a long­time mem­ber of the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, is best known for his role in winning funds for the “Bridge to Nowhere” project in­side Alaska, which Mrs. Palin has crit­i­cized as an ex­am­ple of waste­ful spending.

With this kind of record, con­ser­va­tives are gen­er­ally ec­static over Mr. McCain’s choice of Mrs. Palin as his run­ning mate. Or­ga­ni­za­tions rang­ing from the Club for Growth to the Tra­di­tional Val­ues Coali­ton have is­sued state­ments prais­ing Mr. McCain’s choice. “Any con­ser­va­tives who have been luke­warm thus far in their sup­port of the McCain can­di­dacy will work their hearts out be­tween now and Novem­ber for the McCain-Palin ticket,” said Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union Chair­man David Keene.

Ap­pear­ing with Mr. McCain on Aug. 29, Mrs. Palin gra­ciously paid trib­ute to Geral­dine Fer­raro, the first fe­male Demo­crat to run for vice pres­i­dent, and Sen. Hil­lary Clin­ton as well, for their his­toric bids for the top two offices in the land. But in the hours im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the news of Mrs. Palin’s se­lec­tion, one lib­eral fem­i­nist af­ter an­other ap­peared on na­tional tele­vi­sion to dis­miss the im­por­tance of the Palin choice and com­plain that she is out of step with lib­eral or­tho­doxy on pretty much ev­ery­thing.

There still are a num­ber of ques­tions about Mrs. Palin — in par­tic­u­lar the fact that as gov­er­nor of Alaska, she lacks an ex­ten­sive pa­per trail of state­ments and op-eds on for­eign pol­icy top­ics — in other words, that she’s too much like Mr. Obama was when elected to the Se­nate less than four years ago. The up­side, of course, is that she also lacks a record of ill-con­sid­ered state­ments poor-mouthing the Iraq troop surge that have come from many of her crit­ics.

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