Sarah Palin is the darling of the dimwits. These well-intentioned Americans who see in her a better America they can understand are unable to discern that she is playing them through books and speeches to sell her brand of rugged individualism.
When Bill Clinton was in trouble, he appeared before a black church audience to play them for support.
The following e-mail circulated shortly after Gov. Palin rose to national prominence in the 2008 presidential campaign. Common sense could discern that she was another self-seeking opportunist masquerading as a public servant, a politician.
September 02, 2008
About Sarah Palin: an e-mail from Wasilla
A suburban Anchorage homemaker and activist — who once did battle with the Alaska governor when Palin was mayor — recounts what she knows of Palin’s history.
By Anne Kilkenny
Editor’s note:The writer is a homemaker and education advocate in Wasilla, Alaska. Late last week, Anne Kilkenny penned an e-mail for her friends about vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whom she personally knows, that has since circulated across comment forums and blogs nationwide. Here is her e-mail in its entirety, posted with her permission.
I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Gov. Sarah Palin since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first-name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99 percent of the residents of the city.
She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice for vice president and won’t vote for her can’t quit smiling when talking about her because she is a “babe.”
It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.
She is “pro-life.” She recently gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved here; Trig is her baby.
She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.
She is savvy. She doesn’t take positions; she just “puts things out there” and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.
Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her lifestyle ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.
Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.
Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time) and less than two years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents. During her mayoral administration, most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings, which had given rise to a recall campaign.
Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative.” During her six years as mayor, she increased general government expenditures by more than 33 percent. During those same six years, the amount of taxes collected by the city increased by 38 percent. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax, which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefitted large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.
The huge increases in tax revenue during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list, though — borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt but left it with indebtedness of more than $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? Or a new library? No. $1 million for a park. $15 million-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex, which she rushed through, on a piece of property that the city didn’t even have clear title to. That was still in litigation seven years later — to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5 million for road projects that could have been done in five to seven years without any borrowing.
While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once. These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.
As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as governor Sarah proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.
In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenue: Spend today’s surplus, borrow for needs.
She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits but on the basis of who proposed them. Page 2 of 3)
While Sarah was mayor of Wasilla, she tried to fire our highly respected city librarian because the librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the city librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the librarian are on her enemies list to this day.
Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of “old boys.” Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the city and as governor, she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal — loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the state’s top cop.
As mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s police chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a state trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than two dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.
She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town, introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal city administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness. Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.
When then-Gov. Frank Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil and gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job, which paid $122,400 a year, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this commission (who was also the state chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club,” when she dramatically quit, exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).
As mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Sen. Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.
As governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects — which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance — but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork.” She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The state party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.
Around Wasilla, there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah’s mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.
As governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.
(Page 3 of 3)
Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state initiaitive that would have either protected salmon streams from pollution from mines or tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on whom you listen to). She has pushed the state’s lawsuit against the Department of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as a threatened species.
McCain is the oldest person to ever run for president; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being president.
There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she. However, there are a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.
Claim vs. Fact
“Hockey mom”: True for a few years
“PTA mom”: True years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
“NRA supporter”: Absolutely true
Social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, but vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconsitutional).
Pro-creationism: Mixed. Supports it, but did nothing as governor to promote it.
“Pro-life”: Mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby but declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation.
“Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
Political maverick: Not at all.
Open and transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
Has a developed philosophy of public policy: No.
“A Greenie”: No. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
Fiscal conservative: Not by my definition!
Pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
Pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
Pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history. Pro-labor/pro-union: No. Just because her husband works union doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.
Why am I writing this?
First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name, you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.
Secondly, I’ve always operated in the belief that “bad things happen when good people stay silent.” Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.
Third, I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt. But I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.
Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the city librarian against Sarah’s attempt at censorship.
Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.
Caveats: I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending and taxation two years ago (when Palin was running for governor) from information supplied to me by the finance director of the City of Wasilla, and I can’t recall exactly what I adjusted for: Did I adjust for inflation? For population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall — they are swamped. So I can’t verify my numbers.
You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my “about 5,000″ up to 9,000. The day Palin’s selection was announced, a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-1990s.
Anne Kilkenny is a homemaker and education advocate in Wasilla, Alaska.
Sarah Palin: The Sound and the Fury
By Michael Joseph Gross• Illustration by Edward Sorel
Sarah Palin’s connection with her audience is complete. People who admire her believe she is just like them, and this conviction seems to satisfy their curiosity about the objective facts of her life. Those whose curiosity has not been satisfied have their work cut out for them. Palin has been a national figure for barely two years—John McCain selected her as his running mate in August 2008. Her on-the-record statements about herself amount to a litany of untruths and half-truths. With few exceptions—mostly Palin antagonists in journalism and politics whose beefs with her have long been out in the open—virtually no one who knows Palin well is willing to talk about her on the record, whether because they are loyal and want to protect her (a small and shrinking number), or because they expect her prominence to grow and intend to keep their options open, or because they fear she will exact revenge, as she has been known to do. It is an astonishing phenomenon. Colleagues and acquaintances by the hundreds went on the record to reveal what they knew, for good or ill, about prospective national candidates as diverse as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Barack Obama. When it comes to Palin, people button their lips and slink away.
She manages to be at once a closed book and a constant noisemaker. Her press spokesperson, Pam Pryor, barely speaks to the press, and Palin shrewdly cultivates a real and rhetorical antagonism toward what she calls “the lamestream media.” The Palin machine is supported by organizations that do much of their business under the cover of pseudonyms and shell companies. In accordance with the terms of a reported $1 million annual contract with Fox News, Palin regularly delivers canned commentary on that network. But in the year since she abruptly resigned the governorship of Alaska, in order to market herself full-time—earning an estimated $13 million in the process—she has submitted to authentic, unpaid interviews with only a handful of journalists, none of whom have posed notably challenging questions. She keeps tight control of her pronouncements, speaking only in settings of her own choosing, with audiences of her own selection, and with reporters kept at bay. (Despite many requests, neither Palin nor her current staff would comment for this article.) She injects herself into the news almost every day, but on a strictly one-way basis, through a steady stream of messages on Twitter and Facebook. The press plays along. Palin is the only politician whose tweets are regularly reported as news by TV networks. She is the only one who has been able to significantly change the course of debate on a major national issue (health-care reform) with a single Facebook posting (in which she accused the Obama administration, falsely, of wanting to set up a “death panel”).
Palin does not always treat those ordinary people well, however—it depends on who is watching. Of the many famous people who have stayed at the Hyatt in Wichita (Cher, Reba McEntire, Neil Young), Sarah Palin ranks as the all-time worst tipper: $5 for seven bags. But the bellhops had it good in Kansas, compared with the bellman at another midwestern hotel who waited up until past midnight for Palin and her entourage to check in—and then got no tip at all for 10 bags. He was stiffed again at checkout time. The same went for the maids who cleaned Palin’s rooms in both places—no tip whatsoever. The only time I heard of Palin giving a generous tip was in St. Joseph, Michigan, after the owner of Kilwin’s chocolate shop, on State Street, sent a CARE package to Palin’s suite, and Palin walked to the store to say thank you. She also wanted to buy more boxes of candy to take home. When the owner would not accept her money, Palin, encircled by the crowd that had jammed the store to get a glimpse of her, pressed a hundred-dollar bill into the woman’s hand, saying, “This is for the staff.” That Ben Franklin was the talk of State Street the whole rest of the day.
Warm and effusive in public, indifferent or angry in private: this is the pattern of Palin’s behavior toward the people who make her life possible. A onetime gubernatorial aide to Palin says, “The people who have worked for her—they’re broken, used, stepped on, down in the dust.” On the 2008 campaign trail, one close aide recalls, it was practically impossible to persuade Palin to take a moment to thank the kitchen workers at fund-raising dinners. During the campaign, Palin lashed out at the slightest provocation, sometimes screaming at staff members and throwing objects. Witnessing such behavior, one aide asked Todd Palin if it was typical of his wife. He answered, “You just got to let her go through it… Half the stuff that comes out of her mouth she doesn’t even mean.” When a campaign aide gingerly asked Todd whether Sarah should consider taking psychiatric medication to control her moods, Todd responded that she “just needed to run and work out more.” Her anger kept boiling over, however, and eventually the fits of rage came every day. Then, just as suddenly, her temper would be gone. Palin would apologize and promise to be nicer. Within hours, she would be screaming again. At the end of one long day, when Palin was mid-tirade, a campaign aide remembers thinking, “You were an angel all night. Now you’re a devil. Where did this come from?”
The intensity of Palin’s temper was first described to me in such extreme terms that I couldn’t help but wonder if it might be exaggerated, until I heard corroborating tales of outbursts dating back to her days as mayor of Wasilla and before. One friend of the Palins’ remembers an argument between Sarah and Todd: “They took all the canned goods out of the pantry, then proceeded to throw them at each other. By the time they got done, the stainless-steel fridge looked like it had got shot up with a shotgun. Todd said, ‘I don’t know why I even waste my time trying to get nice things for you if you’re just going to ruin them.’ ” This friend adds, “As soon as she enters her property and the door closes, even the insects in that house cringe. She has a horrible temper, but she has gotten away with it because she is a pretty woman.” (The friend elaborated on this last point: “Once, while Sarah was preparing for a city-council meeting, she said, ‘I’m gonna put on one of my push-up bras so I can get what I want tonight.’ That’s how she rolls.”) When Palin was mayor, she made life for one low-level municipal employee so miserable that the woman quit her job, sought psychiatric counseling, and then left the state altogether to escape Palin’s sphere of influence—this according to one person with firsthand knowledge of the situation. The woman did not want to be found. When I finally tracked her down, her husband, who answered the phone, at first pretended that I had dialed the wrong number and that the word “Wasilla” had no meaning to him. Palin’s former personal assistants all refused to comment on the record for this story, some citing a fear of reprisal. Others who have worked with Palin recall that, when she feels threatened, she does not hesitate to wield some version of a signature threat: “I have the power to ruin you.”
When I ask about Palin, though, a palpable unease creeps in. Some people clam up. Others whisper invitations to call later—but on this number, not that one, and not before this hour or after that one. So many people answer “Off the record?” to my initial questions that it almost seems the whole town has had media training. They certainly have issues with the press. Some tell of reporters who seduced them with promises—Don’t worry, I’ll make you look good—and then published stories that made them out to be hicks, stupid, less-than. “These were people we let into our house,” one Wasilla resident says. “We served them food.” But the real concern is with Palin herself—they don’t want her to find out they have talked with a reporter, because of a suspicion that bad things will happen to them if she does. The salty, seen-it-all bartender at one of the town’s best restaurants says, “I wish you luck—but I like my job.” Has Palin actually had people fired for talking about her?, I always ask, and the answer always comes, Remember that trooper? The reference is to Mike Wooten, a state policeman who fell out with the family after divorcing one of Sarah Palin’s sisters and ended up at the center of the scandal known as Troopergate. The Alaska Legislative Council found in 2008 that Palin “abused her power” as governor in attempting to get Trooper Wooten fired.
Even Palin’s strongest supporters say they feel confused by what their former governor has become. “She quit us,” says one Wasilla woman. “We elected her, and she left us,” says another. (“Sarah was my babysitter,” she later adds, as an indication of goodwill.) Yet they are too nice to turn me away, and they are too honest to completely suppress what they themselves feel unable to tell. After one local Republican delivers 90 minutes of uninterrupted praise for Palin, I ask whom else I should talk to, and the answer comes so fast it’s like a cry for help—which is how, the next day, I end up in the living room of Colleen Cottle, who is the matriarch of one of Wasilla’s oldest families, and who served on the city council when Palin was mayor. She says she and her husband, Rodney, will pay a price for speaking candidly about Palin. Their son is one of Todd Palin’s best friends. “But it is time for people to start telling the truth,” Colleen says. She describes the frustrations of trying to do city business with a mayor who “had no attention span—with Sarah it was always ‘What’s the flavor of the day?’ ”; who was unable to take part meaningfully in conversations about budgets because she “does not understand math or accounting—she only knows buzzwords, like ‘balanced budget’ ”; and who clocked out after four hours on most days, delegating her duties to an aide—“but he’ll never talk to you, because he has a state job and doesn’t want to lose it.” This type of conversation is repeated so often that Wasilla starts to feel like something from The Twilight Zone or a Shirley Jackson short story—a place populated entirely by abuse survivors.
Almost any small-town person who makes it big has some slight edge of ruthlessness, or an above-average ability to cut and run. The nickname “Sarah Barracuda” doesn’t come from nowhere, and Palin’s edge was always harder than most people’s. Her sense of entitlement, fueled by persistent feelings that she was underappreciated, came to full blossom in the heat of the 2008 race. In late October, when stories of Palin’s exorbitant campaign clothing budget surfaced, Todd Palin dismissed the criticism in an e-mail (subject line: “Cloths”) to several campaign aides: “How many fundraiser’s has she done for RNC, how much money has she raised and how much has voter registration increased for RNC since she was announced. So what if RNC purchase’s some cloths for her for the work she has done for the party.” Though the clothing issue has been discussed at length, internal campaign documents reveal new information that contradicts the account Palin has given. The shopping sprees continued through late October and were not, as previously claimed, mainly undertaken to clothe the family for the unexpected emergency of the Republican National Convention, in St. Paul. The number and range of items purchased for the entire Palin family—more than 400 in total—is mind-boggling. For Sarah, the campaign bought about 30 pairs of shoes, roughly $3,000 worth of underwear (including many Spanx girdles), a pair of Bose headphones costing more than $300, and even her incidentals and toiletries. Charging a campaign for underwear would appear to be unprecedented. A campaign e-mail shows that one of Sarah’s senior aides requested that an outfit be purchased for Bristol for her birthday, explicitly stating that the items should be charged “via the campaign.” Todd Palin received as much as $20,000 worth of clothing—a wardrobe that would last most men for many years, if not for life.
Why are you pretending to be something you’re not? That is the question so many Alaskans have asked this year as they’ve watched Sarah Palin travel the nation. According to almost everyone who has ever known her, including those who have seen the darkest of her dark side, Sarah Palin has a great gift for making people feel good about themselves. Her knack for remembering names and faces and the details of her interactions with people—and for seeming to be present to the person in front of her—constitute an extraordinary power of engagement. Now she is using that power in a fundamentally different way. In part she is using it in the service of her own ambitions. But she is also planting the idea with audiences that they might not be good enough, by telling them she thinks they’re plenty good, no matter what anybody else may say. (“They talk down to us… They think that if we were just smart enough … ”) To some, the message sounds like an affirmation. But is it really? Or does it seed self-doubt and rancor among her partisans, and encourage them to see everyone else as malign?
Those who once felt close to Palin have followed her public transformation with a confused range of emotions. The common denominator is sadness. “People who loved Sarah Palin are disappointed,” said one woman in Wasilla, “because they found out that Sarah Palin loves Sarah Palin most of all.”…