“Special Needs,” McCain-Palin, & the 2008 Election

SEPTEMBER 19, 2008 3:26PM, from Salon.com
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I am the mother of a profoundly disabled little girl. She is five years old, does not walk nor talk, and has epilepsy that cannot be controlled with medication. Like many parents of children with disabilities, my husband and I had mixed reactions to the news that Sarah Palin’s son, Trig, had Down  Syndrome. It is a good thing to have prominent people acknowledge and embrace disability, and on that score, it was satisfying to see Trig on national television.

That sense of recognition, however, is mixed with serious doubts about Palin and very real concerns about the deference being accorded her as a “Special Needs” parent. First, my husband and I are long-time and committed supporters of Barack Obama.  Sarah Palin’s nomination as McCain’s Vice Presidential candidate did nothing but deepen our fears about McCain’s judgment–she is unqualified, belligerently ignorant of the policy and political landscape of the country, and, from recent reporting in the Washington Post and New York Times, an astute practicioner of the secretive, bullying, and punitive political methods perfected by the Bush-Cheney administration in the last eight years.

But equally troubling, to our mind, was the avalanche of commentary about Trig, and the plaudits Palin received from virtually everywhere for having borne her baby despite knowing ahead of time that he would have Down Syndrome. (Though she didn’t, according to her own words, tell anyone in her family about his disability prior to the birth, which strikes us as strange.) The implication offered by many—particularly among those for whom opposition to abortion is inseparable from religious confession—is that in giving birth to Trig, Palin had done God’s work.

From our point of view, however, giving birth to a special needs child is no more God’s work than having a “normal” child.  Sarah Palin made a decision to go to term with her pregnancy. Frankly had she chosen the alternative, she would be a rank hypocrite given her absolutist pro-life beliefs. But there is nothing about the birth of Trig that is more noble than the births of the other four Palin children.

Once a child takes first breath, the responsibilities of a parent to nurture and protect take over with considerable urgency. Some undertake these responsibilities well; others do not. Sarah Palin may be a wonderful parent and have a loving family. But she has not earned the right to be regaled as exceptional simply for loving and caring for her youngest child. With the exception of those who adopt children with disabilities, parents of special needs children do not choose this “vocation.” Nor does having such a child bestow special grace upon mother and father.

We notice another feature of this discussion, as well, one that parallels our experience day-to-day. It is interesting how well-meaning, able bodied-and-brained people struggle for comfortable ground when confronted with the implications of parenting kids with disabilities. For many observers, the birth of a child with special needs transforms parenting into something heroic in which parents embody selfless sacrifice. We suspect this is because physical and mental disability in a child is often so unimaginable, so frightening, and so messy to those on the outside that there is a distancing that takes place. Safely self-identified as “not able to do that,” one can stand back and admire the super-hero parent who has got it all under control.

Perhaps understandably, praise and admiration may substitue for nitty-gritty engagement and investment in what it really takes to raise a child with disabilities–and for getting inside the truly conflicted feelings many parents have about doing it. There is much that we do that is selfless (as with other parents), but there is also much that we struggle with, cry over, and regret. Ultimately, parenting a special needs child is a profoundly humbling experience. It forces a renunciation of the vanity of viewing your children as exemplars of your own special virtues. Perhaps this is the thing that sticks in our craws so much about Sarah Palin, who appears to have transformed one form of vanity about one’s children into another.

So, it’s true–we aren’t like everybody else. But the difference is not a matter of heroism and sacrifice. And it’s not just a matter of giving birth. It’s the fact that raising a child with special needs is a life-altering experience in which one is initiated—sometimes kicking and screaming—into a largely unseen, or at least unacknowledged, world. Exposure to that world is fantastically transformative in terms of how one interacts with family, friends, neighbors and–especially–social and governmental institutions.   

Sarah Palin is currently at the beginning of this journey. She will, we suspect, soon discover that Hockey Moms have got nothing on Special Needs Moms who manage the schedules and transportation of their children: physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, primary care doctors visits, specialist doctor visits, medical tests, and on and on. As Trig grows, Sarah and Todd Palin may have to acquire arcane and specialized medical knowledge to understand and care for their son’s complex needs. Like other moms and dads, they will become experts in the healthcare industry as they advocate for comprehensive coverage, tests, medicines, therapies, and equipment that their child needs. And then will come school, and fighting for their child’s educational needs to be met by institutions that are underfunded and often ill-equipped to do the job.

As I diaper my daughter and imagine how I will do this when she is 10, 20, 30 years old; as I weigh and measure every bite she will eat to conform to the ketogenic diet that lessens her seizures; as I hold her when she seizes and curse the brain abnormalities that put her through this day after day, I am reminded of how precarious her life and ours are. I am reminded of how much the world of competition and “boot straps” rejects and fears her, and how much we depend on others to help us to care for her well and with dignity.

Parenting our daughter has thus taught us a different lesson than the one that John McCain and his party lifts up. They see the “heroic” in Palin’s “choice” to bring her son into the world (an oddity, surely, for the anti-choice). Our experience, by contrast, has highlighted something far different than the individualism embodied by the “hero” making “choices.” Through our daughter, we have discovered the true meaning of “commonweal”—the common well-being. All that we do we do for her we do with help—and much of that help has been mandated by the often-derided “big government.” The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that mandates fair and appropriate educations for people with disabilities, Illinois’s 0-3 Early Intervention programs, the City of Chicago’s grant program for housing modifications for the disabled, the non-profit foundations and organizations that provide us with resources and hope—these programs and others like them have been put in place through the efforts of lawmakers and citizens who believe that we are all benefitted when the least of us is protected.
Barack Obama gets our vote, in part, because he has laid out specific agenda items addressing just these programs and policies (all available under “Issues” at www.BarackObama.com). Perhaps John McCain’s and Sarah Palin’s expressed sympathy with and interest in the challenges of disabled children would, if they were elected, translate into policy positions that promised real improvement.  But we don’t want to take that bet. These two people indisputably subscribe to foreign and economic policies that fly in the face of such an agenda. How will we fully fund the the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)–now limping along at less than 50 percent of its promised federal support–while prosecuting the war in Iraq at the tune of $12 billion every month? How will we expand Early Intervention therapy programs for children aged 0-5  and at the same time offer more tax cuts to millionaires and gigantic corporations? How do parents of children with chronic and disabling illnesses care for their children in a healthcare system that is broken and which the Republican party shows no inclination or ability to fix?

The fact of the matter is, advocacy turns to exploitation when the platform on which you stand is full of contradictions. Put your money where your mouths are, McCain-Palin. We don’t need to be reminded of the “great job” we’re doing as parents of kids with special needs. We don’t need “heroes” to model sanctimonious double-talk. We need our country and its leaders to demonstrate a real commitment, not lip service, to the needs of the weakest and most vulnerable in our midst.  

Palin Is Not Ready For Prime Time – Send Her Back To Wasilla

Mayor Sarah Palin's Sarah Palin Needs To Go Back To Wasilla City Hall

Mayor Sarah Palin's Wasilla City Hall

Sarah Palin’s sordid affairs as Governor keep erupting like salmon jumping out of the Alaska waters.  Each day she tells another lie about why she fired the Public Safety Commissioner.  Her latest explanation is  because  he went on an authorized  trip to Washington, DC to try get a grant to reduce rapes in Alaska.  You see, Sarah’s state has the highest percentage of rapes of all the fifty states.  Lying  Lady Sarah said he didn’t have her permission to travel, yet the documentation shows that her staff authorized the trip. 

By the way,  this is the second time that a rape-related event has come up regarding Lady Sarah.  The first of long standing was when she was Mayor of teeny weeny Wasilla.  She implemented a policy that required RAPE VICTIMS to pay for their own forensic rape kits.  The kits cost about $1,500, and were billed to the victim’s insurance. 

If we are to believe her about the chief’s firing, she opposed his insubordination for a trip to get a grant for an AN ANTI-RAPE program!  It reminds me of what a woman in St. Louis said about being raped years ago in St. Louis.   When the police arrived, the cops got angry that she had “wasted” their time by calling them.   She said one cop told her, “Don’t you know that women don’t get raped.  They ask for it because they tease the men.  I’ll bet you were teasing a man and when he went too far, you got mad and called us.”

Could Sordid Sarah be “one of those” who believes rape victims are sultry temptresses?

You will (not) believe this about Sarah:  She cut a deal with the Vice Presidential debate officials.    She WILL NOT answer follow-up questions at the debate.  Have you ever heard of anything like this?  Simple Sarah wants to be Vice President, and President when or if the situation presents itself.  She wants to lead the largest, mos technologically able nation with the largest proportion of highly educated people in the world.  Yet, she doesn’t intend to answer or clarify any questions at the debate that go beyond giving her canned, memorized response.  

You see, Sarah Palin wants to give a short speech for each question she’s asked.  The moderator can’t come back and ask her to clarify what she said.  Senator Joe Biden can’t engage in any back-and-forth with her.  All Sarah will know how to do is  give her buzz words in each answer.  That’s all her tutors can prep her to say because she must have proven a most dumb pupil.  Why do I say this?  Because if she had the background and the quickness of intellect, she would get up to speed.  The fact that she cannot fathom taking follow-up questions means she’s dumber than Dan Quayle, and remember folks, he was DUMB.  

 She can’t learn what she doesn’t have the context for knowing.  She can’t answer follow up quesions because her handlers think she will reveal how stupid, ignorant,  which would have required her to be a lot smarter, more involved for a much longer time at a higher level.  Remember now, she was mayor in that little town of Wasilla a couple of years ago. 

Read what she said to friendly, right wing pundit Sean Hannity when he interviewed her on Fox News. 

On foreign policy issues:

  • “Retreat is defeat in Iraq.”   
  • “What we have got to commit to also, especially when we talk to Russia — no Cold War. We have got to know that our mind-set needs to be opportunity for pressure and diplomacy and sanctions if need be as we keep our eye on a country like Russia.” 

Domestic policy and issues:

 On what’s behind the Wall Street meltdown? 

  • “the corruption on Wall Street,” with no explanation of what corruption she was referring to.

Should the government bail out Fannie Mae and AIG?

  •   “Well, you know, first, Fannie and Freddie, different because quasi-government agencies there where government had to step in because the adverse impacts all across our nation, especially with homeowners, is just too impacting. We had to step in there. I do not like the idea, though, of taxpayers being used to bail out these corporations. Today, with AIG, important call there, though, because of the construction bonds and the insurance carrier duties of AIG. But, first and foremost, taxpayers cannot be looked to as the bailout, as the solution to the problems on Wall Street.”

My Lord, the woman can’t even talk!  “…because the adverse impacts … is just too impacting” 

There are no handlers in the world who can get this woman ready for a debate for the vice president of the United States.  She needs to go back to her house in Wasilla and contimue commuting to her office in Anchorage as she straightens out her family.  She left a lot of problems back there to go on the road with McCain because he saw her as his best ticket to winning.  She is not ready and she won’t be ready.  The learning curve is too high for this office.  She could fool the people in Alaska where she isn’t even doing a good job there despite her 74% approval rating.  All of the recent investigations show she has too many ethical issues to be called an honest broker. 

There is nothing worse than an unethical, dumb “leader” who doesn’t know what she doesn’t know but, nevertheless, wants to be your President!

Sarah needs to go back to the Wasilla City Hall for she is NOT READY for the White House.

Kopp hiring proved Palin’s fundamentalist street cred

Could it be that Sarah Palin’s appointment by John McCain is part of a larger Christian right deal made between John McCain and Franklin Graham, son of Rev. Billy Graham?  The intrigue goes deeper because the writer suggests that when Palin fired Walter Monegan as her Public Safety Commissioner, she replaced him with a local police chief who is also a rising star with Alaska’s conservative religious community and friend of Franklin Graham.  It’s an interesting proposition. 

September 20, 2008

Anchorage Daily News

BY ALAN BORAASSSo far Gov. Palin’s handling of Alaska’s Troopergate has focused on why Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan was fired. An equally important question is why Chuck Kopp was hired to replace him. On June 30, 2008, David Brody of CBS News reported John McCain met in North Carolina with Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, director of the multimillion- dollar Samaritan’s Place faith-based charitable organization. McCain was courting the religious right who, at the time, were skeptical of his social conservatism and his Christian qualifications. After the meeting Graham issued a statement praising McCain’s “personal faith” and added, “We had an opportunity to pray … for God’s will to be done in this upcoming election.”

Subsequent events suggest that the price of support for McCain by the fundamentalist Christian leadership would be a vice presidential candidate of their liking. Gov. Palin was a logical choice for Franklin Graham, whose ties to Alaska include a palatial, by Bush Alaska standards, second home in Port Alsworth: a community that has often served as a retreat for Christian fundamentalist leaders.
But Gov. Palin did not promote a socially conservative agenda during her first two years as governor and some Alaska right-wing commentators called her an economic liberal. Send us a sign, national fundamentalist Christian leaders seemingly said, that proves your credentials. In firing Monegan and hiring Kopp, Palin would have gained a controversial measure of revenge in a family dispute and established her standing as a Christian conservative politician.
Kenai City Police Chief Chuck Kopp was a rising star in Alaska’s Christian conservative movement. He was a frequent speaker at local religious and patriotic gatherings. He was school board president of Cook Inlet Academy, the fundamentalist Christian high school in Soldotna his missionary-educator father founded. Kopp also was on the board of Port Alsworth’s Tanailan Bible Camp, also founded by his father.
Through Samaritan’s Place, Franklin Graham has been the chief benefactor of the Tanailan Bible Camp building and rebuilding a church and meeting hall and guest cabins. The evangelical scion of Alaska, Rev. Jerry Prevo of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, is on Samaritan Purse’s Board of Directors, so there’s a clear connection between Graham, Prevo and Kopp.
Kopp’s nomination quickly ran into trouble because of sexual harassment reprimands while Kenai police chief, but Palin’s willingness to appoint him to a high state position along with her anti-abortion, pro-creationist beliefs seems to have solidified her position as the one to ignite the base for McCain. Kevin Merida reported in the Washington Post that when Palin met with the Alaska delegation after her nomination during the recent Republican National Convention, Rev. Prevo, a member of the delegation, said Palin asked them to pray for her. Then Prevo handed the governor his cell phone; it was Franklin Graham calling to congratulate her.
Palin’s connection to what Jeff Sharlett has called “elite fundamentalism” is of interest now that she is an election and a heartbeat away from the presidency. Franklin Graham has been the keynote speaker for the Alaska Governor’s Prayer Breakfast the past two years. According to their Web site, the organizers believe, “God directs the affairs of Man and is the ultimate authority over human events.” The Alaska Governor’s Prayer Breakfast is connected to the National Prayer Breakfast sponsored by The Fellowship Foundation, also known as “The Family,” which espouses similar beliefs. The Family is headed by Doug Coe, one of the most influential evangelicals in Washington, D.C. Coe’s group tends to operate behind the scenes organizing small cells attended by the power elite, mostly Republicans. George Bush was saved in such a cell while in Texas.
Elite fundamentalists believe, according to Sharlett, not only in religious determinism but that they are personally chosen by God to be in positions of power. By claiming divine legitimacy of their political power, elite fundamentalists relegate the opposition to being the devil’s tool. They are making a frighteningly close return to the pre-enlightenment concept of rule by divine right, which our founding fathers rejected as anathema to democracy and established, instead, the separation of church and state lest decisions be made on the basis of good versus evil rather than wise versus unwise.

Whether or not Sarah Palin pandered to the Christian fundamentalist right on the back of a good man’s career and believes she was chosen by God only she can say. Likewise, only John McCain can say whether he sold his political soul and selected the least prepared vice presidential candidate in United States history for the sake of political gain. The electorate deserves some answers.

 Alan Boraas is a professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College.

Abdication by Palin…Alaskans Blame McCain Campaign For Taking Over Governor’s Office

                 Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

When did the McCain campaign take over the governor’s office?

Alaska Daily News Online

 September 20, 2008


Gov. Sarah Palin has surrendered important gubernatorial duties to the Republican presidential campaign. McCain staff are handling public and press questions about actions she has taken as governor. The governor who said, “Hold me accountable,” is hiding behind the hired guns of the McCain campaign to avoid accountability.

 Is it too much to ask that Alaska’s governor speak for herself, directly to Alaskans, about her actions as Alaska’s governor? A press conference Thursday showed how skewed Alaska’s relationship with its own governor has become.

McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Ed O’Callaghan announced that Todd Palin will not comply with a subpoena to testify about his role in Troopergate, the Legislature’s investigation into whether Palin abused her power in forcing out former public safety commissioner Walt Monegan.
O’Callaghan also announced that Alaska’s governor is “unlikely” to cooperate with the investigation by the Alaska Legislature about questionable conduct by Alaska’s chief executive.
Monday, he and campaign sidekick Meg Stapleton stood before Alaskans and defended the official personnel decision by Alaska’s governor to fire Alaska’s public safety commissioner. ABC News reported that Gov. Palin’s official press secretary, Bill McAllister, paid by the state of Alaska, didn’t even know the McCain staffers were meeting the press to defend his boss.
Is the McCain campaign telling Alaskans that Alaska’s governor can’t handle her own defense in front of her own Alaska constituents?
Way back when, before John McCain chose Palin as his vice presidential running mate, Palin promised to cooperate with the investigation.
Now she won’t utter a peep about it to Alaskans. Nor will her husband, Todd, who definitely needs to explain his role in Troopergate.
Instead, Alaskans have to sit back and listen to John McCain’s campaign operatives handling inquiries about what Alaska’s governor did while governing Alaska. Residents of any state would be offended to see their governor cede such a fundamental, day-to-day governmental responsibility to a partisan politician from another state. It’s especially offensive to Alaskans.

O’Callaghan said Todd Palin objects to the subpoena because the Legislature’s investigation “has been subjected to complete partisanship.” That’s the kind of dizzying spin that Washington has perfected. It is the McCain-Palin campaign that has worked overtime to politicize the entire matter in a transparent attempt to justify the stonewalling.

Futile as the request may be, we encourage Gov. Palin to stand up to McCain’s handlers and be personally accountable for her administration’s response to Troopergate. She is the governor of Alaska, not John McCain or Ed O’Callaghan.


BOTTOM LINE: Official state business — like Troopergate — should be handled by the governor of the state, not by McCain presidential campaign operatives. 



National Debt Chart Shows Republicans Are The Big Spenders

The Republicans Are The Real Big Spenders!

The Republicans Are The Real Big Spenders!

Click to enlarge.

How many times have you heard Republicans attack Democrats for being big spenders? Well, the data shows something entirely different. Just think about it. When Bill Clinton left office, not only was the nation not in debt, but he left a surplus in the nation’s coffers. Fast forward eight years later and what do you find? A treasury that is so depleted that we turn to China for loans.

Isn’t it funny that our practice of sending companies off-shore to find sources of cheap labor is now making a 180 degree turnabout? Recently, a Chinese company opened in South Carolina and is hiring local workers who, a generation earlier, would have been displaced when the company went to China.

If Barack Obama is elected, we will be able to keep more businesses in this country because they will no longer be rewarded with tax cuts for sending jobs abroad.

How Did Sarah Palin Govern? Hired Friends and Punished Enemies

Governor Sarah Palin

Governor Sarah Palin


From the Los Angeles Times


Sarah Palin’s leadership style has admirers and critics

Some who have worked with the Alaska governor say her bold approach is lacking in follow-through, and that she punishes those who dare say ‘no.’

By Tom Hamburger and Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

September 8, 2008

ANCHORAGE — Three years ago, when a Democratic state legislator tried to get bipartisan support for investigating charges of unethical conduct by a senior Republican official, only one member of the GOP answered the call: Sarah Palin.

Palin pursued the allegations — as well as ethics charges against another top GOP official — so vigorously that both had to leave office.

The public acclaim that followed helped propel her into the governor’s office a year later with promises of reform and a more open, accountable government that would stand up to entrenched interests, including the big oil companies.

Yet a strange thing happened on the ethics issue once Palin became governor: She appeared to lose interest in completing the task of legislating comprehensive reform, some who supported the cleanup say.

The ethics bill she offered was so incomplete that its supporters had to undertake a significant rewrite. Moreover, when it came to building support for the bill, politicians in both parties say the new governor was often unaccountably absent from the fray.

And the seeming paradox of the ethics reform fight — the combination of bold, even courageous readiness to take on a tough issue, coupled with a tendency to drift away from the nitty-gritty follow-through — appears to be a recurrent theme of her record. Some lawmakers were so perplexed by her absence from a recent debate over sending oil rebate checks to Alaskans, for example, that they sported buttons at the state Capitol reading “Where’s Sarah?”

A spokesman for the governor’s office rejects such criticism. Bill McAllister, Palin’s press secretary, said: “She has always been sufficiently informed and engaged. . . . In just two years in office, she accomplished more than most governors in their entire careers.”

Even her critics credit Palin with a major role in pushing a state known for its relaxed approach to political ethics into a long-overdue housecleaning. And Palin has pushed hard to make oil companies pay more for access to the state’s oil and gas reserves.

At the same time, she has fallen short of her proclaimed goals in other areas, especially concerning how she governs.

Her administration has not been marked by the transparency she promised: She invoked executive privilege in refusing to disclose information about one ethics case, and last week she moved to hobble a legislative inquiry into her role in the firing of a state public safety official.

Several legislators also say the governor’s office is not a place for open debate: Palin does not tolerate much dissent, they say, sometimes cutting off relations with those deemed unhelpful or critical.

And she shows only marginal interest in crafting policy proposals and getting them passed, these critics say.

“Her ethics proposal had to be beefed up substantially with very basic additions,” said state Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat who tried to get the governor’s attention on ethics and other issues.

It lacked such long-needed provisions as language making legislators subject to prosecution for bribery if they exchanged votes for campaign contributions. To Gara and to some others, including Republicans who have often supported the governor, their experience on the ethics bill has proven disconcertingly similar to their experience with Palin on other issues.

“When it comes to the real work of crafting policy, she’s often not there,” Gara said. He acknowledged her broad accomplishments, but added: “I don’t know if she’s disinterested in details or not comfortable with them, but the bottom line is: She is not truly a hands-on governor.”

During the recent debate over how much of the state’s annual oil royalties to rebate to the state’s citizens in the form of individual checks — a highly sensitive issue in Alaska — Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature said Palin took little part in the final stages of the discussion.

In interviews, more than a dozen Alaska politicians described Palin as a master at burnishing her image and building a popular base. She won statewide applause for selling the state jet, rejecting a big security entourage while driving herself, and firing the chef at the executive mansion.

No one questions her readiness to fight for cleaner government either. After she agreed in 2005 to help Democratic legislator Eric Croft get an independent investigation of state Atty. Gen. Gregg Renkes, she immediately incurred the wrath of the party establishment. The same thing had happened a year earlier, when she raised conflict-of-interest allegations against the state GOP chairman, Randy Ruedrich, who had sat with her on the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Palin was vindicated in both cases: Ruedrich resigned from the commission and paid a $12,000 ethics fine. The attorney general also resigned and received a reprimand.

A spokesman for Ruedrich and the state party said that the past was not a factor and that Ruedrich was backing the McCain-Palin ticket. Renkes could not be reached for comment.

Croft, who is running for mayor of Anchorage and backing the Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket, said he was impressed with Palin’s willingness to join him in the case involving the attorney general.

“She got it right away” and never backed down, Croft said. “Her sense was that this was wrong and that she had to speak out.”

Many officials are less positive, however, about her record of working with the Legislature and running the state government.

Republican state Sen. Fred Dyson, a friend and fellow reformer who praises Palin for taking up the issue, acknowledged that she was not fully engaged in the details of the ethics bill and that some legislators had been rankled by her lack of engagement in other issues as well.

Still, he points out, her popularity in Alaska remains undiminished.

Other legislators say that the governor has been so focused on her own priorities that she has been unwilling to consider other significant matters — including the state’s poor ranking in providing health insurance to children. Alaska ranks near the bottom of the states in making children from lower-middle-income families eligible for a government insurance program.

She used the line-item veto this year to cut funding for $268 million in capital projects from spending bills, including money for a senior citizens center and batting cages for the Ketchikan Little League. At the same time, the Anchorage Daily News reported, she preserved $2 million for an academic conference highlighting arguments that global warming isn’t threatening the survival of polar bears.

A former associate director of the governor’s Washington office, Larry Persily, said that some of the governor’s problems resulted from the fact that she “underestimated exponentially how much more complex state government is than the city of Wasilla.”

Palin is smart but was “never deeply engaged,” he said.

Though she had good instincts with the public, her approach to legislators and fellow elected officials was often counterproductive, he said. For example, he said, when she made a four-day visit to Washington in February, she did not meet with any members of the congressional delegation.

Similarly, when she reversed her campaign decision and finally killed the “bridge to nowhere,” the much-ridiculed project to connect Ketchikan with the island airport that serves it, neither the mayor of the town nor the congressional delegation was notified in advance.

“When she makes a decision, she wants it executed immediately,” Persily said. “In politics, sometimes ‘immediately’ is not the most productive way to do it.”

But McAllister, the governor’s press secretary, praised her attention to detail. He noted that during her second year in office, she met with legislators in groups of three to go over budget concerns for each district. “That shows her willingness to engage even at the level of minutiae,” he said.

Republican Lyda Green, president of the Alaska Senate, who has clashed frequently with the governor, said: “It has been very difficult for her to accept ‘no,’ and after a ‘no’ was spoken, going forward after that amicably was very difficult. After that, you didn’t get in. No conversations. She would very much slam you in her next press conference.”

Green, who represents the Wasilla area, is retiring from the Legislature at the end of this year, citing the conflict she has had with Palin as one reason she’s stepping down.

McAllister dismisses Green’s criticism as “bitter personal resentment.”

Palin has also stirred controversy over her abrupt firing of prominent officials. State legislators were upset earlier this year, for instance, when she dismissed the state’s well-liked public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan.

The governor agreed to a legislative inquiry by an independent investigator who was going to probe whether Palin had abused her authority in seeking Monegan’s precipitous dismissal. The Palins were angry because Monegan failed to fire a state trooper in the midst of a fierce custody battle the trooper was having with the governor’s sister. For years, the governor and her family had complained that the trooper was abusive and dangerous.

Since being chosen as John McCain’s running mate, however, Palin has started a legal maneuver to prevent that inquiry from going forward.

State Rep. Andrea Doll of Juneau, a Democrat, says she thinks the governor is learning from her mistakes. “One thing she learned is that you are not a lone ranger — you can’t go marching off, ignoring the people at the legislative front lines,” she said. “To get something done, you need more than just the public applauding wildly.”



Times staff writers Chuck Neubauer and Marjorie Miller and researcher Janet Lundblad contributed to this report.

AlaskaTroopers dub Mat-Su area the meth capital of Alaska

WASILLA – The Matanuska-Susitna area is the methamphetamine capital of Alaska, according to Alaska State Troopers.In 2003, authorities uncovered nine meth labs in the area. Last year, the number increased to 42, said Kyle Young, an investigator with the troopers who works with the Mat-Su narcotics team.

Officials with the Office of Children’s Services in Wasilla said the problem affects children. The office receives about 40 calls a month from people reporting abuse or neglect involving some aspect of the highly addictive drug.

In late February, the Mat-Su narcotics unit arrested a couple at their Willow home. Michelle Motta said for years she tried to warn authorities that her three young nieces lived in the midst of a methamphetamine operation run by their parents, Phillip Dean and Laura Jackson.

Alaska State Troopers reported finding a “large active meth lab” in a detached garage shop. The house was a frigid mess, with piles of dirty dishes, clothes everywhere and frozen pipes, investigators said.

Through a hatch in the shop floor, the team found an underground room with a meth lab in one corner, as well as old marijuana root balls and lights from a past pot-growing operation.

An investigator said the team didn’t find the children at home but saw signs of them there. Motta said the girls – ages 14, 8 and 6 – at times slept in the garage with the lab.

A year ago, the oldest girl detailed the household’s rampant drug problems and squalid living conditions in a handwritten letter to a judge.

“My parents grow marijuana and crystal the(y) did the drugs that they bought in front of (my sisters),” the letter begins. “They spent most money on them instead of food or doing laundry. I got left home with nobody there I got left home with drug(g)ies…”

Motta now has custody of her three nieces. The Jacksons are jailed at Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility in Palmer.

Children sharing homes with meth labs face the risk of contamination, fire, explosion, neglect and hazardous living conditions. Caseworkers report little children complaining of breathing problems from toxic fumes rising off chemicals such as acetone, ammonia and hydrochloric acid.

When authorities surrounded a converted bus housing a meth operation in Big Lake in January, a 13-year-old boy who answered the door bragged that his mom cooked the best meth in the valley, according to the troopers.

During a 2003 bust at a house outside Wasilla, officers discovered five children living inside, all younger than 8 years old.

The calls about meth to children’s services in Wasilla accounts for as many as 40 percent of the agency’s total monthly child protection calls.

The troopers are aggressively going after meth labs, said Capt. Ed Harrington, the supervisor of the state’s drug and alcohol enforcement unit.

“It’s just not a simple process,” Harrington said. “Just because somebody calls in and says ‘So and so’s cooking meth’ doesn’t mean we’re going to kick the door in the next night.”
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