Sarah Palin may be making new friends as she campaigns the nation, but at home, she's making new enemies. She better get elected vice president. If she returns to Alaska as governor, the reception will be frosty -- and not because winter has arrived.
In the last month, Palin has become something inconceivable during her first two years as the state's chief executive: A polarizing figure rapidly emptying the storehouse of good will she accumulated.
For starters, her relationship with the press has collapsed -- by her choice. She rarely talks to reporters. Her attack on the "media elite" at the Republican National Convention should have embarrassed her. There is no media elite in Alaska, and she generally received favorable press, except from a few conservative dissenters, as a candidate for governor and as governor.
You say she was unhappy with the eastern media, not the local scribes when she spoke to the convention. Well, during her recent visit to New York City she attended a dinner put together by Rupert Murdoch who, according to gossip columnist Cindy Adams, "piloted Sarah around" during the evening. Murdoch is one of the world's most influential media barons. Also present was Cathy Black, president of Hearst Magazines. Other VIPS on hand at Tao on 58th Street, where a Kobe rib eye steak costs $88, included Sarah Ferguson, Martha Stewart, designer Vera Wang and the Queen of Jordan. Not the media elite -- just the elite.
Troopergate was once a provincial tempest in a teapot that could have been resolved with minimal recriminations. Now it's a full-fledged partisan battle, and the search for truth has become the hunt for a diamond in a cesspool.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Hollis French deserves criticism for his clumsy response once Troopergate went national: He should have never used the word "impeachment" in any context. But the bulk of this responsibility for the ugly mess falls on Palin herself, who can't separate her personal life from her professional life, Attorney General Talis Colberg, who can't figure out if he works for the people of Alaska or the Palin family, and the hammerheads sent up here by John McCain to run the local McCain-Palin campaign. Like their masters, these guys will tell any old tale about Hollis French, the Democrats and the media as long as it advances their cause. Remember Rudy Guiliani and Karl Rove touting Palin's military experience as commander of the national guard? And her foreign policy experience because Alaska is near Russia? Pants-on-fire lies, but hey, who needs facts when you have talking points provided by headquarters in Washington.
Investigator Steve Branchflower be warned. If you issue a report on Troopergate before the election in any fashion critical of Gov. Palin, you can expect to be made to look like a war criminal. Or worse.
Thanks to Troopergate, the relationship Palin established with Democrats during two legislative sessions -- the trust and accommodation she needed to pass her gas-line and oil-tax legislation -- no longer exists.
Throughout her political career, Palin has benefited from establishing and exploiting contrast favorable to her. The contrast between Palin the woman-of-integrity and dishonest Republican bosses. The contrast between the fresh new Palin and ham-handed incumbent fossil Gov. Frank Murkowski. The contrast between woman-of-the-people Palin and the public-be-damned oil companies. Even the contrast between young, vital Palin and aging, stiff John McCain -- which perversely enough has helped John McCain in the polls.
Now Palin stands in contrast with herself, before and after her nomination. And there's no benefit for her -- at least not in Alaska where she is still the governor.
Michael Carey is the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News.