A lot of Alaskans are thrilled at the national press we've gotten since our governor became McCain's running mate. But I'm starting to long for the day when most Americans wondered if they needed a passport to get here and weren't quite sure what continent we were on but thought it was somewhere in the Pacific close to California.
I actually found myself on a San Francisco talk radio show explaining that while we did have an aerial wolf hunt program in place, in actual fact Sarah Palin wasn't the one who went up in the plane to shoot the wolves. I assured the caller that we have people to carry out these programs without the governor needing to personally load up her rifle and take a day to make the world a little safer for the moose she planned to have for dinner.
Could we have picked a worse moment to hit the national spotlight? We have legislators going to jail right and left. We have Don Young being investigated. Ted Stevens is on trial. Ben Stevens shows up in more criminal paperwork than a whole season of CSI programs generate. We have a multi-billion dollar savings account while most states are drowning in red ink. And we have Troopergate.
If Palin had simply cooperated with the investigation as she said she would when this all first came to light, it would probably have ended up benefiting her. Because if you look at Branchflower's report, he supports her right to fire Monegan at will; more importantly, he recommends that the state open up the process used to investigate complaints like the ones the Palins had about Wooten so that people who make complaints have some feedback on the results. Branchflower acknowledges the Palins' frustration in registering fairly serious complaints with the Alaska State Troopers and getting told they had no right to know the outcome of the investigation of those complaints. Most people can understand that frustration and how it could lead Todd Palin to go more than a little overboard in obsessing on how to get Wooten fired.
But before the air could be cleared, Palin got picked to be McCain's running mate and her mind and decision-making faculties were immediately taken over by the minions of Rove-ian thought. And their strategy seems to be to stonewall, stonewall, stonewall, while screaming partisan smear job. Suddenly the Truth Squad was here holding briefings that none but the most committed McCain/Palin supporters found anything but laughable. We had legislators suing the Legislature to stop what it started. We had the State Supreme Court trying not to look completely incredulous over whether those legislators understood the powers and responsibilities of their branch of government; whether, in so many words, they understood the concept of checks and balances and three equal branches of government.
Then our governor files a complaint against herself with the Personnel Board, whose three members she personally appoints. Then she moves to dismiss it. Finally, when it seemed as though it could get no more absurd, the legislative report comes out concluding Palin broke the state ethics law and she calls that an exoneration.
The only thing missing from this circus is a bunch of clowns exiting a small car in the center ring.
This publicity comes at a time when the bottom has fallen out of the financial markets. People's retirement funds, college funds and plain old funds for their daily food are melting faster than the glaciers. Meanwhile, we have a Permanent Fund that would be the envy of many Third World countries.
So you can see where this might not be the best time for America to be taking such a close look at Alaska. Imagine what it will be like in the next congressional session if any of our delegation attempts to get money earmarked for Alaska. Try convincing someone from California where the budget is drowning in red ink, or someone from New Jersey who pays some of the highest taxes in the nation, that despite our billion dollar savings accounts, the feds should give us money.
Alaska is in danger of becoming one big national joke, the Dan Quayle of states. Someone should tell our governor that we deserve better than that. Someone should give our governor her brain back.
Elise Patkotak is a writer who lives in Anchorage. Read her blog at www.elisepatkotak.com.