'Leadership now' -- but not then

There has been much made about the lack of leadership shown by Gov. Sean Parnell. Ralph Samuels has chosen "Leadership Now!" as his campaign slogan to emphasize his perception of the lack of leadership shown by Parnell. This is an interesting ploy on the part of Samuels, but akin to the pot calling the kettle black. Samuels has his own baggage as regards demonstrated leadership ability.

Samuels' claim to fame, as touted by his avid radio entertainment advocates, was his solitary vote against former Gov. Sarah Palin's Alaska Gas Inducement Act, or AGIA. Ralph Samuels was the only legislator to vote against AGIA.

On the surface, this is a bold statement as to his principles. However, it is an indictment against any claims of leadership ability. You see, Ralph Samuels was the House Majority Leader at the time.

Leadership is the ability to induce others to do what the leader wants them to do, whether or not they want to do the task at hand. In the case of Samuels as Majority Leader, his job was to guide in direction, course, action, opinion, to influence his fellow Republicans in the majority caucus to act united in supporting or defeating whatever legislation was at hand. Where AGIA was concerned, Ralph failed miserably to exercise his leadership position.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin was hardly the pinnacle of cooperation and encouragement in her dealings with the Legislature. AGIA was not quietly passed, but argued vehemently at times. Where were those who argued against AGIA during the legislation's travails through the legislative process? Why did they fail to stand with Ralph?

Samuels' standing alone was not a case of a subordinate stubbornly refusing to follow the superior's orders in good conscience. There was little or no risk in his opposition. Sarah Palin could hardly fire him. This was a case of a ranking member of the legislative branch standing against the governor's pet project. A governor who was not exactly engaged in any process at any time. A governor too busy with soap opera theatrics to demonstrate any leadership whatsoever during her tenure as governor. Therefore, Samuels' singular opposition was hardly a case of political courage.

Nor was Samuels' act that of the commander of the Forlorn Hope, given the impossible task for which survival of any so ordered unlikely. There was no personal danger involved. No threat to livelihood. No risk whatsoever. How was his sole vote an act of leadership?


I will concede the issue of principle: To Samuels' credit, he did stand his ground. To what end? If he was so in opposition, why was he standing alone? Why could he allegedly see what others were blind to?

House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels failed to influence his caucus to rally against Gov. Sarah Palin's AGIA. Not one of his majority caucus minions followed his lead. Not one.

Yet to hear his avid entertainment radio talk show hosts on KENI 650AM and KFQD 750AM, Ralph's vote against AGIA is the equivalent of Nathan Hale's hanging, or Washington crossing the Delaware. Only one politician in Alaska's political history deserves any real accolades, and that is former Gov. Walter J. Hickel, who challenged the federal government's usurpation of sovereignty. He managed to get AS 38.05.500-505 passed. Yet Samuels could not get one other to vote against AGIA.

To be cynical, was Samuels' act of voting against AGIA an act of calculated political strategy? Did Samuels see in a distracted Gov. Sarah Palin the opportunity to challenge what was increasingly perceived as a weak and ineffectual governor?

Ralph Samuels' campaign slogan of "Leadership Now" is either a demand by him for someone to step up, or a claim that he is the missing link for leadership. In either case, he is not the panacea that others claim. He is a failed leader.

Ralph Samuels held a powerful legislative position with a clear majority. Yet he was not able to impede or to hinder the passage of AGIA, or even ACES.

In this time in Alaska's history, given the decades to get major projects underway, the steady decline in oil production that constitutes 90 percent of the state's revenues, and the fiscal catastrophe that will befall this state once TAPS declines to 300,000 barrels per day to market and is shut down, can we afford a governor who is a failed leader?

Larry Wood is a 56-year resident of Alaska and a businessman living in Palmer, Alaska.

Alaska Dispatch features commentary by Alaskans from across the state. The views expressed are the writer's own and are not endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. We welcome a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail editor(at)alaskadispatch.com.

Larry Wood

Larry Wood is a 64-year Alaskan living on Lazy Mountain outside of Palmer.