Ari and Eric have have dug up some fun details about Sarah Palin’s first few months as mayor of Wasilla. Elected to bestow “change” upon the town, Palin instead went on a rampage, demanding — a la Jimmy Carter — that her stable of city managers resign and then re-apply for their positions as a test of loyalty. She drove three septuagenarian museum curators into disgruntled retirement, and she canned the librarian and police chief, both of whom had supported her opponent, a three-term incumbent.
Obviously, the choices made by a first-term, small-town mayor in early 1997 tell us very little about Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate nearly a dozen years later. Unless, that is, you realize that what Palin was up to in early 1997 bears a strong resemblance to the road she took toward firing Walt Monegan last month. Likable though she may be, Palin has established an obvious pattern of using public office to settle private scores and to retaliate against fellow public officials who have been deemed insufficiently helpful.
More substantively, Palin’s vaunted record as a budget-trimming “maverick” and a principled opponent of federal pork is unpersuasive at best. She has never opposed federal earmarks on principle, even for the patently absurd Gravina Island bridge. And while she hacked nearly $270 million from this year’s budget, the “principles” she deployed were inconsistent and at times of an evidently provincial nature. She left most projects in the Matanuska-Susitna valley — her home region — untouched (though she dismantled a funding proposal for a recycling center); and she allowed the state to fund a bullshit “academic based” conference to highlight the unique argument that shrinking polar ice doesn’t threaten polar bears. It’s true that she eliminated funding for a zamboni blade-sharpener — a budget item that was to state political comedy what the “Bridge to Nowhere” was for the rest of the country — but to describe Palin as “anti-pork” requires that we overlook the basic point that “pork” is simply synonymous with “projects I don’t like.”
Meantime, fiscal conservatives — and anyone who doesn’t enjoy setting a pile of cash on fire — ought to be wondering why “maverick” Sarah Palin just threw away $500 million in preliminary funding for a natural gas pipeline that will never actually be constructed. But this, too, is being held up as evidence that Palin is “standing up” to the corporate fat cats, an admirable gesture only if you believe that mavericktude requires blowing half a billion dollars for no substantive gain.
Of course, I realize that almost none of this will alter the mainstream press narrative about Palin and her spot in the race. Friends of mine who work in state government are confident that the national press is not going to tip over for Palin the way the local media have; I wish they were right, but so far, my skepticism has been amply rewarded. The concrete is drying on the “maverick” label; it’s going to be mooseburgers, go-go boots, hockey and Down Syndrome from here on in.