The two don’t appear to go together if one reads the twin profiles in the New York Times and the Washington Post. For the most part, it’s pretty easy to determine why. The press spent the last two weeks in Wasilla, Anchorage, and Juneau and could only find complaints from people fired by Sarah Palin during her time as mayor and Governor. The so-called “Troopergate” scandal gets scant mention in either article, making what’s left a series of petty comments from the 15% of Alaskans who don’t like Palin.
In reading both, I’d give the Post the most credit for balance, although that’s damning with faint praise. The starting point for both is that Palin liked to fire political appointees from previous administrations. Perhaps that’s unusual for Alaska, but neither paper makes that case or even attempts it. It’s certainly business as usual in Washington, where many political appointees get their walking papers after every election, whether or not the incumbent President gets re-elected.
The New York Times offers a more hyperbolic look at Palin’s penchant for hiring people she knows for political appointments:
The Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government. Ms. Palin appointed Mr. Bitney, her former junior high school band-mate, as her legislative director and chose another classmate, Joe Austerman, to manage the economic development office for $82,908 a year. Mr. Austerman had established an Alaska franchise for Mailboxes Etc.
Does it now? Did Wasilla High have only three students? The Times mentions three former classmates appointed by Palin to government positions when she took office as Governor. The article was written by that many reporters, who combined to offer this ridiculous piece of commentary in a news article.
The third, Franci Havemeister, gets ridiculed for her “love of cows” as a qualification for her position at the Director of Agriculture. What the Times fails to mention is that the “love of cows” was also accompanied by years in the 4-H program and work done in several sectors of agriculture, as a quick Google search finds:
Franci and her husband, Bob, have four children and are lifetime Alaskans. She has spent her life actively involved in agriculture from the 4-H program to varied agriculture sectors including dairy, potato, vegetable and greenhouse production.
And how has Havemeister performed as Director? The Times doesn’t report any complaints. If she’s that bad of a choice, how can Havemeister have succeeded?
Reformers usually clean house, and that’s what Palin did. Rather than worry about resumes, why not focus on the successes and failures of her appointments? Neither paper does that, which tends to indicate that they couldn’t find any of the latter.
For that matter, neither the Post and the Times ever attempt to reconcile their portrait of a “trail of bad blood” with the inescapable fact that she has astronomical, bipartisan favorability ratings. Alaskans have a ringside seat to the Palin administration, and they overwhelmingly approve of her. She has an 85% favorability rating, and even 75% of Democrats view her favorably. Reformers tend to get rid of entrenched bureaucrats and replace them with fresh faces, and it appears that while the people who got replaced didn’t like it, Alaskans feel very differently.
Both articles fail to deliver anything but slanted gossip and old grudges. After two weeks of digging, if this is all they can find, the papers will need to write off the travel investment as a total loss. If the only point taken from both articles is that Palin made entrenched bureaucrats angry, that sounds like a win for Team McCain.
Update: Jazz Shaw dissents, and his point about judgment is certainly well taken. Did Palin look for the most qualified candidates or just her friends? That’s a legitimate question about leadership. However, the New York Times deliberately offered a ridiculous justification for Havemeister’s hiring — “I like cows” — when a cursory check showed she brought more to the job, including a background in agriculture and some leadership experience.