The idea that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is experienced, ethical and wise would be laughable if it weren’t so alarming, and millions have fallen for the fable. In truth, the pretty woman’s story is not so pretty.
While a majority of Alaskans are thrilled their local beauty queen is center stage, some are horrified.
Her populist persona–the “just plain hockey mom”–is preposterous, her notion of decency defective, her ambition unbridled, her compassion counterfeit, her actions extreme, her intelligence limited and her judgment flawed.
Fearing retribution, only one of the more than twenty elected state and city officials, lawyers, doctors, health administrators, librarians, clergy and just plain residents I interviewed while in Alaska and over the phone agreed to be named.
“It’s Sarah’s way or the highway,” claim many who’ve worked with her. As one state representative confided to me, “the public doesn’t know the real Sarah Palin.”
After elected mayor of Wasilla in 1996, one of Palin’s first victims was Irl Stambaugh, the longtime police chief who opposed her NRA-backed plan to allow concealed guns. Then, too, he wanted to close the bars at 2 am, instead of 5 am, due to the high number of alcohol-related road accidents. But as the bar owners and NRA were among her base, Palin axed him. She then installed her own chief, who, besides following her line on bars and guns, slapped a charge of $300 to $1,200 on rape victims for medical tests for injuries and sexually transmitted diseases–fees previously covered by the city. Since medical staff at the same time also offered morning-after pills to rape victims, this was anathema to Palin’s anti-abortion agenda. Outraged, then-Democratic Governor Tony Knowles pushed through a bill banning her tactics, and the tests were once again free.
Other victims are now well known, like Mary Ellen Baker, the librarian who wouldn’t ban the books that offended Palin. Originally fired along with other city department heads who backed Palin’s mayoral opponent, Baker (also president of Alaska’s Library Association), was reinstated because several hundred residents protested the sacking. But, according to a librarian who knows Baker, Palin met with her several times, pressuring her to remove books from the shelves–among which was Pastor, I Am Gay by Howard Bess, an American Baptist minister in Wasilla. Baker finally resigned in 1999 and moved away. The librarian friend says Baker is keeping silent: “Why wouldn’t she? The period was so painful that after she left her job, she had a breakdown.”
Then there’s Dr. Susan Lamagie, an obstetrician who practices in Wasilla and delivered Palin’s first two children. She also performed abortions at what was then called Valley Hospital. While Palin was on Wasilla’s City Council, members of her church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, and its minister, picketed Lamagie’s office. Because the doctor held her ground, the group ousted the hospital board and installed a new one, whose first act was to ban abortions. Lamagie and Howard Bess organized a group that sued the hospital in a case that went to Alaska’s Supreme Court, which ruled the hospital had to allow abortions, as before.