With the release of so many Sarah Palin e-mails at one time, news outlets have had to limit their initial focus to a few subjects or periods of time, with some, in addition, asking readers to help via crowdsourcing. The New York Times, like some others, concentrated on the days in August and September 2008 just before and after Palin was plucked from obscurity by Senator John McCain and installed as his running mate, which ultimately doomed his candidacy.
I thought it would be fun and revealing to go back to my reporting from the first week after the McCain choice, which shows that doubts about Palin’s experience, views and character were raised immediately by the press—and that, contrary to popular wisdom, polls showed from the start that she was no favorite of women. Also: She was far from the first to claim foreign policy chops because Alaska is close to Russia.
August 30, 2008
Since yesterday’s shocking arrival of Gov. Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate there has been the usual cable news and print blathering about the pick from those who know little about her. But what about the journalists close to home—in Alaska—who know her best and have followed her career for years?
For the past twenty-four hours, the pages and websites of the two leading papers up there have raised all sorts of issues surrounding Palin, from her ethics problems to general lack of readiness for this big step up. Right now the top story on the Anchorage Daily News web site looks at new info in what it calls “troopergate” and opens: “Alaska’s former commissioner of public safety says Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s pick to be vice president, personally talked him on two occasions about a state trooper who was locked in a bitter custody battle with the governor’s sister….
“She’s not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?” said Lyda Green, the president of the State Senate, a Republican from Palin’s hometown of Wasilla. “Look at what she’s done to this state. What would she do to the nation?”
Another top Republican, John Harris, the speaker of the House, when asked about her qualifications for Veep, replied with this: “She’s old enough. She’s a U.S. citizen.”
Dermot Cole, a columnist for the Fairbanks paper, observed that he thinks highly of Palin as a person but “in no way does her year-and-a-half as governor of Alaska qualify her to be vice president or president of the United States. “One of the strange things Friday was that so many commentators and politicians did not know how to pronounce her name and had no clue about what she has actually done in Alaska…. I may be proven wrong, but the decision announced by McCain strikes me as reckless. She is not prepared to be the next president should something happen to McCain.”
And from the editorial in the Anchorage Daily News: “It’s stunning that someone with so little national and international experience might be heartbeat away from the presidency.”