A Palin expert speaks

She sounds like a nicer version of GWB: intellectually lazy, parochial, not too interested in the details of actually governing.

The WaPo had a reader Q&A today with a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. Too bad some of the national poltical reporters who are just printing RNC spin about Palin don’t seem to have read it.

I’ve pulled out what seem to me the good bits, moving paragraphs around for continuity. Don’t quote this without checking the original:


Gregg Erickson: Hi. I’m Gregg Erickson. I’m an economist, columnist and reporter in Juneau, where I’ve been covering Sarah Palin since November 2006 when she was elected governor. I grew up in Alaska and have been covering the legislature here since 1991. I look forward to fielding your questions.


Her environmental credentials are, at best, mixed. She favors what we in Alaska call “predator control,” including, if necessary, the hunting of wolves from the air. Just recently her Dept. of Fish and Game pulled some wolf cubs from their den and shot them as part of a program to improve moose survival.

She also opposes the listing of the polar bear as an endangered species.


Baltimore, Md.: What are Governor Palin’s three greatest strengths? What are her three greatest weaknesses?

Gregg Erickson: She is smart, vivacious and energetic; she tends to oversimplify complex issues, has had difficulty delegating authority, and clearly has difficulty distinguishing the line between her public responsibilities and private wishes. She is under legislative investigation on this, the so-called “troopergate” issue, in which she is said to have used improper influence to try to get her sister’s ex-husband fired from the state troopers.


Eagle River, Ak.: Morning, Gregg! I’ve suddenly being hearing a number of pundits credit Gov. Palin with stopping the “bridge to nowhere.” This isn’t how I remember it, though — in fact, I seem to recall that she was initially in favor of the bridge. Could you clarify? Thanks!

Gregg Erickson: She did curtail state support of the “bridge to nowhere” connecting Ketchikan with its island airport. But contrary to her statement today in Dayton, OH, she didn’t send the federal money back. It’s available for use in other projects elsewhere.


Los Angeles, Calif.: It’s clear from your responses that you don’t particularly like her (I’m not speaking personally, but politically.) How do you explain her high approval ratings?

Gregg Erickson: I think she did a great job in taking on the oil industry, that has had a lock on Alaska politics since 1981 She is also stood up against the corruption in Alaska politics long before it was fashionable to do so. . I think those things resonate with many Alaskans beside myself.

Her approval ratings are high–65 percent, or so–but down from 80 percent earlier in her term. Most Alaskan’s haven’t watched her as closely as most reporters or legislators. If you took a poll of reporters and legislators I expect her approval rating would be down in the teens or twenties.

It is clear that she has not paid much attention to the nitty-gritty unglamorous work of government, of gaining consensus, and making difficult compromises. She seems to be of the view that politics shouild be all rather simple. That often appeals to the wider public, but frustrates those who see themselves as laboring in the less glamorous parts of the vineyard.

One example: The Republican chair of the Alaska State House Finance budget subcommittee on Heath and Medicaid says he can’t find anyone in Palin’s executive office who cares about helping bring that budget under control. He is furious with her about that.


Wheaton, Md.: Why is she experienced enough to lead our nation as president if McCain were unable to do so?

Gregg Erickson: I have a hard time seeing how her qualifications stack up against the duties and responsibilities of being president.


Alexandria, Va.: Has Governor Palin ever traveled outside the U.S.?

Gregg Erickson: She went to college (journalism degree) in Idaho. She’s been to Iraq, to visit the troops.


Alexandria, Va.: Knowing what you do of Gov. Palin, do you think this could be a case where the more the American people know about her, the more impressed and charmed they’ll be; or, could getting to know her better be trouble?

Gregg Erickson: It will certainly have both effects. What’s not to admire about a straight-talking soccer mom who suddenly finds herself in the running for vice-president. It’s like a TV sitcom plot. THe reality of the national scrutiny will be another thing, however.


Washington, D.C.: What should we expect from her during the VP debates?

Gregg Erickson: I expect her to stick with simple truths. When asked about continued American troop presence in Iraq she said she knows only one thing about that (I paraphrase): no one has attacked the American homeland since George Bush took the war to Iraq.


Germantown, Md.: Is it true that Gov. Palin is skeptical about global warming?

Gregg Erickson: Yes. Although she has not been outspoken about that. Alaska’s national politicians have been allied with Sen. Imhofe, but have had to reverse course rather dramatically on that as the effects of climate change began to show up so dramatically in Alaska.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com