A ••very fun read•• from the Alaska Dispatch. You’ll have to read the whole article to get to the “theory.” I just wanted to post some interesting points.
It has been almost a week since Sarah Palin rocked the news cycle by announcing her intention to quit her job as Governor of Alaska. Since then, pundits from Karl Rove on the right to Mark Shields on the left have offered diverse answers to the two questions that every Alaskan has been asking every other Alaskan: Is Sarah Palin really the Whack Job that Tina Fey made her out to be? If she’s not, then What Could the Woman Have been Thinking?
After watching the Friday news conference, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson said that he thought Sarah “seemed more like a spoiled celebrity than a serious public official.”
What Gerson got wrong is that Sarah is a spoiled celebrity. But it’s not entirely her fault that she’s spoiled. Because the media attention that has swirled around Alaska’s governor-girl for the past ten months has altered the brain chemistry of a narcissistic personality that somewhere way back along the line was damaged decades previous.
An Australian friend of mine has theorized that Sarah’s odd behavior suggests that she has been afflicted since childhood with Reactive Attachment Disorder, a rare psychological condition that is described in volume four of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders. Many of the symptoms do seem to fit: superficially engaging and charming, lacks cause and effect thinking, inappropriately demanding, engages in lying, lacks a conscience, has poor impulse control, has abnormal speech patterns, etc. But I am not a psychiatrist. So I don’t know if that’s Sarah’s problem.
What I do know is that in 2002 when she began her statewide political career, Sarah Palin already was a legend in her own mind whose it’s-all-about-me sense of entitlement already was pathological.
Seeing Sarah as a new, young and attractive, if still raw, political talent, Randy Ruedrich, the chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, suggested to Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski, who had won the Republican gubernatorial nomination, that he ask Sarah to team up with Alaska Senator Ted Stevens to campaign during the general election for Frank.
By all accounts Sarah did a journeyman job of that, which meant that in November when Frank was elected Governor she was entitled to a patronage position in the Murkowski administration. But what Sarah thought she was entitled to was not a job, but Frank Murkowski’s seat in the United States Senate.
In December 2002 when Frank was sworn into office, Alaska’s election law allowed Governor Murkowski to appoint Senator Murkowski’s replacement. Sarah had enough juice to get on the long list of Republicans Frank interviewed. During her interview she came off as vapid and uninformed. But that’s not how Sarah saw it. Several weeks later Frank astounded Alaskans by giving his Senate seat to his daughter, Lisa, who had never been publicly mentioned as a candidate for the seat and who had not been interviewed. Sarah, a 38-year-old former small town mayor who had never won a statewide election, reportedly was livid and reportedly never fully forgave Frank, because in her self-absorption she was certain that she should have been the obvious choice.
Appointments to seats on the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission [by Governor Frank Murkowski] are subject to confirmation by the Alaska Legislature.
When she [Palin] was asked at her first confirmation hearing by the chairman of the Senate Resources Committee to explain why she wanted the job and “what you bring to the mix,” Sarah answered that because Alaska needed a healthy oil and gas industry she was “absolutely motivated, excited, and challenged to be able to serve in this capacity.”
That non sequitur non-response to the question engendered a long and uncomfortable silence in the hearing room; after which another Senator asked:
There are a lot of really smart people that work in the industry that have a lot of technical expertise. You’re going to be asked to make rulings on things of a very technical nature. I don’t see where you’ve had any background in oil and gas development and some of these technical issues. I realize that’s not a requirement for this job because you’re the public member. But how are you going to keep people from blowing a bunch of smoke up your skirts?
Cheerfully ignoring the sexist framing of the question, Sarah’s answer to that heart-of-the-matter query was to note that “thankfully we have a technical staff here at the Commission” and that she had “confidence that they do with their technical knowledge give objective and fair advice to the Commissioners.” “But you’re right, I don’t have all the technical background.” (Five years later John McCain would tout Sarah Palin’s qualifications as an oil and gas expert as one of the principal reasons he had selected her as his running mate.)
Within weeks of her arrival at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Sarah knew she was drowning. That she had no understanding of, and no interest in, the Commission’s highly technical work. And not only that, but, like every state employee, she was expected to be at work five mornings a week. To get to the Commission’s office in Anchorage required an hour commute from Wasilla that during the winter she had to make by driving in the pitch dark down an icy, moose-strewn highway.
So according to people who knew her at the time, soon after she arrived at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Sarah began searching for a face-saving excuse to quit a job she never should have been given.
For several months thereafter Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner Palin, who also served as the Commission’s ethics officer, had no ethical problem with Randy Ruedrich serving as a Commissioner. But then she suddenly had a huge, and very public, problem when the news leaked that during his workday Ruedrich had been using his office computer to conduct Alaska Republican Party business.
The year previous when she had been a candidate in the Republican primary election for the party’s nomination for Lieutenant Governor, Sarah not only had used her computer in the Wasilla mayor’s office for campaign purposes, she had used it to communicate about the progress of her campaign with Randy Ruedrich. But now she not only expressed outrage about Ruedrich’s ethical lapse, she had the brazen temerity to file an ethics complaint against him. And then in a public fit of professed pique, in January 2004 she quit the Commission because, since the Attorney General’s investigation of Ruedrich’s violation of the Alaska Ethics Act was ongoing, she was precluded from publicly discussing what she knew about it. As Sarah went out of her way to tell the Anchorage Daily News, the state’s largest newspaper: “I’m forced to withhold information from Alaskans, and that goes against what I believe in as a public servant.”
Sarah’s self-serving seizure of the ethical high ground made her reputation with socially conservative, mostly white, rank-and-file Republican voters. Two years later when she challenged Frank Murkowski in the 2006 Alaska Republican gubernatorial primary election, her reputation for having fearlessly fought “good old boy political corruption” in the guise of the chairman of her own party was a principal reason she was able to defeat Frank, who by then was the most reviled Governor in Alaska history, by an astonishing 32,000 votes.