The Campaign Spot

The Post Goes Snowblind in Wasilla

The New York Times and the Washington Post take swings at Palin’s management in Alaska today.

First, the Post, which earlier in the week put a story on Palin’s per diems on the front page – per diems that amounted to $7.76 per family member per day.
They headline their piece…
As Mayor of Wasilla, Palin Cut Own Duties, Left Trail of Bad Blood
..which makes her sound not merely like a serial killer, but a lazy serial killer, outsourcing the disposal of the bodies or something. The graphic “trail of bad blood” metaphor is, I suppose, justified by the comments of city employees she fired.
Any political figure who actually makes an impact is going to make enemies – particularly one who makes her stamp by taking on the state’s political establishment. But does selection of critics tell us anything about her? (On par with, say, a near-fistfight with a colleague in the state senate?)
“Palin says her time as mayor taught her how to be a leader and grounded her in the real needs of voters, and her tenure revealed some of the qualities she would later display as governor: a striving ambition, a willingness to cut loose those perceived as disloyal and a populist brand of social and pro-growth conservatism.”
Which political figures are known for retaining those perceived as disloyal? Comparing her mayoral tenure to Obama’s senatorial is imperfect (sure would be nice to have some executive experience of his to compare), but when Obama took office in the Senate, did he retain any of Sen. Peter Fitzgerald’s senatorial office staff?
“The universe of the mayor of Wasilla is sharply circumscribed even by the standards of small towns, which limited Palin’s exposure to issues such as health care, social services, the environment and education. With so many government services in the state subsidized by oil revenue, and with no need to provide for local schools, Wasilla has also made do with a very low property tax rate — cut altogether by Palin’s successor — sparing it from the tax battles that localities elsewhere must deal with.”
I’m reminded of that line from computer programmers, “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”
“Palin limited her duties further by hiring a deputy administrator to handle much of the town’s day-to-day management. “
No doubt an ominous trait in the Vice Presidency, a job in which no duties are delegated to staff. Unmentioned is the fact is that Palin voluntarily cut her own pay by $4,000 at this time. She was fulfilling a campaign promise, but it also demonstrates a principle of less pay for less work. Has anyone ever encountered a politician who has done that?
“Her top achievement as mayor was the construction of an ice rink, a project that landed in the courts and cost the city more than expected.”
Please tell me this means that support for an over-budget public works projects is now deemed as a disqualifying trait for the U.S. Presidency. I’m thinking of a particular Chicago Sun Times report that noted, “As a state senator, Barack Obama gave $100,000 in state money to a campaign volunteer who failed to deliver on a plan to create a botanic garden in one of Chicago’s most blighted neighborhoods.”
“Further constraining City Hall’s role is the frontier philosophy that has prevailed in Wasilla, a town that was founded in 1917 as a stop along the new railroad from Anchorage to the gold mines further north. The light hand of government is evident in the town’s commercial core, essentially a haphazard succession of big-box stores, fast-food restaurants and shopping plazas.”
If only it had the cosmopolitan sophistication and economic power that you can find on the South Side of Chicago.
They quote several city employees who Palin fired and replaced. Needless to say, they object strongly to Palin’s leadership and decision-making. But the proof is in the pudding; had city services deteriorated under the new crew, it would have offered a rival an easy argument to beat Palin in her reelection bid. Instead, she was reelected with 74 percent of the vote, running against the mayor she replaced. Apparently she was change that Wasilla residents believed in.
The Post continues: “In 2006, Palin told the Anchorage Daily News she learned from it all. ‘At the time, it seemed perplexing that people would object. I was very bold about what needed to be done,’ she said. ‘It was rough with a staff who didn’t want to be there working with a new boss. I learned you’ve got to be very discerning early on and decide if you can win them over or not. If you can’t, you replace them early on.’”
Is that the language or attitude of a vindictive power-monger, or those of someone who wants to get things done? It would be fascinating to see if Obama feels differently about keeping on existing staff who were loyal to the predecessor and who aren’t on board with the new program.