From the For What It Is Worth Department: here is my take on Sarah Palin. I have lived out in New York State for most of my life and I have heard from friends out East this past week wondering what I think of Sarah Palin. I have lived in Alaska almost ten years which is not a long time but I guess it qualifies me, in some eyes, to have an informed point of view. Here is what you need to know about the East. Easterners think the country (world?) revolves around them. Notice how everything is based on EST. They think anyone living west of - say New York City - is culturally deprived. So Alaska is way out there. They think it is located somewhere west of Seattle out in the Pacific Ocean because that is where it is found on most maps. In fact, a lot of maps like those weather maps in most Eastern papers don't even show Alaska! How can they leave someplace so huge off the map? Out of sight, out of mind. Some Easterners think Alaska is a foreign country. Do you need a passport to get in? They ask. For most Easterners Alaska might as well be a foreign country. They have never been here and probably never will. Why should they? It snows all the time, people live in igloos and polar bears are a constant threat to life. They think ANWAR is a state park sorta like the Adirondack State Park in New York and they would not want oil companies mucking that up with their drilling so why should they allow drilling there. In general, they have no clue why anyone would want to live out here unless they had to. Alaska is a nice place for some people to visit; maybe it would be a good idea to keep it as a National Park because no one in their right mind would ever want to live there. Most Easterners are surprised to learn about PFDS: the state government actually pays people to live there. They are amazed. They are equally amazed when they hear that the state gets more federal dollars percapita than any other state. They don't know that the federal government owns most of the state. The only things they know about Alaska's congressmen is that there are only two and they are old. One more thing: they are angry old men (probably because they have to live in Alaska).
So when Sarah Palin came to the attention of the national media last week it was understandable that they were incredulous. Can anything good come out of Alaska? They quickly answered No! McCain's vetting committee let him down. He could not have known what he was getting into. His judgement is suspect. He was led astray. You see, no one knew her but they knew one thing about her: she was from Alaska. They expected her to show up in mukluks and gnawing on the jawbone of a moose. Her husband is a world champion snow machiner ( Easterners call them snowmobiles). Her 17 year old daughter is pregnant already (see what happens when you preach abstinence only education). She did get some high marks for actually practicing her Pro-Life convictions and carrying a Downs Syndrome baby full term when it is not a common practice today.
So I didn't expect Sarah Palin to translate very well into Eastern. But even I was surprised at the nasty and unrelenting negativity. She was unknown but her instant media critics thought they knew her. She was from a small town and a small state ( surely her critics know how Big Alaska is) so she must be small minded. She had no experience; she had only governed for 2 years and that was in a small state ( being mayor of Wasilla didn't count). She was only chosen because she is an attractive woman. How could she possibly govern with 5 kids ( Mitt Romney has 5 kids and I don't recall anyone making that point about him). Even our own Anchorage Daily News piled on this week printing editorials and comments from people who thought the people who favored her addition to the Republican ticket had taken leave of their senses. I guess they want to be taken seriously by the Eastern media elite. There were lots of Eastern reporters up here last week and they didn't want to appear uncritical in their evaluation of Palin. With polls showing Palin's popularity rate at over 80% it must be tough to find enough negative opinions to fill an editorial page.
So as I watched Palin's acceptance speech at the Republican convention Wednesday night, I couldn't keep from smiling. Although, I choked up a time or two like when she told special needs families they had a friend in the White House if she gets there. She demonstrated what a gifted speaker she is who can really connect with people. I checked out some of the media responses afterward. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC was his usual insufferably, pompous self noting that her tone seemed overly harsh and asking if this was going to be indicative of the campaign. Fred Barnes on Fox said what most everyone else was thinking: She has it all! She was poised and not intimidated in the least. She showed what a lot of Alaskans already knew. Alaskan experience builds character. She is a perfect running mate for McCain. She is a straight shooter, too, and she doesn't really care what the self professed cultural elites out East think.