Political Hay

Here Comes the Sun

Sarah Palin is now an even bigger winner.

By 1.20.10

Readers of this column will recall that months ago I wrote that a political earthquake was coming. More recently, I wrote that the biggest problem for Republicans in 2010 is that they will underestimate their newfound strength, and so would not be prepared to win some races they could have won. But even I did not foresee the political natural disaster of biblical proportions that rumbled out of Massachusetts yesterday.

Who would've have thunk it? In the one state that voted for George McGovern in 1972, in a special election for a U.S. Senate seat held by the "Liberal Lion" Ted Kennedy since the early 1960s, Republican Scott Brown beats the Democrat state Attorney General, in the process snatching away the Democrats' filibuster proof Senate majority.

Poor Martha Coakley. The most persistently liberal state electorate in the union didn't reject her yesterday. It stood up and said, "Hell, no, we won't go," to Barack Obama's triumphant march to socialism.

If the Democrats can't win Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts, what seat is safe? The answer is none, not Barbara Boxer's in California, not Chuck Schumer's in New York, not even Barney Frank's in Brookline. Where Republicans can't win, Democrat primary challengers can knock out old, tired, liberal warhorses. In some cases, a black Democrat like Harold Ford challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in New York can help conservatives more than a Republican can, by co-sponsoring bipartisan initiatives.

I hope our national ruling class doesn't get it. Barack Obama, hopeless Nancy Pelosi, clueless Harry Reid, the Democrats, our miserable excuse for a national media. I pray that they just brilliantly spin it away, and keep on truckin' along, the strains of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," and "Yellow Submarine," still ringing between their ears. What conservatives need to take from yesterday's political Krakatoa is the grand vista of opportunity, politically and policywise, that the next several years now offer.

Gotta Love That Rogue

And speaking of grand vistas of opportunity, let me discuss Sarah Palin. Having just finished her book, Going Rogue, I am angry. I am angry that no one, not even conservatives, told me what a brilliant book this is, before I read it for myself. Brilliant in a quintessentially Sarah Palin way, showing through doing and being her genuine self, rather than through academic argument, exactly the way to communicate to the every day person.

I don't know that she actually planned it this way. But what is so brilliant about the book is that she just tells her fascinating and endearing personal life story, from childhood to 2009, in great personal and reflective detail. In the process, you come to know exactly who she is, exactly what she believes, and why, while she convincingly, thoroughly, politely eviscerates her critics, from left to right.

After reading the book, the word that will stick in your mind is genuine, which is jarring in a modern, hip, culture, that Rush Limbaugh is accurately calling "the universe of lies." Sarah Palin in this book transparently speaks from the heart, and tells us who she is, more than willing to let the chips fall where they may. And where they fall is to provide a firm foundation for a generation of national political leadership.

One of the People

Born in Sandpoint, Idaho, she spent her first five years in Skagway, Alaska, population 650, living in a rented, wooden house built in 1898. She was raised in "the one horse town of Wasilla," about an hour outside Anchorage. Though her father would rather hunt and fish on Sunday morning than attend church, her mother was devout, and Sarah became a Christian at a youth Bible camp. She writes, "I got into the habit of reading Scripture before I got out of bed every morning and making sure it was the last thing I did at night."

She grew up in a great outdoors family, where "We were all expected to work, build, chop, hunt, fish and fight equally." That equal upbringing provided the foundation for her feminism. "I didn't subscribe to all the radical mantras of that early feminist era," she writes, "but reasoned arguments for equal opportunity definitely resonated with me…. I grew up knowing I could be anything I wanted to be." This was reflected in her chosen profession as a sports reporter.

Four years of high school varsity basketball culminated in leading her team as a captain to a state championship her senior year. That was the year she met Todd Palin, from a hardworking, highly productive Yupik Eskimo family. With Native American conservationist sensibilities, "He hated gossip and pretension. He hated prejudice. He opposed any physical disrespect of the land, from litter to irresponsible development." Palin explains, "But when he told me he had become a Christian and had been baptized at a sports camp a few years earlier, that was the clincher for me."

She earned tuition college money in the Miss America Scholarship Pageant, first as Miss Wasilla and then as second runner-up to Miss Alaska. After graduating from college, she eloped with Todd down at the local courthouse, with witnesses from the old folks home across the street, celebrating afterwards at Wendy's. Her mother bawled at the news, and now Sarah recognizes, "I want my kids to have the wedding I didn't have."

She registered as a Republican when she turned 18 during Reagan's presidency because she was "a believer in individual rights and responsibilities rather than heavy handed government, in free-market principles that included reward for hard work; respect for equality; support for a strong military; and a belief that America is the best country on earth." She describes herself as "a free-market capitalist," and her daughter Piper serves as the poster child for Alaska Right to Life.

As someone who worked for President Reagan on his White House staff, I can attest after reading this 400 plus page autobiography that she is through and through a female Reagan. But the book shows that, deep in her heart, she is first and foremost a Mom, which is something even Reagan couldn't give us.

Public Service

The head of the local Chamber of Commerce first recruited Sarah to run for Wasilla City Council. With two small children, she "went door-to-door asking for people's votes, pulling the kids through the snow on a sled." Her blue collar, union husband was frequently gone for long periods as an oil worker for British Petroleum on the North Slope. "I focused on reducing property taxes and redefining government's appropriate role," she writes.

After her election, she refused to vote with the Chamber and the Mayor when it would conflict with her Reaganite principles of less taxes, spending, and regulatory intrusion. As her conflicts with the Mayor grew, she challenged the three-term incumbent for reelection.

Now she had 3 small children. "And when it was time to knock on every door in the city again, I pulled Track and Bristol in a little red wagon, and this time toted Willow in a toddler backpack." She also promised to cut property taxes, take a pay cut, and keep the town "growing and prospering by embracing laissez-faire principles and promoting Wasilla as a pro-free-enterprise kind of town." She won.

In office, she writes, "I cut taxes -- lots of them. I eliminated small business inventory taxes, I got rid of personal property taxes, I gave the boot to burdensome things like business license renewal fees, and I cut the real property tax mil levy every year…we built and paved roads, and extended water and sewer lines." She fired the Police Chief when he refused to cooperate on the budget. Voters approved a bond measure to build a multiuse sports center. Wasilla became the fastest growing town in the state, and she had her fourth child (back in the office the next day). She faced the former Mayor for reelection, who stupidly called her a "cheerleader" and a "Spice Girl," and won the three way race with 75% of the vote.

She next ran for Lieutenant Governor, hauling her 4 kids around the state. But without special interest appeal, she couldn't raise funds, and lost in a squeaker by 2%. Longtime Senator Frank Murkowski, now Governor, appreciating her successful campaigning for him, appointed her as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulated the oil and gas industry. She loved the job and was brilliant at it. However, another commissioner, Randy Ruedrich, was serving at the same time as state Republican Party Chairman, and on the Republican National Committee. He raised contributions for the party from the same business interests he was regulating. He refused to recuse himself from cases involving the oil drilling company he previously headed. He passed agency information to lobbyists.

Palin challenged this corruption, and finally resigned in protest. Amid growing investigations and even arrests of Alaskan officials for taking industry bribes, Palin challenged Governor Murkowski for reelection. Running a grassroots campaign to clean up the state, she pledged to finally build "the 3,000-mile, $40 billion natural gas pipeline that other administrations had been promising to build for decades," which would greatly boost the state's economy like the Alaskan oil pipeline had.

She shockingly knocked out Murkowski in a five-way primary with 51% of the vote. Washington pundits at the time said Republicans were going to lose this seat to liberal former Governor Tony Knowles because this unknown upstart had defeated the incumbent. But on Election Day she bested Knowles and 5 other candidates with almost half the vote.

Governor Sarah Palin

Palin got to work on the pipeline promise on day one in office. She writes, "This was a multibillion-dollar project, the largest private sector energy project in North American history. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Oil giants like Exxon-Mobile, BP, and ConocoPhillips wanted to negotiate an inside deal with the state to build and operate the pipeline. Over their furious opposition, Palin insisted on competitive bidding open to the entire world instead. Her Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) providing for that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, with shocked testimonials from leading Democrat legislators. The state even received a bid from China, but chose as the best the Canadian bid from the Calgary-based pipeline building giant TransCanada-Alaska.

She clashed bitterly with the oil giants again over the fees they would pay the people of Alaska for the oil and gas they pumped out of the state. She scrapped the old sweetheart deal which generated far less revenue than advertised, and was the source of many bribery investigations and prosecutions. She again won overwhelming bipartisan legislative approval instead for an entirely new system based on a minimum fee on gross receipts for volume pumped, plus a share of the profits. She writes, "The new formula would incentivize the industry to produce more, while protecting the public." The industry trashed here publicly, but "A year later, vindication came when industry officials admitted that the legislation was working and had even significantly increased their profits while spurring them to invest more in exploration and new development in Alaska."

She also challenged ExxonMobil on its failure to develop its oil and gas leases. She writes,

For the 22nd time, ExxonMobil had submitted its plan to begin drilling in the Point Thompson Unit but still had not drilled. These domestic supplies of energy were needed….My Administration announced that for the country's sake, ExxonMobil would no longer be allowed to just warehouse America's resources. After all these decades, if the largest company in the world was not going to abide by its contracts to drill, we would rebid the leases and find a company that would.

She further explains, "Adjacent to the much-discussed ANWR, Point Thompson is a North Slope parcel of state-owned land that holds trillions of cubic feet of clean natural gas and an equally enormous amount of oil." After winning court approval of her right to terminate the leases, "drilling equipment started driving up the long ice road to Point Thompson to deploy hundreds of new workers in their hard hats and steel-toed boots. Exxon began ordering parts and supplies and buying equipment to develop rich reserves for the industry, the state, and the nation."

Palin ultimately won bipartisan support as well on her ethics reform bill. While former Murkowski Administration officials, legislators, and staffers were being hauled off to jail, Palin's bill included criminal penalties for lawmakers who traded votes for campaign contributions, banned gifts from lobbyists, required lawmakers to report outside income, shut down the revolving door between special interests and state service, and terminated pensions for lawmakers convicted of felonies. Compare this extensive record of bipartisan cooperation and achievement with the Obama/Pelosi/Reid party line partisanship in Washington, where they won't even empanel a conference committee with Republicans on the health care legislation.

When the legislature sent her a business-as-usual, runaway budget, she issued "the largest veto totals in the state's history." She led by example, terminating the Governor's personal chef, and selling the Governor's personal jet on eBay. Then there was this budget cut: "I also trimmed the state food budget by keeping our home's freezer stocked with the wild seafood we caught ourselves, as well as organic protein sources hunted by friends and family." In response to Hollywood celebs protesting hunting, she responded as a lifelong member of the NRA, "If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come he made them out of meat?" For her second budget, she cut "as much as I believed the public would stand for," and put the entire budget online. No wonder her public approval rating soared to 88%.

Amidst all of this, she discovered that at the age of 43 she was pregnant with her fifth child. Then she received the heartbreaking news in the Governor's Anchorage office that the child would be born with Down syndrome. She writes, "I was shocked beyond words. I drove the 45 minutes to [the doctor's office in] Wasilla gritting my teeth. I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry." The experience helped her to understand why some women choose abortion. But she stood by her pro-life views. She announced the pregnancy to the news media saying, "Remember when I promised to 'deliver' for Alaska?"

The birth contractions began 5 weeks early, during her keynote speech to an oil and gas conference in Texas, which she finished. As she hurried off the stage, host Governor Rick Perry said, "I know you're pregnant, but don't tell me you're going off to have the baby right now." She named the boy "Trig," which bears the double meaning in old Norse, "True" and "Brave Victory." With 90% of Down syndrome babies aborted, the entire episode demonstrates genuine, breathtaking character, walking the walk, and not just talking the talk. But this decision offended bloodthirsty media sophisticates, aghast that the child lives.

A Political Dynasty?

Just four months later, she accepted John McCain's invitation to run for Vice President. She has nothing but praise for McCain in this book, and doesn't directly criticize the campaign staff either, even though Nicole Wallace sold her down the river in setting up the Katie Couric interview to curry her own favor with Couric. The McCain campaign fatally blundered in not turning Palin loose all over conservative talk radio, Fox News, even the Wall Street Journal, where she might well have rallied the conservative base to victory over the unthinkable Far Left takeover of America that occurred.

That campaign and subsequent events reveal that the activist Left includes a lot of very nasty people, possessed with the moral certitude of the rightness of their outdated 19th century ideology that the 20th century proved disastrously fallacious. It is long past time for decent people of every stripe to insist on termination of their abusive tactics and rhetoric, and rapid law enforcement when those tactics veer into illegality.

I found more wisdom in this book than I did at Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Most intriguing about Sarah Palin right now, beyond her passion to contribute to the coming restoration of America, is her quite Christian attitude that she doesn't need to be "the leader" of that restoration. Where the conservatives most need help right now is in more grassroots organization. Great work is already being done by Freedom Works, Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party movement. But Sarah Palin could electrify Middle America like no one else if she would start a nationwide grassroots organization focused on communicating with our elected representatives, and replacing them if they don't listen. She could raise an ocean of small contributions through direct mail to hire a practical management team to make that work.

I predict a long future for Sarah Palin, and her clan, in national public life. But I think she needs to prove herself first to the great numbers of dismissive skeptics misled by our openly dishonest national media. So let me make another prediction: Sarah Palin will be serving in the President's Cabinet in 2013 as the Secretary of Energy. There she will lead the revival of a robust, world leading, American energy industry.

In this post, she will so prove herself that by 2017 she will be at the top of the Cabinet as Secretary of State or Treasury, or maybe she will be serving the U.S. Senate by then. In 2021, the ultimately glass ceiling will shatter as Sarah Palin becomes the first woman President of the United States at the age of 56.

But with Sarah's 5 children, perhaps that will just be the beginning of a political dynasty, to replace the fading Kennedys. I don't, however, want to deny all hope to those who cannot bear such a thought. So I propose a new, completely voluntary, federal program for them, to pay for relocation expenses to the foreign socialist paradise of their choice. Because the American people ain't going there. We're sticking with the original American Dream.

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About the Author

Peter Ferrara is a Senior Fellow for the Heartland Institute, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlement Reform and Budget Policy for the National Tax Limitation Committee. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush.