Ah, the gripes and groans emitting from Washington conservatives over Sarah Palin's decision not to attend any events, can be heard all the way up here in New England "Where is she?" I can hear my fellow D.C. comrades cry. "Doesn't she care about us?" is another loud moan. "Why, why, why has she forsaken this, that, and every event we've asked her to show up at?" others righteously inquire. And then there is this new, almost vengeful, attack on her refusal to 'show up': "I can't believe one of her closest advisors is Greta van Susteren's husband -- a known 'anti-gun', 'anti-nearly everything conservative' trial lawyer."
My friends, we need to calm down. Six days before the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC) began, for instance, our Lady of the North was on a small aircraft en-route with the Reverend Franklin Graham to the edge of western Alaska -- the literal edge, perhaps, of the Western World. Up the Yukon River, she landed on a frozen tundra in the ice-cold, far-flung Russian Mission region of her rugged state (where, with binoculars, you can see Russia from your house). Now why -- you may ask -- was she there palling around with the good Reverend, instead of preparing to attend the Woodstock of Conservatism, CPAC? Because there is a huge food and fuel crisis in Western, aka "Bush" Alaska, and with the Reverend, she was energetically delivering food stuffs to cash-strapped Russian Mission residents unable to purchase food.
As Rev. Graham said at the time: "Battling winter storms, we quickly began airlifting tons of food to more than a dozen remote villages along the Yukon, Kuskokwim and Nushagak rivers. The Governor pulled out all the stops and worked swiftly to assist." And also: "What a blessing it was to work with government officials who serve their people with true Christian compassion."
To be pointed: Governor Palin is incredibly preoccupied right now and we probably will not see her till mid-year.
Alaska, presently, is in the midst of an intense, rapid 90-day legislative session that began in January and is set to expire in mid-April. A little after that will we probably see more of Governor Palin, I reliably hear. Indeed, she will have lots more free time to take more than once the 14-plus hour plane ride from Juneau-to-Washington.
But at the moment she is simply plain loaded with work.
Not only has she had to put forward a massive and extremely complex plan to the state legislature this session detailing the construction of a $4 billion gasoline bullet line to alleviate fuel shortages in Anchorage (the main population center), but she has to put together proposals on constructing a huge hydroelectric dam in Alaska, and also on merging Alaska's main power utilities into a single corporation. This is work, my friends, serious work.
And it is compounded by the fact that Alaska is now slowly receiving the stimulus monies, and there is intense discussion in the State House over how to use them.
"The stimulus money is a major issue," explains Gregg Erickson, editor-at-large of the well-respected Alaska Budget Report. "There is great jostling in the legislature over the transportation money in the stimulus package. Alaska has a huge capital budget unlike any other state so there are great arguments over capital or 'shovel-ready' projects to fund."
For the record, we must keep in mind, too, that Governor Palin was not against accepting stimulus monies.
"She never suggested she would reject all of the stimulus money," notes Bill McAllister, her press secretary. "That was a straw man erected by a few Democrats. She specifically said she favored infrastructure projects that would stimulate the economy and create or retain private sector jobs. She said she would be concerned if taking certain funds committed the state to programs that ultimately it could not sustain under its own fiscal regime."
And all this work is nicely topped off some more by the fact that Alaska now has a crippling $1 billion state budget deficit brought on by the drop in oil prices. Her state's budget fluctuates significantly year-to-year because the state has no personal income tax, no sales tax, and derives most of its revenue from royalties on oil production. Alaska did setup a "rainy day fund" that contains over $6 billion, but the main question over how much to take out of this "rainy day fund" to shore up the state budget for this year has stirred intense and passionate debate.
"We will have to tap our reserves to fill the shortfall this year, and one just as large that’s projected for the next fiscal year," said McAllister. She's got to find a double-solution there too that can pass through the notoriously cankerous state legislature, and also that does not cause too many ruffed feathers in Alaska's fractured state Republican Party.
The Lady of the North probably will not be seen bouncing around America for a few more months, at which she can then get to work addressing the van Susteren question, answer if she bears any ill will against Michael Steele for firing from the Republican National Committee her PAC treasurer, and also why she recently appointed Judge Morgan Christen, a former member of Planned Parenthood, to Alaska's Supreme Court.
This woman's work, it seems, is never done.