I asked my UC Berkeley ATO fraternity brother, Steve Paliwoda, who now lives in Alaska, for his thoughts on McCain’s choice for his running mate. Here is his reply:
I think McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate could well prove to be the most savvy Vice Presidential choice in a very long time. Certainly the timing of the announcement of such an unexpected and interesting choice, coming as it did the morning after the end of the Democratic Convention did much to divert the public’s attention from Barak Obama. Thus, such well-known Friday evening news programs as "Washington Week" and "Bill Moyer’s Journal" spent a goodly amount of their air time discussing Sarah Palin, instead of talking about nothing else but Obama and Biden. Chalk one up for the Republican campaign.
Sarah Palin is arguably more of a political novice than Obama. Before being elected Governor of Alaska a year ago last November, she had served one — maybe two — terms as the Mayor of the town of Wasilla (pronounced just like it’s spelled: wah-SILL-ah — that is, I think it was Wasilla, which is a sizable strip-mall town about 40 miles north of Anchorage, and is the major town of that area, which is known as the Matanuska-Susitna (mat’n-NUS-ka soo-SIT-ka) Borough. Sarah is not new to the public eye, for I think that soon after she graduated from High School in the early 1980’s she won a local or regional beauty contest. She may have served on the MatSu Borough or Wasilla City Council for a term or two before being elected Mayor — I’m not sure about that.
I did not vote for Sarah in her run the Alaska Governorship; I voted instead for the Democratic candidate, Tony Knowles, who I felt was far more qualified. Tony is a Yale grad, originally from Oklahoma, and had served two 4-year terms at Mayor of Anchorage in the 1980’s, and two 4-year terms as Alaska’s Governor in the 1990’s. He then ran unsuccessfully for Senator, but was defeated by previous Senator Frank Murkowski’s daughter Lisa (that’s a long story). Tony then ran again for governor against an "unknown" Sarah Palin, who had defeated the corrupt incumbent Frank Murkowski in the Republican Primary, but it seemed that the Alaska voters were tired of the "old guard" of politicians, and welcomed someone new and fresh, like Sara (BTW, Tony served in all his offices with honor and distinction; however years before starting his political career, he worked for an oil company; and, however unjustly, that was what undid him in the last election).
…And BTW, I don’t know whether I ever communicated this to you before, but in August and September of 1982, I served in then-Senator Frank Murkowki’s Washington D.C. office (in the Dirkson Building) as a temporary volunteer "intern". Believe it or not, they assigned me to perform initial research into the legislative background of what was then an unknown subject: "Wetlands". (That’s another long story.)
Getting back to Sarah: She has impressed people since taking office with practically everything she’s done. She knows how not to tread on people’s toes. She is not owned by anybody. The women lover her. She dresses and carries herself like many of the women voters who like her so much. She is a "natural" when it comes to public speaking, and yet does not come across as overblown or affected. She has a good public presence, without the political bombast. Now, it will be a challenge to her to be able to present herself well to reporters during the campaign on such subjects as international relations — but she is not easily fazed, has a quick mind, and is very "believable" when she speaks. She has a couple young kids, and recently gave birth to a Down-Syndrome son — which was expected early in her pregnancy, but which she chose to have anyway. ….The debate between her and Joe Biden could conceivably be more interesting to watch than the debate between McCain and Obama. Certainly, the audience for the vice-presidential debate (I presume there will be one) will draw an enormous audience, for the public has had such a steady diet of McCain and/or Obama over the past several months that they’ll dying to watch somebody new.
She has some conservative leanings when it comes to religion, and if memory serves, has made anti-abortion statements, and (I’m not sure about this next one) is tolerant toward the idea of teaching "Creationism" in public schools. Even so, she has enough brains to know such subjects are controversial, and is not one to go around trumpeting publicly such beliefs.
This summer, her office has been the center of attention regarding a couple mini-scandals, whereby (1) The guy she selected as head of Alaska’s State Troopers (a local police chief) had previously been chastised for supposedly being too "familiar" with one of his female subordinates. The letter that was put in his file was eventually expunged. His "slip-up"? — He failed to tell Sarah about that letter when she interviewed him for the job. Sarah didn’t appreciate the "surprise" when reporters dug that one up, so about a week later, the newly-hired Troopers Chief resigned. He’s now trying to get his old Police Chief job back. …and (2) One or two of her aides made pointed remarks to the previous Chief of State Troopers that he should consider firing a particular Trooper who had been chastised in the past for a variety of misconducts. The interesting point here is that the guy is currently involved with Palin’s sister in a nasty divorce-and-child-custody lawsuit. Sarah claims she never knew about the suggestion made to the Trooper Chief, and has temporarily "suspended" (i.e., put on leave with pay) the person who had the discussion(s) with the Chief.
Bottom Line: Sarah Palin is a very interesting choice for McCain’s Vice President, and will be the subject of much attention and discussion — which is just what the Republican want, I’ll bet. Her ability to be President of the U.S., Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces, and leader of the free world, in case McCain’s cancer snuffs him out — well, that’s another matter.