Thursday, August 22, 2013

The overlooked, but very valuable book about Sarah Palin: "Unlikely Liberal" by former Alaskan journalist Matthew Zencey

By Patrick

First of all, let me apologize for not having put up a post during the last two weeks. We should have put up an open post, but I am not the biggest fan of open posts and always thought that I will write a new post very soon. However, due to "restraints" of real life, I didn't come round to do it in the end. Maybe it was also a case of "writer's block", I don't know.

While we entertain and educate ourselves by discussing a lot of diverse topics in the comments, I thought it would a be good idea to revisit our favorite subject, Sarah Palin - the woman who left Alaska to seek fame and fortune and who was lucky enough to find a group of hardcore fans who are themselves so detached from reality that they believe every word she says and apparently also believe that she is the new messiah. It is just too interesting to witness the demise of this woman whose tweets and facebook post used to keep the mainstream media busy for days, over and over again. It now seems like light-years ago, but of course that only happened "yesterday." Today, however, only a handful of usually minor internet outfits continue to care about what she does or says. Let's just say that the stock of "Palin Inc." is not exactly rising.

So why continue to write about her? Well, first of all, Sarah Palin loves to connect herself with other right-wingers who might be far more dangerous than she ever was (dangerous at some fleeting moment in the past, that is). In 2012 she pretended to support the old scoundrel and adulterer Newt Gingrich and his martian wife, and now she is in love with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. The good thing about all this is that one can be sure that anyone who Sarah picks or supports is either a rabble-rouser, liar, demagogue, extremist, adulterer, or all together. She has a real talent for picking the worst.

Regarding Rand Paul, let me add that I am absolutely disgusted about his very own and special brand of "libertarianism." He simply turns it into an ideology which wants to give all power to corporations, and demonizes anything positive a government could do, because this apparently would be "tyranny". Ever since I listened to an interview a long time ago, in which Rand's father Ron Paul said that the existing system of universal healthcare in the United Kingdom is "tyranny", I was thoroughly disgusted by those people who basically promote what could be called a system of "corporate anarchy." No rules, no protection, because don't you know, we want our "liberty." Unfortunately I can't find this interview with Ron Paul right now, but I clearly remember him saying that about healthcare in the United Kingdom. 

In addition, it's worth to continue to write about Sarah Palin simply because there is still so much to discover and to discuss. For the example the "official record" of her time as Governor of Alaska. Her fanatic fans still love to spam the blogs with lists of her glorious "accomplishments", but it's actually not easy to come across a fairly objective account about what really happened back then when Sarah was Governor and when Alaska still was the land of wine and honey, as her rabid fans apparently believe.

But in fact, such a detailed account exists, and it is the overlooked book "Unlikely Liberal" by former Alaskan journalist Matthew Zencey, who covered Alaskan politics for twenty years, for example as the editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News and who also knew Sarah Palin very well. 

The book's apparent lack of success in my view was probably caused by two main reasons: First of all, the book came far too late, which was unfortunate for the author. It was only published in September 2012, when the broader public simply wasn't interested any more in Sarah Palin's legacy as Governor of Alaska. Secondly, the choice of title for this book simply is awful. While it undoubtedly is one of the main premises of the book that Sarah Palin followed certain "liberal policies" while being the Governor of Alaska, the title of the book really should have reflected the fact that the author actually attempted to write an honest in-depth account of Sarah Palin's political actions while she was Governor. I just think that the title was a bad choice.

Matthew Zencey succeeds: The author soberly presents the facts, trying to be as objective as possible. The book is easy to read, well-written, nicely organized in smaller, precise chapters and contains a huge amount of facts. It is more than obvious that factual accuracy was of the utmost importance for the author. There are many fascinating facts to discover, even for "experts." The book clearly has no serious competitor in the ranks of the dozens of books which have been written about Palin, as no other book focuses on Sarah Palin's record as Governor in such detail. If the book had been published for example in early 2011, it probably would have been quite a big success, as far as sales are concerned.

As an example, let's mention the reasons for Sarah Palin's resignation. Sarah's fans spend much of their time screaming on the blogs that the evil liberals wanted to "bankrupt" Sarah and that she had no other choice than to resign. At Politicalgates, we also wrote about the fact that this claim has long been debunked. Matthew Zencey offers some addition insights and writes:

So why did Sarah Palin resign?

Was it because she spent so much time and personal money fighting ethics charges? Did being in the spotlight bring too much harsh scrutiny of her kids? Was it the chance to make real money, not her piddling $ 125,000-a-year salary as governor? Was it because she had accomplished the big things she'd set out to do? Was it her fading popularity? Her loss of political support in the legislature? The prospect of being stuck doing the boring work of passing a budget and other routine matters of state governance? Was it so she could have more time to burnish her national image? Did she think that being in office forced her to be "politically correct"? Was being the mom of a special needs kid too much while maintaining a full-time job far from her home? Did she simply hate the job?

In my humble opinion, the answer is all of the above.

Palin gave many of the above answers in public, and some of them in private. Here's what she told her Going Rogue writer, Lynn Vincent:

Created: 7/11/2009 7:36:23 AM
Subject: Re: Important dot-connecting

(By leaving I'm) "sending the message that 1) I'm not a professional politician; 2) I've accomplished the goals as Governor that I promised; ethics reform; mandated new clear and equitable share of Alaska's resource development for Alaskans; built vehicle to get gasline built; slowed the rate of growth of govt; eliminated personal luxuries the state used to fund for governors so we could set the example ... So handling the reins to Sean is just sensible and fair and efficient instead of suffering Alaskans through a lame duck session!" (Her emphasis.)


As is often the case with Palin, her complaints included exaggerations and problems of her own making. Instead of commuting from Wasilla, she could have chosen to spend her term living in state-paid housing - the governor's mansion in Juneau - just a couple of blocks from her office in the state capital. (Regaring her claim that she "can't afford to have security at my home"): She actually reduced her state trooper security detail, as documented in the Troopergate investigation. She could have had state-paid security at her home if needed - but it would have undercut her populist image as an ordinary Alaskan forgoing perks, accessible to the people.

The vast majority of Palin's legal fees were to defend herself in Troopergate, after she filed a formal ethics complaint against herself. It's unclear why she needed to pay her lawyer hundreds of dollars an hour, for example, to attack an ethics complaint filed under the pseudonym of a British TV character.

Palin complained that media scrutiny of her kids was grwoing intolerable, even though her status as a mother - a family-values hockey mom with a special needs kid - was an integral part of her political "brand", and she routinely displayed her children at political events.

Unfortunately, Matthew Zencey, as far as I could see, doesn't mention the additional detail we reported in February 2012, another fact which renders the usual claim that Sarah Palin was on the way to go "bankrupt" even more ludicrous:


It it simply untrue that Sarah Palin was forced to pay the costs for her legal defense against the ethics complaints herself, was forced to "bankrupt her family" and was subsequently driven out of office, as Palin herself claims in an email from January 2, 2009. This often repeated myth can easily be debunked with hard evidence.

When Sarah Palin's first legal defense fund, the "Alaska Fund Trust", was declared unethical by the state-assigned investigator Tim Petumenos in June 2010 after an ethics complaint by Kim Chatman, Petumenos published an extensive report, and for the first time the following was revealed in public: The State of Alaska offered to pay for the defense against the ethics complaints, and even entered into a contract for legal services with Palin's lawyers, for an amount "up to $ 100,000 at public expense." This would have given Sarah Palin enough resources to mount a solid defense, but as investigator Petumenos notes: "No invoices were submitted."

The reasons for this untypical behaviour by Sarah Palin are completely unclear. The lawyers claim that it would have been "too difficult to separate the functions of representing Governor Palin in her official capacity in the pending state-related matters, and representing her in other related campaign or partisan matters beyond the scope of the state contract." This explanation is nonsensical, as every lawyer knows who has ever invoiced billable hours.

Screenshot from the Petumenos report:

Sarah Palin instead choose to set up her unethical "Alaska Fund Trust."

The meme that Sarah Palin was forced to bankrupt herself is therefore pure propaganda.


Back to the current post:

Therefore Sarah Palin not only had by far the biggest expenses through filing an ethics complaint against herself as a tactical political move after the bipartisan Branchflower investigation concluded that she had abused her powers, but she also rejected a huge sum of money which was offered to her to defend herself against ethics complaints. This reminds us of the old Palin rule: Her version of reality has to be correct, because the rest of the world is always lying (and always hates her).

It is therefore only consequential that in her private emails and her resignation speech the subject of "bankruptcy" found little or no mention.

Well, there are many other interesting parts of this book which are worth quoting, but let's stop here. Matthew Zencey delivered a convincing and very valuable book, which unfortunately did not get the attention it deserved. But as I said, it simply came too late.

There seems to be virtually no serious person left in America who could imagine a political future for Sarah Palin. Even Bill Kristol is fed up with her.

But Sarah Palin still tries to influence the political discourse, and therefore her own record should not be forgotten. She was not the "hottest Governor", but certainly the "weirdest Governor."

Finally, you might ask whether Matthew Zencey mentions some of Sarah Palin's "private scandals", for example babygate, the desperately suppressed fact that Sarah Palin faked her pregnancy with Trig (which virtually half of Alaska knows about).

The answer is: No, these "private" matters are not being discussed in the book. However, Matthew Zencey preferred an "honest" solution for this "problem", for which I give him credit. He writes in the preface of the book:

You'll have to look elsewhere if you care about Bristol's pregnancy, the feud with Levi, Trig's birth, the state of Palin's marriage to Todd, her career in high school basketball, Piper's progress in school, and other parts of Palin's personal life. In my view, a politician's personal life is a public issue only if it reveals hypocrisy on a political question or significantly compromises his or her ability to do the job.

Of course disagree with the second sentence, because the faked pregnancy definitely does question Sarah Palin's ability to do the job, but I also think it was a very good idea by Matthew Zencey to address those topics directly in this manner right at the beginning of the book.

(For us "insiders", the following sentence in the "acknowledgements" of the book is also pretty interesting: "I appreciate Elizabeth Demer's willingness to recommend publishing my work and her guidance on the manuscript.")

In conclusion, I can highly recommend Mathew Zencey's book. Together with "The Rogue" by Joe McGinniss, "The Lies of Sarah Palin" by Geoffrey Dunn and "Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin" by Frank Bailey, it provides invaluable insights and facts. Also, concerning the topic of "Alaska, the oil and Sarah Palin" (as well as other topics), there is also the very detailed book "Crude Awakening: Money, Mavericks, and Mayhem in Alaska" by Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne, which we have read and can also recommend.

Sarah Palin may fade from the spotlight, but a look at her botched legacy is always a good idea, especially now where she openly pals around with politicians like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Hopefully they have heard about the famous Palin-curse...



Many thanks to our wonderful reader JCos for this great variation of the above photo featuring Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin:

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