Since yesterday's shocking arrival of Gov. Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate there has been the usual cable news and print blathering about the pick from those who know little about her. But what about the journalists close to home -- in Alaska -- who know her best and have followed her career for years?
For the past 24 hours, the pages and web sites of the two leading papers up there have raised all sorts of issues surrounding Palin, from her ethics problems to general lack of readiness for this big step up. Right now the top story on the Anchorage Daily News web site looks at new info in what it calls "troopergate" and opens: "Alaska's former commissioner of public safety says Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain's pick to be vice president, personally talked him on two occasions about a state trooper who was locked in a bitter custody battle with the governor's sister.
"In a phone conversation Friday night, Walt Monegan, who was Alaska's top cop until Palin fired him July 11, told the Daily News that the governor also had e-mailed him two or three times about her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten, though the e-mails didn't mention Wooten by name. Monegan claims his refusal to fire Wooten was a major reason that Palin dismissed him. Wooten had been suspended for five days previously, based largely on complaints that Palin's family had initiated before Palin was governor."
A reporter for the Anchorage daily, Gregg Erickson, even did an online chat with the Washington Post, in which he revealed that Palin's approval rating in the state was not the much-touted 80%, but 65% and sinking -- and that among journalists who followed her it might be in the "teens." He added: "I have a hard time seeing how her qualifications stack up against the duties and responsibilities of being president.... I expect her to stick with simple truths. When asked about continued American troop presence in Iraq, she said she knows only one thing about that (I paraphrase): no one has attacked the American homeland since George Bush took the war to Iraq."
His paper found a number of leading Republican officeholders in the state who mocked Palin's qualifications. "She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said Lyda Green, the president of the State Senate, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla. "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"
Another top Republican, John Harris, the speaker of the House, when asked about her qualifications for Veep, replied with this: "She's old enough. She's a U.S. citizen."
Dermot Cole, a columnist for the Fairbanks paper, observed that he thinks highly of Palin as a person but "in no way does her year-and-a-half as governor of Alaska qualify her to be vice president or president of the United States.
"One of the strange things Friday was that so many commentators and politicians did not know how to pronounce her name and had no clue about what she has actually done in Alaska....I may be proven wrong, but the decision announced by McCain strikes me as reckless. She is not prepared to be the next president should something happen to McCain."
UPDATE: On Sunday the top story on the Anchorage paper's site carried the headline, "Palin touts stance on 'Bridge to Nowhere,' doesn't note flip-flop." The Fairbanks paper has an article and a column on the same theme.
From the Saturday editorial in the Daily News-Miner in Fairbanks:
Sen. John McCain's selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate was a stunning decision that should make Alaskans proud, even while we wonder about the actual merits of the choice.... Alaskans and Americans must ask, though, whether she should become vice president and, more importantly, be placed first in line to become president.
In fact, as the governor herself acknowledged in her acceptance speech, she never set out to be involved in public affairs. She has never publicly demonstrated the kind of interest, much less expertise, in federal issues and foreign affairs that should mark a candidate for the second-highest office in the land. Republicans rightfully have criticized the Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, for his lack of experience, but Palin is a neophyte in comparison; how will Republicans reconcile the criticism of Obama with the obligatory cheering for Palin?
Most people would acknowledge that, regardless of her charm and good intentions, Palin is not ready for the top job. McCain seems to have put his political interests ahead of the nation's when he created the possibility that she might fill it.
And from the editorial in the Anchorage Daily News:
It's stunning that someone with so little national and international experience might be heartbeat away from the presidency.
Gov. Palin is a classic Alaska story. She is an example of the opportunity our state offers to those with talent, initiative and determination...
McCain picked Palin despite a recent blemish on her ethically pure resume. While she was governor, members of her family and staff tried to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the Alaska State Troopers. Her public safety commissioner would not do so; she forced him out, supposedly for other reasons. While she runs for vice-president, the Legislature has an investigator on the case.
For all those advantages, Palin joins the ticket with one huge weakness: She's a total beginner on national and international issues.
Gov. Palin will have to spend the next two months convincing Americans that she's ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency....
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher. His email is: email@example.com