OK, admit it. You’ve missed Sarah Palin. Her exasperating relationship with the truth. The clan-like sense of justice. The malapropisms. Those mysteriously acquired Midwestern vowels. The smile as she’s reaching for the dagger. The voice, which has within it a piercing dog whistle that, for those who hear it, beckons like an abandoned swing set during a windstorm. Come back and play, kids!
Sarah Palin called into KWHL-FM’s Bob and Mark show, her go-to boys of yesteryear, and blew hard. Gov. Sean Parnell? An oil lackey, “bless his heart.” Repealing the oil taxes and reverting back to the system she created while governor? You betcha. Bill Walker? Right on! He’s got his “thumb on the pulse,” of Alaska, she said.
I caught Walker on the phone a few hours after it happened. He was in the airport in Sitka, heading back to Anchorage. He was as surprised as the rest of us. Apparently he didn’t have his thumb on that particular pulse.
The oilies I spoke to aren’t overly wee-wee’d up about Palin’s ability to draw the votes to repeal. They’ve adopted the Lower 48 attitude of Palin fatigue. Mistake number 1 million and two.
Palin would have felt right at home on Thursday night as about 15 people showed for the tea party-esque Conservative Patriots Group meeting on oil taxes. Ray Metcalfe was the invited speaker. Metcalf was an Anchorage legislator in the late 1970s and spent much of his time dancing at one of the clubs in Juneau. Disco Ray, he was dubbed. In the last years he been an oil industry gadfly with a mission and a calculator.
He showed charts and graphs about oil tax regimes across the world. Newspaper clippings. Lease agreements from obscure and unpronounceable oil fields in Iraq. Much of the presentation was out of focus on the screen and the segments that weren’t were all scrunched up and difficult to read. Internal rates of return. Multiplication. Long division. He came up with all of this on his financial calculator, which he held up in the air.
Bottom line: When the oil companies talk about profits in Alaska, “I urge you, when you hear these numbers, get out your calculator” he told the group, at least three of whom were packing side-arms.
There is nothing that should scare sensible businessmen more than gun-packing Alaskans armed with financial calculators.
A former BP executive was there. He worked on the Iraqi oil fields. He actually understood lease agreements. At one point, he held his shaking head in his hands.
Alaska Libertarian Chair Mike Chambers was also there. Under his leadership, the party appears to becoming as sensible as the Libertarians will allow. Expect a big announcement in the next few days about one of them running for the U.S. Senate seat. Also expect speculation that he or she will be acting as a place-warmer for Joe Miller, were he to lose the GOP primary race. The prospect has the Republican Party regulars chewing their neckties. If he did so, it would make it nearly impossible for anyone to beat Begich.
In other words it appears that Miller, bless his heart, has set himself up as the kingmaker in the upcoming race. The pro-Begich super-PAC Put Alaska First is said to be prepping to take advantage. Word is it’s poised to dump more than $4 million (!!) into locking up air time for the last eight weeks of the election.
More on the race: For the first time since 1990, the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce has called off the only Senate primary debate that will focus exclusively on fisheries issues. All of the candidates were invited in mid-January. Sen. Mark Begich and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell responded immediately. Miller’s invite got lost in the tubes.
And Dan Sullivan? The former DNR commissioner, not the mayor, claims a prior military training commitment. And that may be just as well.
Sullivan proved to know nearly nothing about fisheries during a recent KTUU forum, and there’s talk in hostile groups that he’s avoiding other debates. Apparently, forums are more to his liking. Do you blame him? You’ve got Joe Miller on one side, who can likely recite nearly everything Milton Friedman has written on conservative economic theory, and Treadwell on the other, who dreams in Alaska topography.
Forums, though, can prove to be dangerous battlefields. Just ask the other Dan Sullivan, the Anchorage Mayor, who stepped in it last Monday when he compared union membership to slavery during a lieutenant governors forum. None of the candidates on stage raised an eyebrow. Even Sen. Hollis French let the faux pas pass.
The NAACP didn’t let it pass. It demanded an apology. Eventually, Sullivan did so, but it took a while. In the meantime, dubious Outside websites ran headlines implying that the Senate candidate in Alaska is advocating a return to slavery.
Finally, Gov. Sean Parnell appears to be playing a version of peek-a-boo. Put your hands over your eyes and everything magically disappears! But real people don’t. Real women say that they were abused while serving in Alaska’s National Guard and appear to have been treated by Parnell and his administration as ignorable apparitions.
If she chose to, Palin could really blow her whistle loudly on that one. No niceties or blessing of hearts required.
This piece was first published in the Anchorage Daily News
Contact Amanda Coyne at email@example.com