Politics is tougher in Alaska, too

The History Channel series “Tougher in Alaska” is all about survival in an environment so harsh that most of us in the lower 48 can barely even imagine ourselves in some of the scenes the program brings to our television screens. The producers should do a segment on Alaska politics. While that particular activity takes place mostly indoors, out of the severely cold weather the 49th state experiences in winter, those who make the wrong political decisions can find their careers as frostbitten as the skier or snow machine rider who gets stranded out in the wilderness.

Politics Alaska style is a full-contact sport. They may play hardball in Illinois, but the game in Alaska is ice hockey, with a lot of body-checking and sticks in the face. And while it is not quite as messy as the Chicago way, the game played under the Northern Lights can be just as deadly to political careers as the contests in Illinois. This is one reason why those who have been close to the action in the great north warn others that they underestimate Sarah Palin at their own peril. She has been made tougher by playing the Alaska game. No matter how hard she gets hit, she always finishes the game. Palin is as much the happy warrior as the younger version of herself that went to the free throw line with a fractured ankle and still managed to sink the shot that iced the game.

Alaska’s governor has taken on some pretty rough opponents and beaten them. But it doesn’t come without a price. She and her family have been under attack by the national media for a few months, but the Alaska media and some eager co-conspirators have been just as tough on them at home, and it goes on year round.

Consider the recent situation surrounding the birth of her grandson. When the media reported that the governor’s daughter and future son-in-law had dropped out of high school, Sarah Palin’s protective instincts kicked in, and like a mama bear defends her cubs, the governor called the media to inform them that they had reported incorrectly. Both of the young parents were working on their GED diplomas, she said, and Baby Tripp’s dad was also an electrical apprentice on the North Slope.

What was the reaction of Palin’s political enemies to her defense of her cubs? Why to use the cubs against her, of course. The political hit men who have Palin in their sights in Alaska are no more above going after the young ones to get to the governor than are the likes of the deranged Andrew Sullivan and and unhinged Kossacks.

Dan Fagan is a radio talk show host and blogger in Anchorage. A former friend of Sarah Palin, he is now one of her most vocal enemies, and he has four big megaphones to aid him in his anti-Palin crusade – his radio show, his blog and a column in the local newspaper. The Alaska Daily News is a McClatchy newspaper, and they are always ready and willing to take Fagan’s words and spread them around through their chain of papers all over the U.S.

Fagan has charged that Levi Johnston is not qualified for the apprenticeship program he is enrolled in because the position has a federal requirement that apprentices have a high school diploma or an equivalent GED. So far the matter is still in question:

Fagan wrote that the director of the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. apprenticeship program confirmed that Johnston was enrolled in the program, but that he didn’t know if federal regulations prohibited those without a high school diploma from participating.

Fagan went further with his allegations, questioning how young Levi managed to get into the apprenticeship program, contending that there are long waiting lists for programs similar to the one in which Johnston is enrolled.

If this seems like pretty small potatoes to you, then you don’t realize how the game of politics is played in Alaska. It’s tough. Recall that this is where Gov. Palin was forced to endure the politically-motivated kangaroo court of an ethics investigation run by the legislature. Realize that when her opponents try to tell you how many Republicans were on the legislative committee that put the investigation in motion that the governor has as many political enemies within her own party as she does among the opposition, if not more of them. And it was all over a state trooper who is a disgrace to his badge. The state employee she is said to have fired wasn’t actually fired at all but offered another position which he refused to accept. And he was serving at the pleasure of the governor. He admitted as much until his union told him to shut up and say what he was told to say by his lawyer and by the union.

And so we come to the major difference between politics Alaska style and politics the Chicago way. Not long after Barack Obama had effectively secured a seat in the Illinois State Senate, the University of Chicago created a new position for which it hired his wife Michelle at an annual salary of $317,000. That doesn’t even raise an eyebrow in Chicago. Not even the fact that Michelle’s husband was part of the governing body which controlled funding requests for the hospital which employed her causes a stir. What about the facts that convicted felon Tony Rezko helped the Obamas buy their Chicago house, that Rezko’s lawyer is named as the owner on the deed and the lawyer pays all the taxes on the property? In Illinois, that barely evokes a yawn. As dirty as Chicagoland politics is, there is at least a code. Spouses and children are off limits. No one dares to break that code, unless there has been a divorce, and you want the records unsealed.

Not so in Alaska. Every penny Gov. Palin reports on her Per Diem is scrutinized. The members of her family are targets of opportunity. She has a rogue trooper for an ex-brother-in-law who tasered a young boy, and he kept his job after a slap on the wrist for disipline. She offered a department head another job, he refused to take it, and an ethics investigation is brought against her. A teenage boy can’t even try to support his fiancee and infant son without his future mother-in-law being scourged over it by those who drool at the prospect of taking her down.  

If Levi Johnston is participating in the program without being properly qualified to do so, we will hear about it. It could be that he is enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program for those who want to apprentices as electricians. In fact, such a program is offered by the Alaska Job Corps Center in Palmer, which is near his home and would be the likely location where he signed up. We don’t know yet. Either way, they wouldn’t put up with this Mickey Mouse stuff in Chicago, but it’s tougher in Alaska.

– JP