Politics Palin Style: Woo Them, Then Leave Them

David Talbot in Salon today explores Gov. Sarah Palin's style of politics in Alaska.

According to some political observers in Alaska, this pattern -- exploiting "old-boy" mentors and then turning against them for her own advantage -- defines Sarah Palin's rise to power. Again and again, Palin has charmed powerful political patrons, and then rejected them when it suited her purposes. She has crafted a public image as a clean politics reformer, but in truth, she has only blown the whistle on political corruption when it was expedient for her to do so. Above all, Palin is a dynamo of ambition, shrewdly maneuvering her way through the notoriously compromised world of Alaska politics, making and breaking alliances along the way.


The article begins with the story of Palin and her former friend and Mayor of Wasilia, Ben Stein, and what she did to unseat him in 1996.

John Stein had helped launch Palin's political career, mentoring the hockey mom during her 1994 run for City Council, along with veteran council member Nick Carney. Stein's wife, Karen Marie, went to aerobics classes with Palin.

....The Wasilla mayor's seat is nonpartisan, and Mayor Stein, a former city planner who had held the post for nine years, ran a businesslike campaign that stressed his experience and competency. But Palin ignited the traditionally low-key race with scorching social issues, injecting "God, guns and abortion into the race -- things that had nothing to do with being mayor of a small town," according to Tigner.

Two examples:

Even though Palin knew that Stein is a Protestant Christian, from a Pennsylvania Dutch background, her campaign began circulating the word that she would be "Wasilla's first Christian mayor." Some of Stein's supporters interpreted this as an attempt to portray Stein as Jewish in the heavily evangelical community. Stein himself, an eminently reasonable and reflective man, thinks "they were redefining Christianity to mean born-agains."

The Palin campaign also started another vicious whisper campaign, spreading the word that Stein and his wife -- who had chosen to keep her own last name when they were married -- were not legally wed. Again, Palin knew the truth, Stein said, but chose to muddy the waters. "We actually had to produce our marriage certificate," recalled Stein, whose wife died of breast cancer in 2005 without ever reconciling with Palin.

"I had a hand in creating Sarah, but in the end she blew me out of the water," Stein said, sounding more wearily ironic than bitter. "Sarah's on a mission, she's an opportunist."

Then there's the story of how she turned her back on Alaska state Rep. Victor Kohring:

"After Vic's indictment, she didn't give him the time of day," said James. "She never went to him personally and asked if the charges were true. This is a man who helped her get started in government. She turned her back on him well before he even went on trial. Vic resents the hell out of that. He thinks she's an opportunist, pure and simple. She saw how the press were moving on Vic, and even before he had his day in court, she called on him to resign his office. He regarded that as a great insult, a personal betrayal."

And on her shaking up the old boys network? A fantasy. Consider the case of Randy Ruedrich:

Palin's reputation as a reformer stems primarily from her headline-grabbing ouster of state GOP chairman Randy Ruedrich from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for flagrant conflict-of-interest abuses. At the time, Palin was heralded in the press as a whistle-blower, but it was later revealed that she was guilty of the same charge that she had brought against Ruedrich -- using state office equipment for partisan political business. (While still mayor of Wasilla, she sent out campaign fundraising appeals from her office during her race for lieutenant governor.)

The idea that Sarah shook up the state's old-boy network is one big fantasy, it's complete bullsh*t," [Andrew]Halcro said. "She got all this public acclaim for throwing people who backed her under the bus -- but she only did it after they became expendable, when she no longer needed them.

...."The good old boys in Alaska are still the good old boys -- they're alive and kicking. Randy is still running the Republican Party -- he wasn't happy about being turned into a national poster boy for corruption, but he went along with the program. Ted Stevens is still running for reelection. And [scandal-tainted Alaska Rep.] Don Young is, too. So where's the new era of change that Palin supposedly brought to Alaska?"

Hat tip to KagroX who adds:

The whole article lays out the case that Palin's political life has a very distinct pattern to it: cozy up to the power structure, then stab her mentors in the back for political profit.

Hopefully, Palin will be back in Alaska in 45 days, instead of saddling the rest of us with her opportunism, her distortions, her extremism and her lack of preparedness to lead.

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    I've heard this MO before... (5.00 / 4) (#6)
    by kredwyn on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:19:50 PM EST
    it just points out two things we already knew.

    1. In spite of promises to the contrary, there's no such thing as "new" politics.

    2. She's a politician.

    I have to say, (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by outsider on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:22:42 PM EST
    if one were to push the meme that Palin is a backstabber who makes friends in order to advance her own career before dumping them when it becomes convenient, it will only invite people to draw analogies between this and Obama's treatment of Alice Palmer.  Is it now the plan to attack Palin on the grounds that she had her political baptism in a notoriously corrupt and duplicitous environment, and sometimes took advantage of others for her own ends?  That seems nuts to me.  

    I don't think this says anything (none / 0) (#1)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:05:45 PM EST
    about Palin that most of us with just a bit of intuition didn't already know...

    as it's put here in the article, She Is an Opportunist, above all...

    she said it herself when she called herself a pitbull with lipstick...she's ruthless, like a pitbull...

    I don't think she's ruthless (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:08:34 PM EST
    just out of her league and in over her head. The petty tactics she used in Wasilla won't play in Washington. I think "ruthless" is giving her too much credit. JMO.

    Really? (5.00 / 6) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:14:31 PM EST
    Those kinds of petty tactics won't play in Washington?  When did that happen?  This write up seems to make the case that she has the chops to be a very successful politician who gets stuff done.  Goes back to saying Obama has charisma......what is charisma if not wooing?  These writeups about Palin's "charms" and "seductiveness" are pathetic.  Can we talk about her brains for awhile and not her boobs and how she squeezes them into pushup bras?

    I'm with Tracy (5.00 / 11) (#11)
    by Lena on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:44:20 PM EST
    the whole idea of using the word "woo" and "backstab" to describe Palin's methods, as if she's some kind of sorority-sister-gone-power-hungry is kind of annoying.

    This kind of take reduces her to a savvy, sexy girl, who can't really get to the top on her own merit so she has to "woo" men and then "backstab" them.

    Meanwhile men who do the exact same thing are not seen as politically inept or incompetent--in fact, they get the courtesy of having their political acumen respected, and the way they claw the way to the top is described as ruthless, gutsy, take-no-prisoners, no-nonsense, and ballsy.

    The way Palin is so frequently described, I feel like I'm watching ancient reruns of Dynasty...


    I just can't stomach attacking (5.00 / 2) (#50)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 07:07:25 PM EST
    Palin in those sexist distorted ways either.  My God, I'm a woman and I want to be judged on who I am and what I've done....not what I was born as.  How can I ask for that when I'm not willing to have that as my standard?  She is an opportunistic inexperienced Republican candidate fresh out the Pentacostal church.  Really, that is scary as hell right there.  Everybody adding all the sexist stuff is distracting anyone who cares about gender and sexual equality issues from how scary the facts are.

    her implying another candidate is (5.00 / 0) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:52:41 PM EST
    Jewish won't play in Washington where there's no fear of non-evangelical politicians. This has nothing to do with sexism, stop turning everything into that.

    Did I miss something? (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by JavaCityPal on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:04:26 PM EST
    Who is Sarah Palin trying to imply is Jewish? I haven't heard her say one thing about anyone's religion since she joined the ticket.

    Previous political races have already been brought up during this election, and nothing has gotten any traction no matter how unsavory it was or seemed.


    Nope, didn't miss that part (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by JavaCityPal on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:36:44 PM EST
    Just not sure why it is relevant today. I've seen much worse history on other candidates in this race.

    If she starts to imply something against Biden, it might be worth reading, though.


    so what people have done in the past (none / 0) (#21)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:42:13 PM EST
    doesn't matter...

    good to note...


    I never said that, you did (5.00 / 5) (#24)
    by JavaCityPal on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:47:26 PM EST
    I think they do matter, but worse information on how previous campaigns have been run by candidates in this same race are treated much differently.

    Ask Jack Ryan, and Alice Palmer how they were eliminated.


    Man (none / 0) (#51)
    by Steve M on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 07:20:57 PM EST
    Everyone has a right to their opinion, but I truly cannot fathom how anyone could consider the Palmer or Ryan situations "worse" than starting a whispering campaign about your opponent's religion.  In a small town, no less.

    implied Stein was not Christian by saying she would be the first Christian mayor. She did not say what religion he might belong to. In a small town most people know which church their citizens attend, and there was no whispering campaign. Read the post again.

    I'm particularly sensitive to the name, myself. My married name was Stein. German.


    No, it means that others have said alot .... (4.00 / 2) (#27)
    by alexei on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:51:35 PM EST
    about Obama and his "past", but, that is just smears and swiftboating, but, this type of "criticism" of Palin is truth and unveils her "character".  After all, "we have an election to win".

    so really what you're saying (4.00 / 1) (#29)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:03:57 PM EST
    is that we have nothing, really, which we are to base our decision for the presidency, except for stupid ideological bullet-points like gay marriage and birth control...

    we can't base it upon the past, because all of the candidates have sketchy pasts...

    we can't base it upon character, because none of the candidates are showing the American people their true character, and we can't base the character off of what we read because it's all just propaganda, and as stated before everyone is pretty much on an even playing field in terms of what they've done in the past (like we can't bring up Mr Keating 5's past, because then we'll just have to bring up Mr Chicago Corruptions past)...

    we can't base it on policies, because with all the mudslinging and double-speak we really don't know where any of the candidates really stand when it comes to policies, and in fact most of their policies are probably just made by the head of the parties and what advisors tell them will win at the margins of the election...

    so Republicans should just go ahead and vote Republican so that an Evangelical president can one day soon declare war on Iran, gays, minorities, drugs, the middle class and all non-born agains...

    or vote Democrat and believe that you're getting the Democratic ideals of Liberty, Equality, a fair chance for all and the separation of Church-State but in fact you're basically just getting a Republican without the war on Gays...essentially....


    Holy (none / 0) (#46)
    by Wile ECoyote on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 06:13:06 PM EST
    Chappaquiddick batman, you are correct

    I'm curious. (none / 0) (#36)
    by Ramo on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:33:44 PM EST
    What did you have in mind as comparable to attacking your opponent in an election as insufficiently Christian?

    I live in a small town (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 05:30:09 PM EST
    and because of that I don't believe what's in the article. Everyone in the town would know if the ex-mayor was or was not a Jew... and probably wouldn't give a flip one way or the other.

    This is just another claim put out by someone suffering from PDS.


    I believe that Palin's small-town (5.00 / 0) (#45)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 05:33:11 PM EST
    is considerably more evangelical fundamentalist than your average American small-town..

    but I could be wrong, just going from what I've read...

    not sure if that would make a difference...


    Oh I dunno (2.00 / 0) (#52)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 07:47:52 PM EST
    I find small towns to be small towns... my point is that since he had been previously elected everyone would know everything about him...

    I repeat. Sounds like a Palin Derangement Syndrome inspired story.


    Keep on speculating (none / 0) (#56)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 10:08:40 PM EST
    As I noted people in small towns know each other... especially the mayor, police chief, fire chief, etc.

    Why not just give it up as another PDS??


    Number of Jewish synogogues in Wasilla, AK (none / 0) (#60)
    by shoephone on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 03:06:52 AM EST
    Actually, what is most revealing is that (none / 0) (#62)
    by JavaCityPal on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 11:13:38 AM EST
    Sarah Palin said she would be the first Christian Mayor of Wasilla. Who does the article say decided that meant Stein was Jewish?  And, since Stein had held more than one term as mayor, who does the article say that meant the town would discriminate against him if he was Jewish?

    so what you're saying (none / 0) (#5)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:18:37 PM EST
    is that she's not a reformer...she's just another politician...



    Well said (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:20:47 PM EST
    And you left the woo and the high heels, and the hair and the boobs and the seductress and the screwability out of it.

    i can remember a similar piece (none / 0) (#32)
    by sancho on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:18:58 PM EST
    done on madonna, as she was approaching the peak of her fame, in rolling stone. the general idea was that her boyfriends helped her along and then she dumped them. seems to me this a genre piece often written about women who rise in a world previously defined by men.

    not saying you should vote for her because of such sexist analyses, of course.


    you're probably right (none / 0) (#3)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:10:29 PM EST
    I'm probably giving her too much credit..

    I'm definitely going to be forwarding this to others, though, as it goes directly to the heart of her whole agenda, and why her agenda is really just a sham...


    Today in my newspaper LTE (none / 0) (#18)
    by hairspray on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:19:19 PM EST
    one woman complained about all of the vicious e-mails being circulated by women about Sara Palin.  She asked in her letter, that people stop sending them around as they were beginning to remind her of the e-mails sent around about Obama with earlier smears.  I agree. Daily Kos thinks their campaign to destroy Sara Palin was effective.  Well they should know, they got rid of Hillary. "All's fair in love and war"  and in politics?  Four years from now we will know if we got what DKos wanted, a sucessful presidency or simply a symbol.

    heh (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 05:25:30 PM EST
    KOS may have destroyed Hillary in a Demo only environment, but Palin is a brand new game. Every snide shot, every rumor, every disrespectful comment brings voters to Palin.

    What E-Mails? (none / 0) (#49)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 07:06:31 PM EST
    I haven't gotten a single one. Nobody loves me.

    I get several a week from well educated (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by hairspray on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 08:18:33 PM EST
    smart women.  I write back and say that I will never vote for McCain, but I think these tactics are beneath them. Then I send them a few links to articles that refute the smears. I am off their lists.  Reminds me of the Hillary tirades that went on earlier this year.

    You just made another sale (none / 0) (#8)
    by indy in sc on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:37:31 PM EST
    for iTunes.  I know--not the point, but I love that song!

    I'm so glad to hear (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:54:15 PM EST
    you like the music clips! They are one of my favorite parts of blogging, choosing a song to go with the events of the day or a post.

    I was going to post in an open thread. . . (none / 0) (#17)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:18:15 PM EST
    that I really, really appreciate the music clips.

    BTW, I very much doubt there's video of Don Mclean singing "Everybody Loves Me Baby (What's the Matter With You)" but if there is I think it perfectly sums up the Bush Presidency (not withstanding the fact that Bush was probably 12 years old when it was written).


    McCain should watch out (none / 0) (#9)
    by BigElephant on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:41:31 PM EST
    From reading this it is very clear that a McCain presidency would be a short one... a suspiciously short one...

    Oh dear. Are you saying he needs a food (5.00 / 8) (#10)
    by Teresa on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:43:09 PM EST
    taster? I guess all women pols must be black widows.

    I wonder how she'll convince (5.00 / 8) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:45:05 PM EST
    the secret service to go along with the whole deal.  I'm quickly losing respect for lefty blogs lately.......even the best are losing integrity at an astonishing rate.

    well, you can always read a (5.00 / 0) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:55:52 PM EST
    right wing blog. We have an election to win. I'm far more concerned about that than hurting someone's feelings. Especially those who read gender bias into every criticism of a female candidate.

    You are going to win an election (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 06:36:54 PM EST
    by running Woo them and Leave them Palin headlines after running the Janis Karpinski sexist rant?  I have read your stuff for a long time and this sort of stuff is beneath you as an accomplished woman.  At least I thought so.

    Relax (5.00 / 2) (#48)
    by chrisvee on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 06:56:15 PM EST
    it's just that Palin by some weird coincidence actually embodies all the stereotypes!



    well, she is meeting with (none / 0) (#22)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:43:36 PM EST
    Henry Kissinger...

    I really don't see how (none / 0) (#25)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:48:05 PM EST
    showing an article that proves that Palin is not in fact a reformer, but just a politics as usual kinda person...

    Rovian, in the way she doesn't care about the means, only the end....

    but as stated, this is accepted, because all people do it, and because it's the past, so we all know she won't use these kinds of tactics again, it's the past...and even if she does, all politicians do it, so it's okay...even if you try and lie to the American people and tell them you're a reformer...

    Lying to the American people is the political way, though, just ask all the people who stupidly voted for George Bush b/c he seemed like a down-home kinda guy who doesn't use perfect english (b/c we all know you can't trust people who use english well)....


    ehhh, incomplete thought to begin my last post (none / 0) (#26)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:50:19 PM EST
    I must be ready for presidency...

    it should just say that I don't see how this article is so liberal or so wrong, considering that it hits at the heart of the Palin she's trying to be in America's eyes...


    To be fair. . . (none / 0) (#31)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:16:17 PM EST
    I don't see how the poster's suggestion that Palin might attempt a palace coup against McCain is particularly sexist.  If anything, it's the opposite -- imputing to her a degree of ambition and intrigue that I think are more associated with men.

    You might think that the suggestion is silly, and I suppose it is.  On the other hand, the fact that if anything were to happen to McCain we'd be stuck with the Bush-like Palin is a fair political argument to make.  It may not do the trick for you, but there are obviously an increasing number of people in the swing states who are nervous about that possibility.

    Palin's "Palin / McCain Administration" gaffe puts the idea even more into play.

    Really, I don't see what the problem is.


    eh (5.00 / 4) (#34)
    by CST on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:27:59 PM EST
    I will just note that I have heard this a number of times about Clinton and now Palin, but never Joe Biden.

    The male version of this is more Dick Cheney than Lady Macbeth...


    Well. . . (none / 0) (#39)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:40:36 PM EST
    I've certainly heard it about both Clinton and Cheney.  I haven't heard it about Biden but Biden is extraordinarily unassuming.

    It's an effective form of attack against people who are clearly very ambitious and I see it applied to men and women -- it may be silly, it may even be nasty if you that's your opinion.  But it doesn't strike me as sexist.


    Cheney? (5.00 / 2) (#41)
    by CST on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:53:52 PM EST
    Why would he want to kill Bush?  Now he gets all of the power without any of the constitutional responsibility.

    I guess that was my point.  Overly ambititious male candidates want to pull the strings.  Overly ambititious female candidates want to kill.  That's what I meant by Dick Cheney vs. Lady Macbeth.  Personally, I haven't heard it applied to men in the same way.

    I accept that you disagree (without calling you a sexist), but I do think it is a bit of a dog-whistle, definitely subtle though.


    I think sometimes we need to remember (none / 0) (#40)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:50:12 PM EST
    that the ends do not always justify the means, like this current administration would have us believe...

    it's doesn't get much simpler than that...just remember that the means have to be considered sometimes, even if you are an 'ambitious' person...


    Biden is quietly ambitious (none / 0) (#61)
    by andrys on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 07:22:23 AM EST
    I saw a bio on him the other night -- he told people he'd be a senator before he was 30 and that he would be president someday.  I think it takes that kind of mindset in our world today, to even half-make it to the presidency.

      Note that with his clean coal mining gaffe he had this interesting ode to himself, which wouldn't sound great coming from Palin's mouth either (as a VP):

    "The first guy to introduce a global warming bill was me 22 years ago. The first guy to support solar energy was me 20 years ago," he said, apparently referring to the 1986 Global Climate Protection.

    Palace intrigue only associated with... (5.00 / 4) (#35)
    by alexei on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:32:43 PM EST
    males?  How very "progressive" of you.  I guess Shakespeare might disagree.  The sexism point is that a woman has "murderous" ambition while the male candidates are there for the public good.  You know those women, like when Hillary "wanted to have Obama assassinated" and being compared to Glen Close in "Fatal Attraction".  I haven't seen any comparable associations with any of the male candidates.

    BTW, to discuss what ifs on McCain is a fair argument, but, to make a suggestion of murder as one of the arguments, is not just silly, it is slander and smears.


    Feh. (none / 0) (#38)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:38:26 PM EST
    Take it back to Red State.

    If you can't tell the difference, for instance, between the words "more" and "only" there really isn't any point to further discussion.


    Are you suggesting Palin would kill McCain? (none / 0) (#28)
    by nycstray on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 03:55:54 PM EST
    McCain is an old man (none / 0) (#30)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 04:06:32 PM EST
    with a life-threatening illness that could creep back up at anytime...

    no one would 'need' to kill him (karl rove/henry kissinger, cough cough)...

    /sarcasm off...


    He doesn't have a life threatening illness. (none / 0) (#59)
    by nycstray on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 12:54:11 AM EST
    and neither does Biden even though he's had 2 aneurysms. Or for that matter, Obama even though he smokes (well, that's an assumption since he hasn't released full records) Palin OTH, seems to be the healthiest of the bunch, lol!~

    hm (none / 0) (#42)
    by connecticut yankee on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 05:02:22 PM EST
    If she was a pure machiavellian I might feel better.   The problem is I think she might be serious about her fundamentalism.  Something Bush never really was.