Friday, October 3, 2008
Inexperience starting to show, and that could prove costly
By DAVID ESPOTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DAYTON, Ohio — Asked about her refusal to turn over e-mails to an Alaska investigator, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin looked up, smiled — and then stepped wordlessly into her waiting car.
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Four days after leaving Alaska for her first solo campaign trip, Palin’s hallmark is a disciplined adherence to a sparse public schedule. Appearances are few, interviews with the news media fewer still and unscripted moments nonexistent.
She is frequently feisty in front of an audience, including Monday evening when she drew cheers as she laid into “far-East Coast politicians” who don’t understand the need for control of coyotes or other predators.
But by the campaign’s design, the history-making vice presidential candidate who has helped reshape the race for the White House doesn’t freelance.
“The American people are going to get to know Governor Palin very well by the end of the campaign,” says Steve Schmidt, the top strategist for presidential candidate John McCain. He said she has appeared in public nearly every day since her introduction as ticketmate more than two weeks ago, had a lengthy interview with ABC and been “delivering the reform and change message apart from John McCain and with John McCain.” In the coming days, he said, there will be more interviews, and Palin will join McCain for their first town hall-style appearance.
Yet some Republicans concede privately that Palin lacks familiarity with the numerous complex issues that she must deal with as the campaign progresses and question her readiness for high public office. A gaffe could prove devastating to her and the ticket, they add. At the same time, she also must prepare for a nationally televised debate in October with her Democratic counterpart, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.
Several senior campaign officials accompanied Palin to Alaska recently for what amounted to a crash course in running for vice president, and the tutorial continues as she travels the country.
Whatever the concerns about Palin’s readiness, the enthusiasm she has brought to McCain’s candidacy is evident. Polls nationally and in several key states show a swing toward McCain since she was added to the ticket, as conservatives warm to a politician they have long viewed warily. She is also the first female running mate on a GOP ticket in history, making her a draw for female voters. The organizers of a fundraiser in Ohio where she spoke on Monday said the event raised nearly $1 million.
Meanwhile, Alaska’s investigation into whether Palin abused her power ran into intensified resistance Tuesday from state Republican lawmakers who want to end it or delay it past the election.
Five Republican state lawmakers filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to halt an inquiry into Palin’s dismissal of her public safety commissioner, arguing that the Legislature has exceeded its authority by conducting a ” ‘McCarthyistic’ investigation.”
The lawsuit, filed in the state’s Superior Court, comes as the McCain-Palin campaign has escalated its involvement in the bipartisan inquiry, providing Palin’s lawyer with help and mounting a public relations offensive.
The legal action marks the most aggressive challenge yet to the two-month-old investigation.
Alaska’s attorney general said Tuesday that state employees would refuse to honor subpoenas in the case.
In a letter to state Sen. Hollis French, the Democrat overseeing the investigation, Republican Attorney General Talis Colberg asked that the subpoenas be withdrawn. He also said the employees would refuse to appear unless either the full state Senate or the entire Legislature votes to compel their testimony. Colberg, who was appointed by Palin, said the employees are caught between their respect for the Legislature and their loyalty to the governor.
At issue is whether Palin abused her power by pressing the commissioner to remove her former brother-in-law as an Alaska state trooper, then firing the commissioner when he didn’t.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Tuesday said they hoped to persuade the Legislative Council, a bipartisan body of House and Senate members who can convene to make decisions when the Legislature is not in session, to drop the inquiry by naming it in the lawsuit.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the argument that the inquiry exceeds the Legislature’s constitutional power simply to investigate personnel matters within the executive branch and that the process has been handled in a politically biased fashion intended to besmirch Palin’s reputation and affect the outcome of the November elections.
“The defendants are conducting a ‘McCarthyistic’ investigation in an unlawful” and “partial and partisan political manner,” the lawsuit said.
This report includes information from The New York Times.
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