Alaska Welcomes Palin Back Home

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin returned to Alaska Wednesday for the first time since the GOP convention. She was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd. Palin has built a reputation as a political reformer in the state.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Sarah Palin came back to Alaska last night. It was her first trip home since she became an instant celebrity during the Republican Convention. A cheering crowd was there to greet her, along with some of the journalists who've been trying to fill in the blanks in Palin's story.

Many Alaskans view Palin as a reformer. That reputation helped land her a spot on John McCain's presidential ticket, and it was no accident. From Fairbanks, NPR's Martin Kaste takes a closer look at how Palin cultivated her image.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN KASTE: Governor Palin was welcomed to Fairbanks with the theme from "Top Gun," as her campaign jet taxied to a stop in front of a hanger jammed with cheering supporters.

(Soundbite of cheering, applause)

KASTE: Never before have Alaskans seen one of their own dominate the national political scene like this.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; Vice Presidential Nominee): I just want to thank you so much for this warm welcome. It's going to be awesome to get to spend a couple of days here.

KASTE: Palin delivered a short version of her standard stump speech, reminding her audience of her efforts to clean up the state of Alaska.

Gov. PALIN: The ethical standard that has led to closed doors and closed-door dealings of self interests, it's gone.

(Soundbite of cheering, applause)

Gov. PALIN: Even the state's luxury jet is sold.

(Soundbite of cheering, applause)

Gov. PALIN: But I say that, hopefully not sounding hypocritical, as you watch me walk off that.

(Soundbite of cheering, laughter)

KASTE: Palin pointed at the big jet parked outside painted with her name.

Unidentified Group: Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin.

KASTE: Palin's drive has certainly been meteoric, but how'd she do it? There's been a lot of attention paid to her time as mayor and her 21 months as governor. But it might be more instructive to look at the years between those two offices, a period starting in 2002 after a failed bid for lieutenant governor. Using her Republican connections, she got a job, a plum of a job: chairwoman of the state's oil and gas watchdog commission. But she didn't keep it.

Mr. ERIC CROFT (Democratic Legislator): She quit probably one of the higher paying jobs she's ever had because she saw stuff she didn't like.

KASTE: Eric Croft was a Democratic legislator at the time. He recalls how Palin quit over the ethics violations of another commissioner, a man who also happened to be the chair of the state Republican Party. Croft was impressed, and he asked her to join him in another ethics fight -this time, a conflict of interest complaint against the state's Republican attorney general. He says Palin jumped at the chance.

Mr. CROFT: It's kind of funny now. I was a little bit protective of her. I'm a lawyer. I wanted her to understand the legal consequences. It seems a little odd now, because clearly, she can take care of herself.

KASTE: At this point, Palin was just a private citizen. Still, filing the ethic complaint seemed like a crazy move for someone still hoping for a future in Republican politics.

Mr. WEB SHAYE(ph) (Former U.S. Attorney): You know, she just had all the Republicans in the state mad at her.

KASTE: Web Shaye is a former U.S. Attorney and also a reform-minded Republican. He says Palin's ethics stance was just what his party needed.

Mr. SHAYE: She knows what's right and she knows what's wrong, and she's willing to take a stand.

KASTE: But there are some in Alaska who say Palin sometimes takes her morality too far. Howard Bess is a retired Baptist pastor who's known Palin for years.

Mr. HOWARD BESS (Retired Baptist Pastor): She will shake hands with the devil, but won't do business with him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASTE: By the devil, Bess means himself. He says Palin will shake his hand but treats him as a political enemy because of his liberal views on gay rights and abortion. He says this uncompromising morality is a trait common to fundamentalist Christians.

Mr. BESS: They see life as a struggle between good and evil, and evil must be defeated at all costs.

KASTE: He says it's a trait that serves he well when it comes to filing ethics complaints.

Mr. BESS: But the idea of her being the person that is involved with the world in foreign relations, you draw lines like this and you blow up the world.

KASTE: Others in Alaska say Palin's morality is not so single-minded, nor is it lacking in strategy, according to Eric Croft.

Mr. CROFT: She actually used that pit bull with lipstick joke line in an opinion piece back then.

KASTE: Even in 2004, Croft says, Palin was already styling herself as the ethics crusader.

Mr. CROFT: You need to understand her as a combination of ethics and ambition. You know, I saw it was I using this woman for political purposes. But I think it was at least as much the other way around. You know, she understood how this would advance where she wanted to go.

KASTE: In the 2004 op-ed article that Croft mentions, Palin ridiculed the notion that her ethics campaign had a political motivation. After all, she wrote, wasn't she just a housewife and a hockey mom? Ten months later, the hockey mom started her campaign for governor.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Fairbanks.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.