Palin Goes Rogue: Who’s The Rube, Now, Murkowski?
The second of two planned reports on Alaska's unresolved Senate race
In a surprising, and for some, hilarious bit of irony concerning the Alaska GOP primary, it seems as though if Senator Lisa Murkowski had read and paid attention to Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, she may not have found herself now fighting for her political life.
Roll Call looks back to try to pinpoint why Murkowski is in this mess, but they use an awful lot of anonymous sources to do so. The theories advanced by various unnamed "Alaska insiders" include John Bitney, Murkowski's campaign manager, being "in over his head" and an underwhelming performance by two general consultants Murkowski hired.
News reports, as well as my own sources, suggest it was Bitney's incompetence that may have been the single most significant factor in Murkowski potentially blowing the race. While Palin didn't use his name in the book, only his title, out of courtesy, as I understand it, Bitney was furious at Palin's portrayal of him as an incompetent, often unkempt video game addicted aide who often dropped the ball, leading to many of Palin's early problems as Alaska Governor. Oh, and he seemed to have a real problem keeping his clothing out of his food.
Bitney joins a list of people slammed in the book who are calling it fiction, including McCain's former campaign manager, Steve Schmidt.
Hey, Murkowski, who you gonna believe, now – Palin's book, or your own eyes? Or, you know, maybe she tried to warn you, but you opted for GOP establishment cronyism over competence? That doesn't sound like the kind of Senator Alaska needs to me. Some gems regarding Bitney from Going Rogue below, interspersed with more of the story line that hints of a battle royale to come in Alaskan politics, perhaps complicated by the NRSC.
During my 2007 budget powwow, the legislative director should have been at the table with us so that there would be no surprises in the state house come veto time. Occasionally, he would wander in and out, plop down in the chair at the end of the table, nibble cookies, and absently thumb his BlackBerry. Every now and then a tired staffer on a bathroom break would pass behind him, glance down, then mouth over his head, “It’s Brick- Breaker.”
A bigger problem may be Alaskan Republican Party (ARP) Chair, Randy Ruedrich. That would be the guy who most likely ordered the phone banking for Murkowski out of the ARP HQ. He's a political enemy of both Joe Miller and Sarah Palin. That started when he resigned and later was hit with the biggest ethics fine in Alaskan history for his role on the state gas and oil commission.
Critics, including some prominent Republicans, said it was a blatant conflict of interest. On Friday, AOGCC Chair Sarah Palin had said the conflict of interest questions were hurting the agency's credibility. She said then that she might resign unless Ruedrich resolved his conflict. "The right thing has been done here," Palin said Saturday. "Randy was a qualified engineer for the commission but there was a conflict with him being a party chairman."
But Ruedrich threw in with the anti-Palin old guard and the ARP became no friend to Sarah Palin - Governor, or not. And it was Joe Miller who then tried to unseat him as state party chair. See what I'm getting at here? Intra-state, intra-party civil war, with the potential to spill over into the national scene, in part, thanks to any possible NRSC meddling.
By then, Miller had been bitten by the political bug and he and his wife of 18 years, Kathleen Tompkins-Miller — who was appointed last year to the non-attorney seat on Alaska's Judicial Council, a seven-member panel that nominates state judges — had befriended the Palin family. Miller worked with Palin two years ago when she unsuccessfully tried to unseat Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich.
But, instead of reading Palin's book and going rogue, or for reform, Murkowski went the usual GOP establishment route - incompetent cronyism. And now she's fighting for her political life, while showing no signs of giving up.
More below on Murkowski campaign director and former Palin legislative director, John Bitney, who may have once again bitten off more than he can chew. Thank God he has his tie with which to wipe his mouth. Heh! But, make no mistake, this is now a battle between two opposing camps who don't like one another very much. The NRSC is the wild card. And we already know their reputation for screwing things up. So, stay tuned.
The battle for the GOP may not wait until after November. There's a real possibility we start having that fight right here and right now. You can help support Joe Miller here. If the establishment is lined up against him as much as it appears, he's going to need all the help he can get.
My first legislative director was one of these. He turned out to be a BlackBerry games addict who couldn’t seem to keep his lunch off his tie. He relished the perception that he was a “player” in Juneau politics, but we were never sure which team he was on.
The fact that his shirt was buttoned one button off, lunch had landed on his tie, his fly was unzipped, and his shirttail was poking through it, didn’t exactly inspire confidence.
He had worked in the capitol and used to be a lobbyist. He was an “insider,” so we thought we should hire at least one of them to show us where the light switches were. “These guys need to be reminded that you were elected on your promise of ‘no more politics-as-usual,’ ” he said. “You gotta go in there and tell lawmakers up front, ‘All of you here are in need of some adult supervision.’ Trust me, I know this stuff, they want to hear it.” So I followed his advice. I had my come-to-Jesus meeting with legislators. They didn’t quite want to hear it. When the fallout began after that meeting, I looked at the legislative director. He looked at the ground and shrugged as if to say, “Wasn’t me.”