Commentary: Palin's tenure gets mixed reviews

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 28, 2008 

The following appeared as an editorial in the Anchorage Daily News.

Gov. Sarah Palin is a candidate for a job that would put her in line for the most powerful executive job in the world. Until now, Alaskans are the only Americans to have watched her perform as a chief executive.

So what do we know about the management style and skills she would bring to that office?

Two high-profile cases from her tenure as governor demonstrate both her strengths and weaknesses as an executive.

In pursuing a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope, she demonstrated herself to be a competent, decisive leader. She set a clear direction, selected a capable staff and delegated the necessary authority, was undeterred by powerful political opposition, and achieved success. She delegated the important detail work and implementation to her staff, while she articulated her expectations and rallied public support for her approach.

While her critics continue to attack her for her gas line policy, we applaud her vision and determination.

At the other extreme was her amateurish handling of an important cabinet post. She forced out her first public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, a popular and well, regarded career law enforcement officer, for reasons she has yet to explain clearly and credibly.

Palin's mishandling of Monegan's firing led to the controversy known as Troopergate -- did she fire him because he would not fire her ex-brother-in-law? Regardless of what she herself may have done, it's obvious that she did not instruct her husband and staff to refrain from pressing her family's concerns about an ex-brother-in-law working as a state trooper.

She fumbled further when she went to replace Monegan. Just three days after Palin fired him, she skipped any meaningful search for a replacement and named a relatively unknown, small-town police chief to the commissioner's post.

Two weeks later, Charles Kopp, the new commissioner, was gone, after a past sexual harassment case against him came into public view.

Palin claimed that Kopp's work history had been thoroughly and competently checked, and that she was fully aware of the sexual harassment charge when she made the appointment. Later, she acknowledged that she hadn't known the disposition of the case.

Palin could not convince the public that Kopp was the best qualified person for the post. Instead, she was left arguing that he was acceptable -- hardly a standard that Alaskans would like for their public safety commissioner.

So, considering two of the most telling performances of her two years in office, Gov. Palin's record as Alaska's chief executive is contradictory. With her work on the natural gas pipeline, she was at the top of her game. By all appearances, that was a textbook case of successful leadership and effective management. But her mishandling of the Monegan-Kopp matters could be a case study of how not to select a member of the governor's cabinet.

BOTTOM LINE: Palin's record as a chief executive ranges from smart and effective to embarrassingly flawed.

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