WASHINGTON — Emails released today from Sarah Palin’s time as Alaska’s governor show a doubled-fisted Blackberry user fully comfortable with handling nearly every aspect of state government from her private and state email accounts.
But long before she became a national figure, the documents also hint at the obsession Palin had with managing her image — and the frustration the prolific emailer had with the news coverage of her governorship.
She came into office with a January 2007 reminder to her staff that they should feel free to “share your opinions, speak freely to the press, public, legislators, one another, etc.” But that changed as time went on. A little over a year later, she even ghost-wrote a proposed letter to the editor of the Anchorage Daily News — quoting herself — in reply to a complaint that she had failed to appear at the 2008 Miss Alaska pageant.
The emails, released today by the state of Alaska, begin when Palin took office in December 2006 and run through the fall of 2008, when she was a candidate for vice president. The state released 24,199 printed pages of emails; many news organizations began scanning in the emails and posting them online this afternoon.
About a dozen news organizations, including McClatchy Newspapers’ Anchorage Daily News, requested the emails shortly after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., picked Palin in 2008 as his vice presidential running mate.
The request for the documents came at a time when Palin wasn’t only an unknown political figure to most Americans, but also when she had experienced little of the vetting most candidates see in what can be a multiyear bid for the White House.
But their release comes at a time when it’s unclear whether Palin intends to jump into the Republican field and run for president. Palin, who hasn’t said what she intends to do, has said she has “fire in the belly” for a presidential bid. She also launched a multistate tour of the East Coast in a campaign-style bus emblazoned with the motto “One Nation.”
For the most part, the emails show a governor deeply engaged in her work as the state’s chief executive, including managing the politics of a legislature wrangling over a complicated oil tax proposal she was championing.
Before her first trip to Washington in early 2007 for a meeting of governors, aides suggested Palin meet with Pete Rouse, a Senate aide her advisers described as “chief of staff for a guy named Barack Obama.”
“I’m game to meet him,” Palin replied.
And at one point, her top Washington representative asked whether she’d had a chance to speak to then-President George W. Bush about allowing seismic testing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Palin wrote to staffers that Bush’s stopover at Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base was “too quick of a visit” to bring it up.
“The Pres and I spoke about military, incl Track’s deployment and how Iraq is a different place than it was a year ago,” wrote Palin, a practiced hand at abbreviated Blackberry missives. “He also spoke about (and we joked about) VP buzz.”
Family figures such as her son Track are mentioned prominently throughout the emails. There’s the mundane — a request that the governor’s mansion staff have Easter egg dye on hand. And then there’s the more serious, including a lament that state documents about the per diem she collected for working outside of Juneau failed to acknowledge that she was technically on duty the day her son Trig was born.
“I was ’off duty’ when I had Trig?” she wrote. “April 18, the day he was born, I signed a bill into law and conducted a few state actions while in the hospital (and that should be recorded for the record.)”
Palin said nothing today about the email dump, although she did mention on Twitter that a new documentary with friendly leanings would see national release in AMC movie theaters next month. Tim Crawford, the spokesman for her political action committee, SarahPAC, encouraged a read of the documents.
“The thousands upon thousands of emails released today show a very engaged Governor Sarah Palin being the CEO of her state,” he said. “The emails detail a governor hard at work. Everyone should read them.”
But long before Palin decried the very “lamestream media” she’s now joined as a correspondent for Fox News Channel, she was constantly on the lookout for criticism.
She seemed to be particularly sensitive to the comments posted on the Anchorage Daily News’ politics blog. Reading the comments on a blog item left her “puzzled as to the rumors that are able to spread like wildfire,” she wrote early as governor.
“Kind of makes my stomach turn over,” she told top aides in a Feb. 12, 2007, email.
At one point, she asked that her security team check out one of the most critical commentators.
“I think our security guys should check into her because the times she’s blogged about Todd’s schedule and what we drive have really infringed on our privacy rights and potential safety when psychos know when Todd’s out of town,” she wrote on July 9, 2008.
Her team was equally sensitive to any criticism. On April 24, 2008, Palin’s communications director, Roseanne Hughes, asked the top members of the governor’s staff to “take action. TODAY.”
“Frank and Ivy, if you could get the word out to your contacts — grassroots supporters who love our boss — we need to get them out there FLOODING that Anchorage Daily News Alaska politics blog. I mean FLOODING.”
She then offered ideas of what people could say, including “quoting Newt Gingrich that Governor Palin is one of the most aggressive reformers in the country.”
Just days before McCain picked her, Palin lamented questions from a Daily News reporter about her family travel: “Amazing, the scrutiny we are under … “
She seemed to have little idea what was coming. In an Aug. 5, 2008, email, Palin asks staff to find a place in “already-booked-up” Minneapolis, site of the 2008 GOP convention, and where she’d make her debut as a national political figure.