Friday, September 5, 2008

President of Alaska

This is my new favorite article by John Gizzi:

The President of Alaska

"Wow! It's as though Sarah Palin was president of her own country!" is what Connecticut's Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Fedele exclaimed this morning after I showed him a study of just what power the Republican vice presidential hopeful holds as governor of Alaska.

At a time when political opponents and the liberal media are belittling Palin's credentials and experience, the best rebuttal is from a recent study of the Alaskan Constitution in the Journal of the American Bar Association. According to the ABA study, "Perhaps none of the states possesses a stronger executive branch than the Alaska Constitution provides.

" Like every predecessor since Democratic William Egan (the first elected governor after Alaska became a state in 1959), Palin has power that dwarfs that of George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas and Bill Clinton when he sat in the Arkansas governor's chair. Connecticut's Fedele is not far off the mark when he likens Palin to the president of her own country. Indeed, "[t]here are no independently elected officers and the Governor of Alaska will be held wholly responsible for the conduct of stae administration during his [or her] four-year term," according to the ABA Journal.

The secretary of state is elected jointly with the governor, the attorney general serves at the will of the governor, and twenty executive department heads are hired and fired by the governor. And the buck truly stops with her because the state Constitution limits the number of departments to twenty. If the governor does not like the way a department is operating, she (or he) has the discretion to "re-organize departments and transfer functions among them," the ABA Journal tells us.

The Alaska governor also oversees reapportionment every decade -- albeit acting on the advice of an independent board -- and may declare martial law but not "for longer than twenty days without the approval of a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session." The Constitution also does away with earmarked funds.

The "muscular governor" was enacted as a reaction to the lack of authority during territorial days, when minutae of government was dictated by faraway Washington bureaucrats. The Alaskan model was strongly touted by one of Palin's most famous predecesors, Walter J. Hickel, who held the governorship as a Republican and later a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. When I spoke to him on his 88th birthday a year ago, Hickel was still going strong and advocating that his state's model be adopted by other countries.

So when the skeptics say that Sarah Palin has no experience, the best rejoinder of her supporters might be: "No experience? Read the Constitution. She's President of Alaska!"

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