David Frum “jokes” about Sarah Palin, proves he still doesn’t get it

As part of the GOP’s elite Beltway wing, David Frum – noted critic of Sarah Palin who, like fellow Palin critic David Brooks, has written about feeling ostracized from the Republican party – wrote this short little breezy note on the “New Majority” blog yesterday about the Governor’s resignation:

Sarah Palin’s most notable achievement as governor of Alaska was to increase the payout from the state’s energy tax take by $1200 per resident. Isn’t it odd then that she would use her farewell address to warn against the danger of government handouts?

Um, does David Frum not understand the Alaska Constitution? Liberal Nate Silver from the 538 blog explained this last year:

Upon announcing her bid for Alaska’s governorship in October 2005, Sarah Palin made a solemn pledge to “put Alaskans first”:

**Palin declared her candidacy on October 18, Alaska Day, before any other Republican candidate joined the race for Governor, declaring, “It is time to take a stand and put Alaskans first”. She has been an outspoken critic of Gov. Murkowski’s Canadian gasline deal and wants to see entities compete for Alaska’s natural gas so Alaskans get the most value for their resources. Palin said she is committed to putting Alaskans to work on the gas line and wants provisions in any gas deal for Alaska hire and North Slope gas to energize Alaska’s homes and businesses first. **

The statement reads ironically in light of the McCain campaign’s “America First” catch-phrase. For Palin, however, it is more than a matter of rhetoric. The reason is because of an unusual provision in the Alaska Constitution that treats the states resources — everything from fisheries to oil and natural gas reserves — as public trusts:

**It is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.**

**It is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.**

This is not some sort of trivial, legal matter. On the contrary, all Alaska residents stand to benefit directly from the exploitation of the state’s natural resources. In 2007, for instance, all Alaska residents were sent a dividend check for $1,654 in exchange for their share of income earned from the state’s leasing of oil- and gas-rich territory. Anybody who has been a resident of the state for a year or more is eligible, including children, meaning that a family of four might expect to bring in about $5,000 in income each year this way.

The provision puts Palin in the unusual position of being sort of a landlord-in-chief, charged with negotiating oil and natural gas leases for the “maximum benefit of all Alaskans” — which Palin generally seems to have interpreted as the maximum royalty dividend. In her 2006 campaign for governor, Palin won for essentially two reasons. Firstly, her opponents in the Republican primary were a crusty and exceptionally unpopular incumbent governor (Frank Murkowski) and a Fairbanks businessman (John Binkley) who came across as a chauvinist, allowing her to build plenty of momentum en route to defeating former governor Tony Knowles in the general election. But secondly, she promised an aggressive, “Alaska first” negotiating position vis-a-vis the oil companies, pledging that her negotiations would have provisions requiring Alaska’s gas reserves to be made available first to Alaskans:

**Sarah Palin stated today, “Contrary to Murkowski’s recent statements, Alaska’s gas belongs to Alaskans. I’ve been saying for months, we—- Alaskans — need in-state use of gas. All options need to be put on the table with the goal of providing gas to Alaskans as a central provision in any negotiated contract, just a political afterthought as Murkowski is now proposing.”**

There is nothing untoward about this; on the contrary, Palin was arguing in essence that Murkowski was shirking his constitutional responsibilities by failing to be an effective, transparent, and hard-nosed negotiator.

But apparently to David Frum, the Governor should have ignored her own State Constitution – which he also would have criticized her for had she done. That is, had he taken the time to read it in the first place, which he obviously did not – but probably would have eventually, or something.

David Brooks and David Frum. David and David. I hate to say it but some days it’s like reading Dumb and Dumber.

(Apologies for the initial poor formatting on this post)

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