One measure of John McCain's decision to pick Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate can be seen on the governor's biography page on the Alaska state Web site. Or, not seen. There was so much interest -- suddenly -- in the outside-the-Beltway choice, that the servers have, by all appearances, crashed.
The political calculus that led McCain to Palin appears to be that outsider status, in an election year when changing Washington is key; her executive experience, with two major party tickets otherwise chockablock with Senators; and her sex, in an election that has some Hillary Clinton Democrats leaning Republican; and even her age (she was the youngest governor ever elected in Alaska) at a time when Obama's youth and McCain's age have been campaign issues.
From a green perspective, McCain's choice further distances him from the maverick policies that had made him a favorite Republican among environmentalists that typically support Democrats. McCain's early championship of a global warming cap-and-trade bill in the Senate, in 2003, is the hallmark of his environmental credibility. It helped push the GOP's platform to acknowledge the reality of global warming, and to shy away from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite the centrality of offshore drilling to McCain's energy agenda.
Palin, on environmental issues, embodies a distinctly Alaskan perspective. It's a state that has, after all, run on oil royalties and pork-barrel spending from its favorite son, Sen. Ted Stevens, who's been indicted (and nominated for reelection) for allegedly taking bribe-like gifts from an oil services company. When many states are suffering from record deficits, Alaska, like an oil company, is flush: "Our state government coffers are bursting at the seams because 85% to 90% of our budget comes from oil and gas developments," Palin told Investor's Business Daily in July.
It's also a state that has, more than any other, faced the realities of climate change first hand. When we hear about the Arctic sea ice receding, it's largely the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's west coast that's losing the ice. When we hear about polar bear and walruses losing habitat, it's largely in Alaska. When we hear about villages being inundated by expanding oceans, native populations losing hunting grounds and pitched battles over drilling for more oil or finding a new way to run the economy, we're often hearing about Alaska.
So what does Palin think?
Drilling Is the Answer
Palin has strongly supported drilling for oil and natural gas in Alaska, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ("I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem or that more supply won't ultimately affect prices. Of course it will affect prices," she told Investor's Business Daily.)
Polar Bears Don't Need Protection
She has opposed the listing of the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and sued the federal government to reverse the decision.
Global Warming Isn't Our Problem
She does not, apparently, agree with McCain, the Republican platform or the world's top scientists that global warming is caused by humans: "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made," she told Newsmax in September.
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