Source: Bloomberg

McCain Defends Sarah Palin as Some Alaskans Question His Choice

By Tony Hopfinger and Ken Fireman

Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) — Senator John McCain defended Sarah Palin, his vice presidential choice, as a “soul mate” who will take on corruption in Washington, even as a growing chorus in the Alaska governor’s home state questioned her credentials.

“She’s a reformer,” McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said today on Fox News Sunday. “I have watched her for many years; I’ve seen her take on her own party.” Asked whether Palin is the best person for the job, he said, “Oh yeah.”

McCain and Palin will accept the presidential and vice presidential nominations at the Republican National Convention, which begins tomorrow in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“This is a person that will help me reform Washington,” McCain said, adding, “What this brings is a spirit of reform and change that is vital.”

Still, some Alaskans — including a supporter of Palin’s 2006 run for governor and a former staff member — expressed reservations about the choice.

“She’s not qualified, she doesn’t have the judgment, to be next in line to the president of the United States,” Larry Persily, who until June worked in the governor’s Washington office as a congressional liaison, said in a phone interview yesterday.

A supporter of Palin’s campaign for governor, Jim Whitaker, the Republican mayor of Fairbanks, also questioned Palin’s readiness to serve as vice president in a phone interview yesterday.

`Avid Supporter’

Whitaker said that while he is “still an avid supporter” of Palin as governor, he will continue to back Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Palin, 44, is less than halfway through her first term as governor. Before her election to that post, she served on a state commission that regulated the energy industry and was mayor of the town of Wasilla, which had an estimated population in 2007 of 9,780, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Persily, who worked for three different governors in the state’s Washington office, said he left the job on good terms with Palin. He said he left out of frustration because the state was “fighting the same old wars” on trying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development.

`He Created Her’

Persily said Palin owed her election to the unpopularity of then-Governor Frank Murkowski, whom Palin defeated in the Republican primary by running on a platform of overhauling state government. “He created her,” Persily said. Murkowski declined to comment.

Two McCain backers who were mentioned as possible choices for the vice-presidential nomination expressed support for Palin today.

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that McCain made a “bold choice” in selecting Palin. “This is about changing Washington so it works again,” he said. “John McCain has found a maverick who has done exactly the same thing at the state level that he’s done at the federal level.”

McCain adviser Carly Fiorina said of Palin on CBS: “This is a person of great accomplishment. I have heard from many women and they are truly excited about this pick.”

McCain contrasted what he said was Palin’s willingness to take on senior Alaskan Republicans like Murkowski and Senator Ted Stevens with Obama’s record.

A phone call to Palin spokesman Sharon Leighow requesting comment wasn’t immediately returned.

`Executive by Nature’

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell defended Palin’s readiness to serve as vice president. “Of course she is,” he told reporters on an Aug. 29 conference call. “She is an executive by nature.”

Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said on the same call that Palin is older than John F. Kennedy was when he ran for president in 1960 and that “of four people on two national tickets, she is the only one with executive experience.”

McCain, on Fox today, also sought to contrast Palin with his Democratic rival.

“Senator Obama has never taken on the leaders of his party,” McCain said. “She’s been an independent spirit that has taken them on at every opportunity.”

Home-state newspapers have questioned McCain’s choice. An Aug. 29 editorial in the Fairbanks News-Miner newspaper also raised questions about Palin’s readiness for national office.

“Most people would acknowledge that, regardless of her charm and good intentions, Palin is not ready for the top job,” the newspaper wrote. “McCain seems to have put his political interests ahead of the nation’s when he created the possibility that she might fill it.”

The Anchorage Daily News, the state’s largest paper, noted in an editorial that Palin is enmeshed in a legislative investigation of her July 11 firing of the state’s public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan. He has since asserted that he received pressure from Palin’s family and administration to fire a state trooper involved in a contentious divorce from Palin’s sister.