JUNEAU — There are no bombshells, no “gotcha” moments.
The emails of Sarah Palin — more than 24,000 pages of them released Friday by the state of Alaska from her first two years as governor — paint a picture of an image-conscious, driven leader, closely involved with the day-to-day duties of running the state and riding herd on the signature issues of her administration.
She angled for a vice presidential nomination months before John McCain picked her, but hesitated to endorse him until she got an explanation about “pro-environmental stands he’s taking that could hurt Alaska.”
The messages give a behind-the-scenes look at a politician who burst onto the national stage after serving as Wasilla mayor and less than two years as Alaska governor. They show a woman striving to balance work and home, fiercely protective of her family and highly sensitive to media coverage. She expressed a sometimes mothering side with aides but was quick to demand answers or accountability.
They seem to depict a more moderate Palin who worked to find a state response to global warming — she has since dismissed studies supporting climate change — and gave props to then-Sen. Barack Obama for his support of a natural gas pipeline in Alaska.
The records, comprising more than 13,400 emails, shed new light on Palin’s rise from little-known governor to national political sensation. The emails end in September 2008, shortly after her selection to be McCain’s running mate. It was then that citizens and news organizations first requested the records.
Three years later, Palin is a best-selling author, reality TV star, sought-after speaker and kingmaker, successfully supporting dozens of candidates in last year’s elections.
Her recent bus tour of the Northeast as well as an authorized documentary about her time as governor, have fueled speculation that Palin will run for president, but the Republican says she hasn’t yet decided.
In Anchorage, people watched the release of the emails with interest, some blaming the media for paying too much attention to the out-dated records.
“I personally think they’re afraid of her,” said Richard Giese, who sold flowers at the Anchorage Farmer’s Market on Saturday. “They’re digging up a lot of stuff, some of it true. I won’t deny that. But I think they are afraid of her for the election.”
Gail Sieberts, who was shopping at the market, called it a distraction.
“We’re glad she’s not here anymore,” she said. “Our state is running better and we don’t need all the drama.”
While much of the country was taken by surprise when Palin became the Republican vice presidential candidate, her emails suggest she was angling for the slot for months, and that she may have been courted even earlier.
Palin’s scheduler sent her a note June 21, 2007, saying Gov. Mitt Romney — who was running for president — wanted to schedule a call to “catch up on things.” The aide said Mike Tibbles, her former chief of staff, said she probably wouldn’t be interested, and wondered how she should proceed.
“What is his number? Since it may be partisan, I should do this without state assistance. Thanks!” Palin replied.
On Jan. 30, former Arkansas Mike Huckabee called, and Palin seemed to be leaning toward endorsing him in the Republican primary.
“He called. Very cool. Unless McCain calls, Huck’s a good pick for me, just fyi.”
On Feb. 4, 2008, Palin asked Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell to set up a conversation with Romney to “compare his social positions with Hucks ... I’d like to take 10 sec of his valuable time.”
After the conversation later that day, she wrote: “Talked to Romney today! Thank you for hooking that up! Can’t believe he took the time. Talked to him about women in leadership. He said all the right things.”
On Feb. 20, Palin asked if she could speak to McCain at the National Governor’s Association meeting about why he opposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“If anyone can help me hear from him on that, our state would appreciate it,” she said in an email to a representative of the Republican Governors Association. “I’ll have a tough time explaining my support for him until I can say I spoke with him about my concerns re: any pro-environmental stands he’s taking that could hurt Alaska.”
As it became clear McCain would be the nominee, Palin’s staff turned their attention to him.
In June, Palin and her staff talked about plans to repeal Alaska’s fuel tax. Ivy Frye, an aide and friend, said she would send details to McCain staffers when they became available. “They’re going to love it!” she wrote. Spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton sent Palin a draft of an op-ed piece carrying the governor’s name that would be pitched to national publications “beginning with the New York Times.” Palin responded the following day, writing: “Pls print.”
Despite all the effort, Palin seemed genuinely surprised when she got the nod: “Can you believe it!” she wrote to a staff member.
As the national attention intensified, Palin seemed frustrated and overwhelmed by the constant media spotlight. After the nomination and before, she became most angry when the attention was on her family.
“Man, that gossip crap bugs me,” she wrote on Oct.1, 2007, referring to a column in the Anchorage Daily News. “Any time it has anything to do with home or family, it’s irritating.”
On Sunday, April 6, 2008, Palin’s father passed along reports that rumors swirling of daughter Bristol’s pregnancy were coming from the office of Palin critic and fellow Wasilla Republican Sen. Lyda Green. Palin asked aides to find out whether a newspaper reporter and television reporter had heard the rumor from the Green staffer or former Palin aide.
Palin called the circulating rumors “flippin’ unbelievable.”
“Bristol does want it squashed — we just don’t know how to do so without making it a bigger issue,” Palin wrote of her eldest daughter.
Palin already had denied speculation that Bristol was the mother of Palin’s fifth child, Trig, who was born with Down Syndrome.
“Even at Trig’s doc apt this morning his doc said that’s out there (hopefully NOT in their medical community-world, but it’s out there),” Palin wrote on April 22. “Bristol called again this afternoon asking if there’s anything we can do to stop this, as she received two girlfriend-type calls today asking if it were true.”
The delay in releasing Palin’s emails, which had been requested by media organizations and citizens, has been attributed largely to the sheer volume. The emails were sent and received by Palin’s personal and state email accounts, and the ones being released were deemed state business-related. Palin and top aides were known to communicate using private email accounts. The documents revealed at least three different private accounts for Palin.
The state withheld 2,275 pages for reasons including attorney-client, work product or executive privilege; an additional 140 pages were deemed to be “non-records,” or unrelated to state business.
Her supporters encouraged everyone to read the messages. “The emails detail a Governor hard at work,” said Tim Crawford, the treasurer of her political action committee, Sarah PAC, in a prepared statement.