Like A Grizzly With Cubs, If By “Grizzly” You Mean “Quitter”, And By “Cubs” You Mean “Kids You Can’t Be Bothered With”

Sarah Palin, January 22, 2009:

“When I took my oath of office to serve as your Governor, remember, I swore to steadfastly and doggedly guard the interests of this great state like a grizzly with cubs, as a mother naturally guards her own. Alaska, as a statewide family, we’ve got to fight for each other, not against and not let external, sensationalized distractions draw us off course.”

Sarah Palin, July 3, 2009:

“Productive, fulfilled people determine where to put their efforts, choosing to wisely utilize precious time… to BUILD UP.

And there is such a need to BUILD up and FIGHT for our state and our country. I choose to FIGHT for it! (…)

But I won’t do it from the Governor’s desk.”

The Juneau Empire:

“Palin veiled her announcement as something much more noble, but the fact is that she’s quitting less than three years into her tenure. And, given her meteoric rise to national political stardom last fall, Alaskans are shocked and appalled by her decision to quit midstream.

We say good for her, however, because it’s been nearly a year since the first-term governor has acted like she actually wanted the job.”

On reflection, what bothers me most about Sarah Palin resigning is how fundamentally unserious it is. Being a governor is a real job with real responsibilities. It gives you a tremendous opportunity to affect your state, for better or for worse. In some ways, you can do more as a lame duck than at other times: you don’t have to worry about re-election, fundraising, and so forth, so you can spend all your time trying to make your state government more effective.

Often it’s clear what a governor ought to focus on: crises happen, issues reach a point where they have to be dealt with. At other times, a governor gets to be more proactive: giving some troubled agency the attention it doesn’t normally get and trying to really turn it around, trying to put programs on solid foundations before their problems become urgent, making government work better and more efficiently for all your citizens.

But to do that, you’d have to actually care about governing. Sarah Palin plainly does not. If she did, she would never, ever have resigned her position, especially not in order wander around giving speeches.

As an example of what she might have done if she cared about governing, consider Alaska’s foster care system. As of 2007 (the most recent data I could find), Alaska was the fourth worst of 45 states reporting when it came to keeping kids from being abused in their foster homes — the homes they’re given to keep them safe from abuse and neglect. Alaska’s child protective services were the fifth worst in the nation at keeping kids from undergoing repeat abuse, the third worst in response time, and the sixth worst in terms of the time from an initial report of child abuse to receipt of services.

Alaska was 42nd in the country in the percentage of foster kids who had two or fewer placements, which means that a lot of kids spent a lot of time bouncing from one home to another. It doesn’t have enough caseworkers, and the turnover among those it does have is too high. (It does do a good job at placing siblings together and maintaining community ties, though.)

Moreover, services for kids who age out of foster care are not very good:

“Nearly 38 percent of foster care alumni in Alaska said they were homeless at some point after leaving their foster homes, according to a 2005 study from the UAA School of Social Work — much higher than the 12 to 25 percent for foster care alumni in other states.”

Foster care is one of those issues that liberals and conservatives ought to agree on. Kids are not responsible for being abused or neglected. They can’t just take care of themselves. And someone like Sarah Palin, who is forever talking about fighting for our children, might be expected to work at this. If she was looking for a way to spend her time other than taking junkets at taxpayer expense, it might have occurred to her to fix Alaska’s foster care system so that it really took care of Alaska’s kids.

But no. Here’s the legislator who has worked hardest for Alaska’s foster kids on Palin’s record:

If anything ought to count as a higher calling, taking care of kids who need help should. Sarah Palin was in a position to really do right by Alaska’s foster kids. Instead, she walked away.