Mead Treadwell: Debunking ThinkProgress' Ignorant Attacks On the Alaska Senate Candidate

On May 2, ThinkProgress writer Josh Israel wrote a hit piece against Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is currently exploring a bid for the United States Senate in 2014. The title? "Meet Mead Treadwell: The Male Sarah Palin."

Huh?

I guess it's not technically libel to compare someone to Sarah Palin, but ThinkProgress's intent is clear: to malign Treadwell's character and present him as a fringe conspiracy theorist rather than a serious politician. Let's go through Israel's eight major points and explain why not one of them validates the comparison.

1. "He loves drilling."

Well, yes. As it happens, a lot of people in Alaska love drilling, including Democratic Senator Mark Begich (Treadwell's likely opponent), Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (Sarah Palin's arch-nemesis), former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles, and just about everyone else. That may have something to do with the fact that oil is the backbone of the state's economy. Supporting increased oil development is hardly a right-wing fringe position. Of course, Palin herself didn't love drilling enough to stop her from hiking taxes on oil companies in 2007.

2. "He denies climate-change science."

Really? Didn't sound like it when Mead Treadwell, as chairman of the Arctic Research Commission, wrote: "First, climate is changing to create an accessible Arctic. Sea ice coverage is reducing in area and thickness faster than our climate models predicted." Israel apparently read this report, but twisted it around to claim that Treadwell "cheers the 'accessible arctic' that would come from melting ice." Actually, Treadwell didn't express a value judgment on melting ice as good or bad. He simply worked to help the U.S. adapt to the reality of climate change instead of sitting around wringing his hands about impending doom. Isn't that what we want in the Senate?

3. "He opposed Obamacare and student loan reform because he believed they created 'death panels'."

If you look at the video linked in ThinkProgress's article, you'll see that Treadwell falls quite a bit short of actually saying that Obamacare would create "death panels." In a remarkably frank discussion of personal tragedy, he uses his late wife's battle with brain cancer to explain that he recognizes the trade-offs between cost control and the potential to save a person's life, but believes people should decide how to deal with that trade-off privately, rather than with a nudge from the government. That's a mainstream Republican position, not a fringe conspiracy theory.

4. "He opposes not just marijuana legalization, but even medical marijuana."

This position is not only well within the mainstream of the Republican Party, but also the Democratic Party, at least judging by the fact that the Obama administration has refused to green-light medical marijuana. Treadwell, a strong Catholic and social conservative, could be expected to oppose easy access to drugs. In this view, he isn't exactly in line with Palin, who has admitted to smoking marijuana and called it a "minimal problem."

5. "He opposes all new revenue, but pushed for more government spending."

I don't need to contradict Josh Israel on this one, because he already contradicts himself. Later in the same paragraph, Israel notes that Mead Treadwell criticized Paul Ryan's budget plan for not balancing the budget quickly enough (a valid criticism). News flash: a person can support more spending in some areas (e.g., Alaska's infrastructure, a minuscule component of the federal budget) and less spending in others (e.g., health care and agriculture subsidies, a huge component).

6. "He opposed a bill that made ballot initiative funding more transparent."

This is just a weird issue to cite, as it has nothing to do with Sarah Palin or Tea Party activism. But if you look at the bill in question, it's fairly clear that the main effect is to create more red tape in the process of getting an initiative on the ballot.

7. "He loved the late Sen. Ted Stevens because he was anti-Communist and brought home pork."

And because Ted Stevens was a hero of Sarah Palin and Tea Party activists, of course? I guess Israel is forgetting that Palin threw Stevens under the bus at the 2008 Republican National Convention when she falsely claimed to have opposed Stevens's Gravina Island Bridge earmark. Treadwell, meanwhile, has indicated that he accepts the end of the age of earmarks. Many Alaskans are still grateful for the bacon Stevens brought home, but Mead Treadwell, like the rest of the Republican Party, has come to recognize that earmarks can also be wasteful and unfair.

8. "Like Palin, he has connections to the controversial Alaskan Independence Party."

This is the most ridiculous stretch of all. Apparently, the fact that Republican Walter Hickel, Treadwell's longtime mentor and friend, once ran on the AIP ticket due to a split in the Republican Party ties Treadwell himself to the AIP agenda — despite the fact that Hickel never endorsed secession or the rest of the AIP's platform anyway. Hickel simply used the party as a stepping-stone to the governor's office. By the way, Palin's only "connection" is that her husband once registered as an AIP member, which for many Alaskans is little more than a small way to protest against the two major parties.

Bonus: Israel mentions at the end of the article that "Treadwell received the Conservative Patriots Group’s Tea Party endorsement in 2010, but lost it when the group discovered he had contributed to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s re-election campaign." Treadwell also stated that he cast a write-in vote for Murkowski in the general election. I guess no one told Israel that Sarah Palin was a staunch supporter of Sen. Murkowski's opponent Joe Miller and one of Murkowski's fiercest opponents in the state.

Zero for nine, ThinkProgress. Now let me tell you a story about why Mead Treadwell is emphatically not the male Sarah Palin.

Around the time of Sarah Palin's resignation as governor in 2009, Rod Boyce, managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, wrote a long column detailing his months-long attempt to get then-Gov. Palin in the room with the News-Miner's editorial board. Palin considered the paper an adversary because it had opposed the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. Boyce noted that either of Palin's predecessors, Frank Murkowski and Tony Knowles, would have come into the board room and argued heatedly with skeptics of their policies, trying to win them over. Palin didn't believe in that. Either you were for her or against her, and she didn't see any point in talking to opponents.

Fast-forward a year to 2010. As a junior at Dartmouth College, I received a mailer from Mead Treadwell's campaign for lieutenant governor which I perceived to be unfairly critical of the Obama administration. I sent an e-mail to the campaign, expecting a curt reply from a staffer at best. Instead, I got a four-paragraph e-mail from the candidate himself explaining his views on federal oil exploration policy and the reason he had criticized Obama. This happened less than two weeks before the Republican primary election for which Treadwell was campaigning.

Sarah Palin refuses to speak to the editorial board of the second-largest newspaper in her state, which includes some of Alaska's most respected journalists, because they opposed her gas-line legislation. Mead Treadwell takes time out of a busy campaign schedule and writes to a 20-year-old college student, with knowledge of oil, land use, and Arctic policy vastly inferior to his own, to respond to a criticism of his campaign mailer. Twins, right?

Next time, ThinkProgress, stick to topics you know something about.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Will Bishop

I have a B.A. in mathematics and public policy from Dartmouth College. I am from Alaska and enjoy hunting, hiking, snowmachining, and spending time with my family. I currently live in New Haven and work as a research assistant in economics.

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