When Larry Craig brought disrepute onto the Republican house, conservatives did not circle the wagons. They immediately demanded his ouster. Even the party's leadership, normally slow to respond, did the right thing by setting aside Senatorial collegiality and demanding an explanation and eventually his resignation. With the case now a month removed from the headlines, Craig has snuck back in under the wire by delaying his resignation (that's right, after he initially retracted the initial trial balloon earlier this month).
Regardless of its ultimate outcome, the Craig case demonstrates that there is a growing grassroots movement within the Republican Party to clean house before a hostile media and an impatient electorate do it for us. To date, the movement's impact is mostly theoretical. Only 16 House Republicans consistently reject the backscratching earmark gravy train, scoring 100% on the Club for Growth's RePORK Card. And Republicans may be powerless to stop Larry Craig's embarassing flip-flop-flip on resignation.
But there is at least one Republican for whom ethical governance is more than just a theory. Meet Sarah Palin, Alaska's rockstar governor.
The rise of Sarah Palin has been improbable and meteoric. A losing primary candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2002, Palin was eagerly sought out by then Gov. Frank Murkowski for a number of jobs in his new administration. After rejecting every job offer up to that point, she eventually settled on the chairmanship of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Months later, she resigned after blowing the whistle on ethical improprieties within the Commission. Then she took on the Governor's attorney general/campaign manager and forced him to resign. In 2006, the 43-year old mother of four and mayor of Wasilla challenged Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary. In a three way race, Palin emerged victorious with a majority of the primary vote while Murkowski took less than 20% in his race for renomination. In the general election, she defeated popular former Governor Tony Knowles by 8 points.
Most candidates stop playing the part of ethical crusader once they win the election. Not Sarah Palin. She immediately rescinded many of Murkowski's midnight appointments, and pushed some of the largest budget cuts in the state's history. As she put it to Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard , Alaska should be self-sufficient and not subsist off "federal dollars."