Read here editorial by Anchorage newspaper
Sarah Palin's reaction to the Legislature's Troopergate report is an embarrassment to Alaskans and the nation.
She claims the report "vindicates" her. She said that the investigation found "no unlawful or unethical activity on my part."
Her response is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian.
Page 8, Finding Number One of the report says:
"I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act." In plain English, she did something "unlawful." She broke the state ethics law.
Perhaps Gov. Palin has been too busy to actually read the Troopergate report. Perhaps she is relying on briefings from McCain campaign spinmeisters.
That's the charitable interpretation.
Because if she had actually read it, she couldn't claim "vindication" with a straight face.
Palin asserted that the report found "there was no abuse of authority at all in trying to get Officer Wooten fired."
In fact, the report concluded that "impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda, to wit: to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired."
Palin's response is the kind of political "big lie" that George Orwell warned against. War is peace. Black is white. Up is down.
Gov. Palin and her camp trumpeted the report's second finding: that she was within her legal authority to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. But the report also said it's likely one of the reasons she fired him was his failure to get rid of her ex-brother-in-law trooper.
That's NOT "vindication," and surely Gov. Palin knows it.
Gov. Palin does have a defense. She could have said:
"I'm gratified that the report confirmed what I said all along, that I had the authority to terminate Walt Monegan as public safety commissioner.
"I absolutely disagree that I violated state ethics law. In repeatedly complaining about trooper Mike Wooten, Todd and I were not pursuing a personal vendetta. We were trying to protect the integrity of the Alaska State Troopers from having an arrogant, almost-out-of-control law-breaker in their ranks. Because the action we were seeking was in the public interest, not purely our personal interest, there is no ethics law violation."
Gov. Palin and her husband felt so passionately about Wooten because the case was so personal to them. Their passion blinded them to any other considerations.
They had no sense that the power of the governor's office carries a special responsibility not to use it to settle family scores.
They had no sense that legal restrictions might prevent the troopers from firing Wooten.
They had no sense that persistent queries from the governor's office might be perceived as pressure to bend state personnel laws.
Gov. Palin and her husband were obsessed with Wooten the way Capt. Ahab was obsessed with the Great White Whale. No Wooten, no peace.
Has Gov. Palin committed an impeachable offense? Hardly.
Is what she did indictable? No.
But it wasn't appropriate, especially for someone elected as an ethical reformer. And her Orwellian claims of "vindication" make this blemish on her record look even worse.
You asked us to hold you accountable, Gov. Palin. Did you mean it?
Gov. Palin, read the report. It says you violated the ethics law.
VP for vendetta
The Troopergate report suggests how Sarah Palin would govern the US: by abusing her power to settle personal grudgesWhen I was in Alaska last month, several people told me they were afraid to speak about Sarah Palin on the record, lest they invite retaliation from the governor's office or, God forbid, from the next vice-president.
At the time, I didn't take such worries too seriously. As abominable a candidate as Palin is, it was hard for me to imagine vice-presidential staffers trying ruin the lives of private Wasilla citizens just because they had displeased her.
But reading the official report of the investigation into the Palin abuse-of-power scandal known as Troopergate, it seems that perhaps her critics were being more prudent than paranoid.
As scandals go, Troopergate is absurdly picayune. According to the report, released Friday by the bipartisan legislative council that authorised the investigation, Palin and her husband tried to use their political power to have her sister's ex-husband, state trooper Michael Wooten, fired from his job and investigated for workers compensation fraud.
They also pressed authorities to prosecute him for a moose shooting that was unlawful because of a technicality (the permit had been issued to his then-wife, who was with him at the time, rather than to Wooten, who pulled the trigger).
The governor then fired Walt Monegan, the public safety commissioner, because he refused to get rid of Wooten, something he could not legally have done. This stuff is so ridiculously small it seems silly to even be writing about it, especially at time of multiplying global emergencies.
Yet given that there is still a chance - albeit a diminishing one - that Palin could soon be in a position of national political power, it's worth looking at how she has exercised power in the past.
As a window into how Palin might rule, Troopergate's very pettiness is what makes it so troubling.
We're used to politicians who do favours for campaign contributors, who are too cozy with lobbyists and who resort to underhanded tactics against political foes.
What we are NOT used to are politicians who use their offices to intervene in family quarrels and punish their relatives' personal enemies.
For the last eight years, we've suffered under an administration that sees no difference between politics and governing.
Palin is something arguably worse, a person who sees no difference between her private life and her public duties.
Even Dick Cheney, after all, hasn't used his office to torment disfavoured former in-laws.
Though Palin claims the report has exonerated her, that's an outright lie.
It is true that it concluded that she was within her rights to fire Monegan, since the governor is allowed to replace department heads without cause. But it also found that Palin "abused her power" by violating the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, which holds that any "effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action" is a violation of the public trust.
More interesting than the report's conclusion, though, are its pitiful little details.
There are endless haranguing phone calls to people throughout the bureaucracy demanding action against Wooten, even after the Palins are warned that their actions could get them in legal trouble.
There are scenes of Todd Palin, who apparently spent a great deal of time working in no official capacity out of his wife's office, presenting Monegan with dirt on Wooten unearthed by a private investigator.
We see Todd trying to bust his ex-brother-in- law for dropping his kids off at school and then at church in a patrol car (both times, it turns out Wooten had permission to use the vehicle for personal business).
We learn that the judge presiding over Wooten's divorce from Palin's sister weighed the Palin family's vendetta against him in splitting up their assets, ruling that Wooten is likely to earn less in the future because his ex-wife's family "have decided to take off with the guy's livelihood".
This is not, of course, the only case in which Palin has behaved like Gossip Girl's Blair Waldorf, mobilising her minions against those who've fallen from her good graces. One of the people enlisted against Wooten was Palin's legislative director John Bitney, a friend of hers since junior high school.
Bitney later angered Palin by having an affair with Debbie Richter, who at the time was separated from Todd Palin's best friend. He was summarily fired. (Debbie Richter has since become Debbie Bitney).
All this is, of course, pretty trivial stuff. But how terrifying to think of a vice-president - or a president - wielding the power of her office to settle such personal grudges.
The Bush administration has famously been described as the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.
Palin promises something tawdrier still. Again, bad prime-time soap operas offer the best analogy.
Could America survive the rule of the Mayberry Carringtons?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Read here editorial by Anchorage newspaper