Monday, October 13, 2008

The Unethical Sarah Palin

Since President Clinton's infamous (and, after innumberable reptetition, annoying) line, "it depends on what is is," we realize- or should- that politicians infrequently lie and regularly mislead.

So it is perplexing to me to hear Sarah Palin not only mislead, but lie, about the "Troopergate" report released on October 10 by the committee of ten Republicans and four Democrats. It was predictable that the McCain camp would question the motives of the panel, and campaign spokeswoman Meg Stapelton alleged "a partisan- led inquiry run by Obama supporters."

Prosecutor Steven Branchflower, who led the investigation, did find that Governor Earmark was legally entitled to fire the Commissioner of Public Safety, apparently for almost any reason that might suit her fancy:

I find that, although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.

But he found also

Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides
“The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”


And the response of the vice-presidential nominee? Palin and Stapelton on October 12 took a five minute conference call with the Anchorage Daily News and two local television stations, with each of the three reporters permitted to ask one question with no follow-up. Here is the transcript, as provided by mudflatswordpress.com:

Palin: Hey, thank you so, Meg. Thank you so much. Thank you also to our local reporters up there in Alaska. Even hearing your names make me feel like I’m right there with you at home. It’s good to get to speak with you. Let me talk a little bit about the Tasergate issue if you guys would let me and, Meg, you want me to just jump right on in there?

Palin: Hey, thank you so, Meg. Thank you so much. Thank you also to our local reporters up there in Alaska. Even hearing your names make me feel like I’m right there with you at home. It’s good to get to speak with you. Let me talk a little bit about the Tasergate issue if you guys would let me and, Meg, you want me to just jump right on in there?

Stapleton: Sure governor, go ahead.

Palin: OK cool.
Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that. Todd did what anyone would have done given this state trooper’s very, very troubling behavior and his dangerous threats against our family. Todd did what I think any Alaskan would do.
And he, Todd did what the state’s Department of Law Web site tells anyone to do if they have a concern about a state trooper. And that’s you go to the commissioner and you express your concern. And Todd did what our personal detail asked him to do. Bob Cockrell early on as I was elected and was asked are there any threats against ya, and Todd brought the concern as I did to Commissioner Monegan about the state trooper’s threats. He did what any – I think — any rational person would do so again, nothing to apologize there with Todd’s actions and again very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing.


(Stapleton invites the first question).

ADN: Governor, finding No.1 on the report was that you abused your power by violating state law. Do you think you did anything wrong at all in this Troopergate case?

Palin: Not at all and I’ll tell you, it, I think that you’re always going to ruffle feathers as you do what you believe is in the best interest of the people whom you are serving. In this case I knew that I had to have the right people in the right position at the right time in this cabinet to best serve Alaskans, and Walt Monegan was not the right person at the right time to meet the goals that we had set out in our administration. So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all.

ADN: Have you read the whole report? (No response; Stapleton invites question from KTVA reporter).

KTVA-Channel 11: … The report that came out yesterday, do you think that the end result is partisan?

Palin: Yeah, I did think it did turn into a partisan circus to tell you the truth. Yes I did. You know from Day One it’s been the Personnel Board that clearly laid out in state statute there — Personnel Board deals with any issue of question regarding a governor, a lieutenant governor or an attorney general in the state of Alaska. What this legislative investigation — quote unquote — turned into was a political circus.

KTUU-Channel 2: Governor, so good to hear from you. Do you approve of the way that your campaign has handled themselves here in Alaska? We’ve had a lot of people voice concerns about what they call attacks of good people in our state while you are away.

Palin: Well I haven’t heard of any attacks on good people in Alaska from our campaign. If you have specifics there, maybe I could answer specifically. But no, in John McCain’s mission here, in taking the high road, as you’re going to see too with a lot of unfair shots he has taken in this campaign with some of his opponents’ supporters, McCain and I taking the high road, being positive. I wouldn’t support nor would I condone taking shots at any good Alaskans.

KTUU-Channel 2: Let me answer your question since you asked for specifics.

Palin: Sure.

KTUU-Channel 2: Walt Monegan was called “rogue.” How do you feel about that?

Palin: Rogue isn’t a negative term when you consider that in a cabinet you need a team effort going forward with a governor’s agenda. And our agenda has been to find efficiencies in every department and make sure that we are serving the people of Alaska to the best of our ability given the resources that we have. And remember I fought very hard to increase funding for state troopers so that we could fill positions there and goals not being met that included not being able to recruit and retain all the state troopers that I wanted to best serve Alaska. That could be characterized I think as a cabinet member who – it’s not a negative term I think — being rogue in terms of not meeting those goals.

Palin claims the investigation "did turn into a partisan circus," a curious charge from a public servant who first agreed to cooperate with the investigation, then after being nominated for V.P. changed her mind and refused to be interviewed. Branchflower concluded the Governor "abused her power by violating" the Alaska Branch Ethics Act. Nevertheless, the latter says "I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that." Not content to lie once, a moment later Palin remarks "So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all."

Perhaps Sarah Palin believes that violating a state statue is not "unethical activity." Or perhaps lying has become second nature to her. In either case, the selection of the vice-presidential nominee continues to put the lie to the McCain-Palin slogan "Country First."

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