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Tilting at Windmills

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October 11, 2008

WHY MCCAIN'S TROOPERGATE SPIN DOESN'T WORK.... Now that Sarah Palin has been found to have abused the powers of her office, the McCain campaign has two principal arguments: 1) the legislature's independent investigation found that the governor could legally fire the public safety commissioner for any reason she chose; and 2) the independent investigation was a partisan, "politically motivated" exercise.

Both arguments are hopelessly misguided, for entirely different reasons.

The problem with the first argument is that it badly misses the point. Yes, Palin could fire former Alaskan Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. He served at her pleasure. But the report found that she fired him, at least in part, because he refused to go along with her personal vendetta against her ex-brother-in-law.

Palin, in other words, violated state ethics laws and abused her powers. That's not an exoneration; that's a condemnation.

For that matter, the report shows that Palin lied, repeatedly, about her own conduct. She lied about Monegan's firing, she even lied about "fearing" Mike Wooten. In this sense, it's a double-whammy: Sarah Palin violated state ethics laws and abused her powers -- and then got caught lying about it. The McCain campaign, this is practically unspinnable.

The problem with the second argument is that it's just factually untrue. Alaskan officials of both parties voted to appoint the special counsel to investigate the scandal; Alaskan officials of both parties agreed publicly that the investigation was warranted; Alaskan officials of both parties approved of subpoenas as part of the probe; Alaskan officials of both parties resisted efforts to shut down the investigation; and Alaskan officials of both parties approved the release of the report.

I realize the McCain campaign likes to redefine words for its own purposes, but calling this a partisan, "politically motivated" exercise is ridiculous.

The Politico's Kenneth Vogel summarized the report's findings this way:

Sarah Palin violated the trust Alaskans placed in her as their governor in how she handled the events surrounding the firing of a state official who had refused to dismiss her ex-brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper.

"Violated the public's trust." For McCain, that may not be important, but for those of us who take integrity in government seriously, it means a great deal.

And from a purely political perspective, it makes the notion that Palin is a "reformer" utterly ridiculous.

Steve Benen 8:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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The McCain campaign's argument basically is:

"Since Palin CAN fire someone for no reason, it no longer matters if she did so for a good reason or not."

Somehow I don't think people are going to believe that.

Posted by: Clarus Visum on October 11, 2008 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Don't know why my URL wasn't included in my comment...


Posted by: Clarus Visum on October 11, 2008 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with Palin's response is that it overtly asserts that abuse of power and public trust is perfectly fine. In fact, it's perfectly legal. And this is the same argument that the McCain campaign has been making of late regarding Keating 5. In another life, I would have though candidates for Pres and VP would at least want to be a bit more subtle.

Posted by: Danp on October 11, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Breaking the law and violating ethics is nothing compared to having met a terrorist!

Posted by: John McCain: Worse than Bush on October 11, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

"Violated the public trust" is something we'll likely hear from a number of Democrats this coming week. That's going to be a tough one for McCain to swallow, no matter how much he tries to spin the report.

Posted by: Jake on October 11, 2008 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Our Sarah would need to come up with a tearful showing of contrition and play for sympathy. It's completely out of character, I don't think she has it in her, but it looks like the only way to change the narrative on this.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on October 11, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

One point that shows how petty and vindictive the firing was. Monegan had been one of the most admired policemen in Alaska -- as well as being the first "Native Alaskan" in the job. When he was fired, he received exactly $0.00 in severance pay, after serving for some years.

His successor turned out to have a history of sexual abuse -- which should have been known when he was hired. He was let go after two weeks in the job.

His severance pay was $10,000.00.

I also would love to see Wooten sue her for slander. After all, this continuing picture of him as a 'dangerous' rogue cop is only based on Palin's portrayal of him, and we know how frequently she lies. (The 'tasering an 11-year old' story, for example, was that it was his own son, that the boy had seen tasers used on tv, and had begged his daddy to 'show me how it feels.' Irresponsible, yes, probably. But understandable.)

Even the moose-killing part of the story involved other members of Palin's family, or Wooten's, not sure, and Palin pressed to make sure it was only Wooten that was prosecuted for this apparently minor violation.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on October 11, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Violated the public trust" is something we'll likely hear from a number of Democrats this coming week. Jake

Right. Telling people Obama hangs with terrorists, and then you don't have to be afraid of him, goes together with the violation of trust issue pretty well, I think.

Posted by: Danp on October 11, 2008 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

In the end, it seems to me that this will be just more of the drip drip drip against the McCain Palin ticket.

I am starting to think that new CBS sitcom "Worst Week Ever" is actually about the McCain campaign.

Posted by: swarty on October 11, 2008 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

the many lies that were told all provide (more!) confirmation that Palin is indeed "pathological" (to use Andrew Sullivan's characterization) with her lying. It's routine for her; she does it automatically when she's in a jam. Is there any doubt that, as VP, she'd be worse than Cheney and would almost certainly, after some scandal or other, be impeached?

Posted by: sjw on October 11, 2008 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

After this spin cycle the best that Palin and McCain could hope for is a deep shade of gray that they will call white. They will cast it as a badge of honor. And in some districts she will be praised as a hero, in a Jesse James kind of way. Sometimes you gotta break the rules to root out the bad guys.

Posted by: lou on October 11, 2008 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

This would be a good time for someone to ask Palin or McCain to further explain what she was talking about in the VP debate when she said that VP's have powers that some have chosen not to use.

Posted by: Danp on October 11, 2008 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

I understand why Obama isn't attacking Palin enough. It goes against his grain, his philosophy, and besides, there are just too many things to hit her on.

But why aren't the Senatorial Candidates in various states using this in their debates -- or are they? Why aren't people handing out flyers at Republican events with a ten-page piece on Palin? (Want one? If somebody'd pay me a small amount for my time maybe a couple of cents a word, I'll put one together, but hopefully they could get it run off, my printers break within fifteen minutes of getting them put in. And I'll supply the text, but hopefully there would be an artist to do illustrations.)

She's so much more, and more dangerous, than the Tina Fey target, than the blank stares at the Couric interview. If McCain can laughably suggest that Ayers casts doubt on Obama's honesty, well, her whole history shows no doubt about Palin's. She doesn't have any.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on October 11, 2008 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

The firing has been used as a red herring all along. The firing is not the issue, but they knew legally she was allowed to fire him even for unethical reasons. Now, to me, the question is: I know this is Alaska and all, but are there consequences for ethics violations, or what?

Posted by: The Answer Is Green on October 11, 2008 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Remember extortion: you are allowed, for instance, to a) ask you neighbor for $100,000, b) tell people he cheats on his wife (if true). If you do a) while telling him you'll do b) otherwise it's a felony. The fact that the neighbor did cheat on his wife is not a defense. Nor is the fact that the neighbor is pissed off at you (aka 'politically motivated').

Posted by: stefan on October 11, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

George Dumb-ya Bush will wake up this morning with the realization that he won't be winning any more awards for Most Despised American Politician---thanks to Sarah Palin.

Dick "America's Bane" Cheney---not so much....

Now---if the media will just get on board with this while it's still "hot," we should begin to see national polls that put Obama into a solid, double-digit lead over McCain.

Right now, I'm imagining that McCain might once have been asked by a friend: "What is it like to be a fly that's had its wings ripped off?"

McCain now knows the answer to that question....

Posted by: Steve W. on October 11, 2008 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

By "reformer" Sarah Palin means reforming the government (in this case, the state government of Alaska) into her own personal fiefdom, where she is free to carry out her own personal vendettas at taxpayer's expense.

Posted by: Lew Scannon on October 11, 2008 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Can you imagine if something like Palin ever assumed any degree of power over that which she now holds...like VP, or eventually President.

Despite the fact that the stunt of appointing her was a complete insult to Americans and their ability to be discriminating voters. If she assumed any role in any administration it would undoubtedly be worse than the situation that exists in Washington at the moment.

Even if she wasn't found confirmed as having abused power you know that she is capable of it. As a matter of fact I am guessing that is just the tip of the iceberg. She runs her life and her office in the same way a petulant debutant runs her 16th birthday party.
What a flake, Americans cannot vote for hairdos and heroes anymore. In all circumstances integrity must come first because, as has been shown, those who hold the flag highest when running for office, circumvent the noble laws on which the nation was founded when in office and flagrantly abuse the power the people installed in the offices they hold, bring America to depths which it has heretofor never ascended to.

She is flake, everyone knows it. In all actuality most of all Rove, McCaine et. al. know this last fact best.

Posted by: Moikow on October 11, 2008 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

This Palin thing is minor to me compared to the Acorn issue. Manipulating the elections if far more frightening then firing a commissioner whom you have a right to fire.

Toni Foulkes, a member of Acorns National Association Board, confirmed that Obamas post-law school Project VOTE was undertaken in direct partnership with Acorn. Obama was also a key figure in Acorns annual leadership-training seminars. Obama was always supportive of Acorns signature issues in the Illinois State Senate. He also introduced Acorn-friendly legislation on living wage and banking practices. These are banking practices that included forcing bankers to give loans to people that couldn't afford them.

You choose to believe Obama. I choose to believe in Palin, who's errors in judgement pale next to Obama's.

I used to say that what was great about America is that we all get one vote. Apparently that isn't so. Several in America have already had more than their share this month. This is what's really frightening. Troopergate is nothing compared to that.


Posted by: Lisa on October 11, 2008 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Obama gave two one-hour leadership seminars to Acorn workers, for no pay ... it's a long stretch to make him out as a "key figure" in their training program. Some Acorn employees were guilty of fraudulent registrations, yes. They were reported by the organization itself, and they have been dismissed from their positions.

You're getting all riled up over nothing.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on October 11, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

The partisan argument is laugh-out-loud-able. How could anyone maintain a straight face when hearing it, let alone saying it? Of course, you could argue the investigating committee wasn't very bi-partisan, because of the large imbalance of Dems and repubs. Maybe if the repubs didn't outnumber Dems by 2 to 1, it would have been fairer to the republican VP candidate?

Posted by: JoeW on October 11, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Lisa,

If you were really interested in finding the truth about ACORN, you would have discovered that all allegations against ACORN are complete bullshit, and that the only fraud perpetrated has been by opportunistic signature-gatherers against them.

You would have also learned that the number of invalid registrations is an extremely small percentage of the valid signatures gathered and that INVALID VOTER REGISTRATIONS DO NOT HARM THE ELECTION PROCESS.

Voter suppressions tactic employed by the GOP, however, directly harm the targeted voters' ability to vote.

But that's not why you're here. Because your a republican tool, all you can do is spew their bullshit talking points and be a concern troll.

Palin is a radical, extremist ignoramus, and since you agree with her, I guess you must be as well.

Posted by: bdop4 on October 11, 2008 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Americans aren't buying the 'once a terrorist always a terrorist' argument of the McCain/Palin campaign. What William Ayers did was very wrong and very long ago. He has since become a respected member of the education faculty at the University of Illinois and University of Southern California.
The real gripe of McCain is that Ayers opposed the Vietnam War, as millions of Americans did, and John McCain will never forgive anyone for that.
McCain's associations with Gov. Sarah Palin and former Sen. Phil Gramm are much more recent and much more dangerous to Americans. The lack of regulation of the $62 trillion credit default swap derivatives market has endangered banks around the world and cost millions of Americans their savings and thousands of us our jobs.
Sen Gramm is the main author of that.
The abuse of power by Gov. Palin goes far beyond her vendetta with her ex brother in law. She has flouted Alaskan state laws forbidding bounty hunting and killing wolves in their dens as well.
Even her pastor is scarier than Jeremiah Wright.

Posted by: James P. on October 11, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Lisa: He also introduced Acorn-friendly legislation on living wage and banking practices. These are banking practices that included forcing bankers to give loans to people that couldn't afford them.

Lisa, I'm very curious about this, so I'm going to offer you a deal. If you can provide me with a copy of this elusive legislation that forced bankers to give loans to people unable to repay them, and show me that Obama supported it, I will personally undertake to vote for McCain-Palin in this year's presidential election.

That's the offer, the rest is up to you.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on October 11, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Minorities caused the financial crisis! Community organizing is a tool of the devil! Sarah Palin loves Jesus! La la la la la la I can't hear you!

Posted by: Fleasa on October 11, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

But ... but ... but ... BILL CLINTON!

Posted by: Bokonon on October 11, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

I think Lisa's citation of whitetrashvote.org pretty much says it all...

Posted by: dejah on October 11, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

All voter's registered by ACORN should be disqualified and thrown out. Thee libs do'nt listen to the Shawn Hannity show or Fox News and know that their candidate is doomed to defeat!!!!

Posted by: Chris McKinney on October 11, 2008 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

To CV at the top of this thread:

I think it is more accurate to state the McCain-Palin campaign's spin as

"Since Palin CAN fire someone for no reason, it no longer matters if she did so for an unlawful reason."

Which is, of course, bullsh*t.

Nearly all American workers are "at will" employees, which means that they can be fired for no good reason. But that merely means that they don't have civil service protections or contract rights that would allow them to keep their jobs by proving that the employer was mistaken or unfair; it doesn't give the employer the right to fire them for unlawful reasons, such as calling OSHA or trying to organize a union or refusing to lie under oath.

Monegan refused to reopen an investigation into those charges that had already resulted in discipline--just not enough discipline, as far as the Palins were concerned--for Wooten. He refused to start a new investigation into Wooten on new charges. In both cases the Palins were pressing the investigation to advance purely personal reasons, their desire to get rid of Wooten by any means possible. And according to the report they fired him for his refusal to carry out their improper demands.

I don't know whether this would give Monegan the right to sue Palin for wrongful termination under Alaska law (and it doesn't look like he cares to do so anyway). But as far as the larger question is concerned, this termination for refusing to carry out the Palins' private vendetta against Wooten is an abuse of power. As is the lying. And the attempt to keep witnesses from testifying under subpoena. Quite a maverick.

Posted by: on October 11, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The concept of "public trust" was quite important to McCain three weeks ago, when he decided to fire Chris Cox:

"The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public's trust," McCain told a rally in this battleground state. "If I were president today, I would fire him."

Posted by: along on October 11, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

So the take away is she screwed up firing someone she had the power to fire because she lied to the public about why she fired him and the lie she told was so bad that it sparked an investigation.

Could she be any more incompetent?!?!

Why would you offer the guy the top job at the Alcohol Control Board when your reason for firing him initially for poor performance on bootlegging issues?!?!

Posted by: John Henry on October 11, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

How sad the financial crisis has tempted the Republicans to spread the lie that a Democratic President out of office for 27 years and minorities are responsible for the credit crisis. The rot started at the top with the investment bankers and their Republican water carriers in Congress and spread down to the lenders who were focused on reselling debt
rather than qualifying clients and then down to many realtors and developers who wanted to close a sale rather than explain adjustable rate mortgages to their customers. Blaming the poor for the sins of the rich is despicable...and anti-Christian, too.

Posted by: James P on October 11, 2008 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Confusion Alert! The "abuse of power" charge has nothing to do with firing the top cop.

The abuse of power was using the powers of her office to try to get the top cop to fire Wooten, including letting her husband Todd assume some of this power on his own. She didn't put a stop to Todd's attempts either.

Bottom Line: There was nothing wrong with firing the top cop. Everything wrong with trying to arm twist state officials to fire the ex-brother-in-law.

The confusion may have been intentional, who knows, but by not including the conduct which amounted to abuse of power in the first finding didn't help.

Posted by: tomj on October 11, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Even the moose-killing part of the story involved other members of Palin's family, or Wooten's, not sure..."

Palin's. And they ate the moose. And waited a couple of years to report the violation.

Posted by: PaulB on October 11, 2008 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Lisa wrote: "This Palin thing is minor to me compared to the Acorn issue. Manipulating the elections if far more frightening then firing a commissioner whom you have a right to fire."

Are you a parody? If so, you are a pretty good one.

If not, then you are a deliberate, malicious liar. ACORN has never, ever even been accused of "manipulating elections".

Unlike the Republican Party.

And even in the most outrageous, unsubstantiated, bogus allegations about supposedly large numbers of fraudulent registrations submitted by ACORN, the numbers of allegedly fraudulent registrations are trivial compared to the hundreds of thousands of legal, legitimate voter registrations that ACORN has accomplished -- which is called empowering people to vote, not "manipulating elections".

Again, unlike the Republican Party, which has conspired to disenfranchise tens of millions of eligible voters, particularly working class voters, and particularly African-American working class voters.

The attacks on ACORN are nothing but the same old Jim Crow voter disenfranchisement tactics of the GOP's "southern strategy", now being carried into the 21st century on a nationwide basis.

So if you are a parody, great. If you are not, then screw you for being a racist bigot and a shameless liar.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 11, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

What the results of the "Trooper-gate" remind me most of is the "Attorney-gate" in miniature -- firing Monegan might have been legal and within Palin's privilege, as was the firing of the 8 (9?) Attorneys General. But the whole thing stinks on ice nevertheless from the moral (ethical) point of view.

Posted by: exlibra on October 11, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

As I recall, the "serve at the pleasure of the executive" ploy was used by Bush in the early rounds of the U.S. attorney firing scandal. It didn't work for Bush, either.

Posted by: Stuart Eugene Thiel on October 11, 2008 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

I read the entire report online today and am amazed at the number of times Todd Palin called people regarding this. Even after he was told several times that the charges were investigated and the matter closed and could NOT be reopened he still continued to call and get other people involved. There is no way that Gov. Palin didn't know what he was doing or that her staff was making similar calls. I am shocked that Todd Palin had so much time to devote to the Governors office and even sat in on Department meetings. What the heck is this crap? He wasn't elected and shouldn't have been involved in her job like this. I am surprised that no one questioned him being there! Also her grand popularity is possibly a result of the money that each person gets due to the oil companies. I would like someone who sent me a couple thousand dollars for nothing!

Posted by: mishanti on October 11, 2008 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

mishanti, whats your mailing address?

Posted by: crimelord on October 11, 2008 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK



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