Palin vindicated?

Governor offers Orwellian spin

October 13, 2008 

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?

Bottom line: Gov. Palin, read the report. It says you violated the ethics law.

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