In a “breaking news” bulletin from Politico.com, I learned something that should be the last nail in the coffin of the GOP candidates’ race for the Presidency. The one-line bulletin read: “Alaska panel finds Sarah Palin abused power as Governor in firing of Commissioner.” The Commissioner in question in what has been dubbed Troopergate, was Walt Monegan, Public Safety Commissioner, whom Sarah Palin pressured to fire her ex-brother-in-law. When he would not, Palin fired Monegan.
To be fair, the ex-brother-in-law was not a model state trooper by any standards, unless drinking on the job and tasering one’s child is considered model behavior, but pressuring Walt Monegan to fire the ex-brother-in-law crossed the line, says the panel, and appears to have taken place for personal political reasons that were not related to his job performance. There were in-person visits from Todd (“the First Dude”) Palin and e-mail(s) and discussions to and with Monegan, all of them designed to get Walt Monegan to fire the ex-brother-in-law primarily because Governor Palin wanted him fired for her own personal reasons. At least, that is what the independent panel seems to be saying in its decision.
There are several things that this conviction should mean for any thinking voter.
First, Ms. Palin’s much-vaunted Republican credentials as a reformer battling corruption are in disarray. So much for going to Washington or Wasilla to “clean up corruption.” She’s going to end up like Edward Norton in “Fight Club,” fighting herself.
Second, the attacks on Obama saying he had not made “full disclosure” of every facet of his personal background, (such as very casual links to former Weatherman underground member Ayres or the indicted Tony Rezko) are undermined by the guilty verdict, as it appears that there are more skeletons in Palin’s closet than just the pregnancy of her teen-aged daughter.
And thirdly, and most importantly, Troopergate gives us a glimpse into the kind of executive Sarah Palin has been and would be, if elected to an even more consequential office than Governor of Alaska. She is the sort of chief executive who, according to John Bitney, a trusted aide and friend for 30 years who helped her win both the Mayor’s and Governor’s offices, can be capricious. Bitney said, “When she decides ‘you’re done,’ you’re done.” Bitney should know. He worked closely with Palin and was loyal to her, but he was called in and summarily fired because, post-divorce(s), he began dating the ex-wife of a friend of Todd Palin’s.
Said Bitney, in an article reported by Kenneth P. Vogel (“Politico.com,” 9/5/08), “I wanted to stay with the Governor and support the Governor. We’re talking about someone who’s been a friend for 30 years. But I understood and I have no ax to grind over the whole thing. Added Bitney, who, stealing a line from Elaine on the “Seinfeld” TV series said Palin is ‘a bad breaker-upper,” “Palin’s style is more dramatic than the way most executives do it. They bring you in, tell you they’re going to go in another direction and get everyone in the office to sign a card and cut a cake. But that’s just not her style.”
No, it certainly isn’t Ms. Palin’s style, as demonstrated by the guilty verdict in Troopergate and also in assorted other staff dealings.
According to Vogel, when Palin won the Wasilla Mayor’s post over three-time incumbent John Stein in 1996, 5 of 6 department heads had supported her opponent. Only 2 kept their jobs, and one who did, Duane Dvorak, left on his own 8 months later to become Kodiak Island Borough City Planner. Palin required the department heads she inherited from the outgoing Mayor to present her with a letter of resignation, a resume, and a letter explaining why they should be allowed to keep their jobs.
When Dvorak left under his own volition he described the work environment under Palin this way: “After all the excitement, I kind of felt like the ax could fall any time and just never felt like the situation warmed up.”
Not a great work environment, in my professional judgment as former CEO of two small businesses, but consistent with Palin’s later attempt to fire Mary Ellen Emmons, the library director. Ultimately, Emmons—who resisted efforts to purge the library of books Palin found objectionable—retained her position when Palin withdrew Emmons’ letter of termination, but as Palin told the Anchorage Daily News as to why she ultimately withdrew the termination notice after a public uproar: “You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you.” Palin certainly did do a lot of firing “from the heart,” so much so that the Wasilla local paper, the Frontiersman, dubbed the ongoing bloodbath “the Palin ax.”
Sarah Palin’s high-handed firing of those she felt were not supportive of her or those whom, like Police Chief Ira Stambaugh, she felt did not kow-tow enough to her during meetings, brought about a wrongful termination and dismissal lawsuit from the Police Chief. The real issues behind the firing were said to be the Police Chief’s support for a gun ban that the NRA opposed and the issue of bar hours in the town. He and Palin had differing points of view on the two issues, and soon Stambaugh was shoved towards the door.
A long-time supporter of Palin’s, then-Councilman Nick Carney, who owns a garbage removal company in Wasilla, convinced the then-28-year-old to run for Mayor in the first place. He knew Palin because she had played high school basketball on the same team as his daughter. As time went on and Palin’s management style became more apparent, Carney, along with Stein, threatened to lead a recall petition asking for Palin’s removal from office. Confirming Palin’s leadership style in office as a “take-no-prisoners” Bush-like system, Joe Johns characterized Palin on a CNN discussion on Friday night as “a hard-nosed Governor.”
The pick of Palin to be Vice President was always considered a “Hail Mary” pass from Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, facing uphill odds against the most unpopular President in history who has just concluded his 8 years in office by seemingly managing to ruin not only the United States economy, but the global economy (what will he do next?). The unprecedented economic melt-down is on top of the unwinnable Iraq conflict initiated by our invading the wrong country to seek justice after 9/11. We might wish to throw in the loss of our self-esteem abroad under “W”, since we now are a country that practices “extraordinary rendition,” established Guantanamo Bay, and perpetrated Abu Ghraib. With McCain’s 90+% approval rating for all of Bush’s proposed policies, it is fair to portray him as “Bush’s third term,” and do we, as a people, really want that? Do any of us want 4 or 8 more years of Bush’s bewildered and baffled leadership-via-VP?
Palin’s lackluster education, background, experience and, now, her temperament, all point to a woman who is not only unqualified by her relatively limited experience to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Now, with the Troopergate guilty verdict, Palin is further defined an individual who likes to throw her political weight around when it suits her purposes, using her clout to influence questions like, “What books should children be allowed to read?” or “How late should bars be allowed to stay open?” or “Should everyday citizens be allowed free access to firearms?” In the White House, those questions would become, “Who should serve on the Supreme Court and influence legal decisions for generations?” and “Should our country be allowed to find cures for diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease by far-reaching stem-cell research?” and “Is it ‘okay’ to destroy what few areas of natural beauty remain untouched in our country to drill for oil?” Let’s not forget that Palin fought the federal government against naming the Polar Bear an endangered species, because to have done so would have inhibited drilling in her home state of Alaska.
Tuckerman Babcock, mentioned in the Politico.com article by Vogel, was a long-time supporter of Ms. Palin, whose mother is Alaska State Senate President Lyda Green. Babcock was expecting to be rewarded for his loyalty to the woman-who-would-be-VP. That didn’t happen. Alaska State Senate President Green told the “Daily News”, ‘Palin is not prepared to be Governor. How can she be prepared to be Vice President or President?” Journalists from all over the globe have posed this question to me.
That has been the question of the hour ever since McCain threw that Hail Mary pass, and, the more information we gather, such as her latest conviction in Troopergate, simply emphasizes how accurate that assessment by Lyda Green was, then and now.
Bill Maher likened Palin to “Tickle Me Elmo” on his October 10th “Real Time with Bill Maher” show. He actually said, out loud, what many have thought, privately, “Palin doesn’t know anything.” Andrew Halcro on Andrew Halcro.com said, “Walt Monegan was fired because he fought too hard. Governor Palin fired Monegan because she understood too little and wanted a puppet as commissioner. ” He added, “Walt Monegan got fired for all the wrong reasons. Walt Monegan got fired because he had the audacity to tell Governor Palin no, when apparently nobody is allowed to say no.”
This sounds like all too familiar political history;I can only hope that the Troopergate conviction in Alaska will send the “Disastah from Alaska” back to governing that remote state (and staring at Russia out her kitchen window), rather than eyeing the Oval Office.