Sunday, August 31

:: The Gander and the Goose

The email I received this morning from NJDC began:

Senator John McCain made his first critical presidential decision with his selection of his Vice Presidential running mate.  McCain's judgment appears lacking.   In Governor Sarah Palin, McCain chooses a running mate with zero foreign policy experience and a brewing scandal which is being investigated by the Alaska state legislature...
Hold it right there, I thought.  Surely you're not saying that foreign policy experience is essential to holding the second highest political office in our country?  
Because if that were the case, one would expect it to be doubly, triply, exponentially more important for the actual highest office.   Clearly a great many Democratic voters and, more importantly, a deciding majority of Democratic superdelegates think differently.  

Is the argument that it is more important for the Vice President than for the President to have foreign policy experience?  Or that a lack of foreign policy experience only matters when the candidate is a Republican?  

Either way, I'm not buying it.  What's good (enough) for the gander is good enough for the goose.

As for the scandal, I have very little information to go by - how do you decide what news source to trust in this situation? - but it certainly appears to be a non-issue.  Best I can tell, the root of the problem is an Alaska state trooper, Mark Wooten, who used to be married to Governor Palin's sister, Molly McCann.   Wooten was the subject of an internal investigation:
The troopers' investigation into Wooten began after Chuck Heath -- Wooten's father-in-law and Palin and McCann's dad -- alerted troopers about a domestic violence protective order McCann had obtained against Wooten on April 11, 2005. McCann filed for divorce the same day, according to the court docket.

The trooper had not physically assaulted his wife but intimidated her and threatened to shoot him, Heath told troopers, according to a memo about the complaint.

The same day, a concerned neighbor of the couple called troopers with more accusations, including alcohol abuse, based on what Heath and McCann had relayed to him. Wooten seemed "disconnected" lately, the neighbor said. He told troopers that Heath and McCann were afraid to call troopers themselves.

"Extreme verbal abuse & violent threats & physical intimidation," McCann wrote in her April 11, 2005, petition to the court. He had driven drunk multiple times, threatened her father, told her to "put a leash on your sister and family or I'm going to bring them down," her petition says. A judge issued a 20-day protective order to keep Wooten away.

In written orders to Wooten sent the next day, trooper Capt. Matt Leveque echoed the court's directive. Leveque, now a major, also told Wooten to give up his department-issued guns, badge, credentials and vehicle during his off-duty time, while the order was in effect.

On April 27, 2005, trooper Sgt. Ron Wall began the internal investigation, interviewing and re-interviewing more than 15 people over a period of months. Witnesses included Palin, her husband, Todd, two of their children, Heath, McCann, her son, Wooten, friends, neighbors, a bartender, and other troopers.
The investigation into Wooten and the process of divorcing him unfolded side-by-side. Custody of their two young kids was a major issue.
Troopers eventually investigated 13 issues and found four in which Wooten violated policy or broke the law or both:

• Wooten used a Taser on his stepson.
• He illegally shot a moose.
• He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion.
• He told others his father-in-law would "eat a f'ing lead bullet" if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.

Beyond the investigation sparked by the family, trooper commanders saw cause to discipline or give written instructions to correct Wooten seven times since he joined the force [in 2001]...

Those incidents included: a reprimand in January 2004 for negligent damage to a state vehicle; a January 2005 instruction after being accused of speeding, unsafe lane changes, following too closely and not using turn signals in his state vehicle; a June 2005 instruction regarding personal cell phone calls; an October 2005 suspension from work after getting a speeding ticket; and a November 2005 memo "to clarify duty hours, tardiness and personal business during duty time."
To sum it up....
"The record clearly indicates a serious and concentrated pattern of unacceptable and at times, illegal activity occurring over a lengthy period, which establishes a course of conduct totally at odds with the ethics of our profession," Col. Julia Grimes, then head of Alaska State Troopers, wrote in March 1, 2006, letter suspending Wooten for 10 days.
The union backed Wooten up, and had his suspension reduced to 5 days.  They said the investigation and punishment were fair.
Now this is the scandally part. No, its not the rogue cop getting a five-day slap on the wrist.  A different scandally part.  

Palin encouraged and assisted the police investigation - before she began her gubernatorial campaign. After she became governor, she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, Alaska's "top cop" - which was entirely within the scope of her power. Some people, including Monegan, believe she fired him in retaliation for not taking a harder line with Wooten. The Alaska state legislature is spending $100,000 to investigate this claim.
At issue is whether Palin, her administration or family improperly pressured Monegan to fire Alaska State Trooper Michael Wooten, the ex-husband of Palin's sister, and whether Palin fired Monegan when that didn't happen. Palin's sister, Molly McCann, and Wooten are divorced but still battling in court over custody and visitation.

Before she was governor, Palin pushed for a trooper investigation of Wooten over a number of matters, including using a Taser on his stepson, illegally shooting a moose, and accusations of driving drunk. At one point, Palin and her husband, Todd, hired a private investigator.

Troopers did investigate, and Wooten was suspended for 10 days, later reduced to five.

Palin initially said that after she took office in December 2006, she broached the subject of Wooten with her public safety commissioner, Monegan, just once, when they discussed her security detail. She said that she told Monegan of threats Wooten had made against her father and also that Wooten had threatened to "bring me down." She said she thought that was the end of it.

But a week after his firing, Monegan said there was pressure to fire Wooten from Palin's administration as well as from Todd Palin. The pressure continued until just a month or two before he was let go, Monegan said.

This month, as her administration gathered materials for the legislative investigation, Palin released a recording of a phone call in which one of her aides pressured a trooper lieutenant to fire Wooten. That contradicted her earlier claims that there had been no pressure. She said she was unaware of the conversation until the investigation uncovered it. She also disclosed that members of her administration had had about two dozen contacts with public safety officials about Wooten.

In the phone call, which was recorded by troopers, as they do routinely, aide Frank Bailey told the trooper lieutenant that Palin and her husband wanted to know why Wooten still has a job.

"Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, 'Why on earth hasn't this, why is this guy still representing the department?' He's a horrible recruiting tool, you know," Bailey told Lt. Rodney Dial.

Palin has put Bailey on paid administrative leave during the investigation. She said she never asked Bailey to make that call.

She has maintained that her decision to fire Monegan has nothing to do with Monegan's refusal to dump Wooten.
This is the big scandal.  At worst, she lost confidence in Monegan for the wrong reasons.  But maybe Alaska has specific rules governing the hiring and firing of appointees; I don't know.  

It certainly doesn't compare with the Rezko situation (not to mention other scandals involving elected officials - i.e. Spitzer). I don't know why the Democrats would want to raise this issue, when they so clearly don't benefit from the comparison.

McCain has set a great trap for the Democrats, and all signs point to the Dems walking right into it.  


Anonymous said...
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ladybec said...

Great - more "thoughtful" comments on here.

But whatever - I just want to say that I totally echo the experience thing. I don't understand why Dems think they can keep making this argument about her inexperience and how poorly that reflects on McCain's judgment without thinking that independent voters aren't going to wonder what it says about the Democratic Party for picking such an inexperienced candidate for PRESIDENT, not vice president. Apparently, the fact that millions of people made that decision somehow makes it better? And by the way, didn't we see this before in 2000 and look how it turned out?

The other thing I'm wondering about is whether Tim Pawlenty (or Mitt Romney, for that matter) really has so much more foreign policy experience than she has - governors don't have much foreign policy experience as a group, but somehow I doubt we would be hearing much about that if either of them had been chosen...

Anonymous said...

I received an e-mail today from a "democratic" congresswoman extolling me to express my outrage at McCain's VP pick as "an insult to women" oblivious to her own sexism, she referred to Sarah Palin as "nothing but Dan Quayle in a dress!"
Bloggers I used to admire, are spreading the most outrageous rumors it is insane! So McCain, a Republican, picks a Republican for his running mate - duh! The vile vitriol from the left(again!) is sad and self-defeating and makes abundantly clear, the expedient lie that "no it's not all women, it's just THAT WOMAN" to explain away their abusive, misogyny towards Hillary Clinton. No - it is ALL women they hate!

"Anonymous" and your uncle, As far as I can tell, Ciccina's support of truth, does not translate as support of Sarah Palin's personal beliefs or her policies, and women have far more to fear from neanderthals like you and your uncle than Ms Palin.

McCain made an incredibly smart move, that Dems got caught with their knickers down proves it. Secure in your chosen presidential candidate's ability to win, this year of all years, why on earth is who the opposition picks as VP relevant? If you seriously want to lose in November - keep it up!