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October 11, 2008

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As always, beautifully written and right on.

It is important to remember that the firing of Monegan is not the issue here. As the report points out that was properly and legally done. Only Palin really knows if there were truly issues beyond his not firing Wooten that caused her to fire him. My guess is that there were, but all related to his not being properly "loyal" to her.

At stake her is the pressuring of public employees to do something for reasons beyond the scope of the government.

The recent history of a bullying VP whose bullying was at least partially responsible for Iraq should make us all look at this behavior in a different light.

There are those who will defend her behavior on the grounds that Wooten is a bad man. Of ocurse, the main source for that information is Palin, who has admitted under oath that she didn't do anything about his behavior prior to all this even though she thought him to be a real danger to her sister and her own family.

But, ultimately, that is irrelevant. It is the behavior, combined with several other incidents, which show that Palin is one of those people who, if you don't do what she wants, will make you pay one way or another.

Good post, as usual! I just wanted to make the relatively worthless observation that I was amused by the unclear pronoun reference herein:

Once he called to say that Wooten, who had been injured, was riding his snowmobile

Later context makes clear that it's Wooten's own snowmobile. But until then I had an image of an injured Wooten hotwiring Todd Palin's snowmobile and riding off with glee.

Concur with Sydney - this is a very well written, honest piece.

Time has another good take (h/t Michael Scherer) by Nathan Thornburgh:

"[T]he Branchflower report still makes for good reading, if only because it convincingly answers a question nobody had even thought to ask: Is the Palin administration shockingly amateurish? Yes, it is. Disturbingly so. The 263 pages of the report show a coordinated application of pressure on Monegan so transparent and ham-handed that it was almost certain to end in public embarrassment for the governor."

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1849399,00.html

The Palins' behavior was foolish and contemptible. Firing an at-will employee out of pique is not against the law, but it is disgusting.

But it's also another test for those on the Right - do you want the people who run the country to act like this? The Rove virus means that every event and action has to be framed through whether it helps to get our side elected. Good government requires more than this - it requires more than scorched earth campaigns to haul 50.5% of the elctoral college across the finish line. It requires that people expect their representatives to behave competently and decently, and hold them accountable when they fail to do this. It isn't all just politics.

I imagine the atmosphere in Wasilla and Juneau will be even chillier than usual this winter.

We've known since before Gov. Palin was nominated that she abused her office. It was pretty clear that the investigation was instigated by evidence, not something whipped up by her opponents -- either in her own party or the Alaska Democrats.

But she has, in fact, made enemies in her own party. She's bullied and mocked people who won't do things her way. She's taken public money for personal indulgence.

The threats and bribes that the McCain damage-control lawyers spread around after Palin's unvetted addition to the ticket weren't enough to stop the investigation. That they weren't is due not only to the substance of the charges against her, and that they fit a career-long pattern of her abusing her office, but to the fact that she and McCain are going to lose this election.

The same people
that you beat up
you might meet up
on the way back down

And you guys thought she wasn’t experienced. She has perfect experience – to replace Cheney.

The other thing that strikes me is the overbearing nature of Todd Palin's meddling in the affairs of his wife's professional life. His high level, tightly-wrapped meddling in the Wooten matter is only one in an apparently long list of ways he makes himself omnipresent in the governor's office.
We might have been having a similar discussion about Bill Clinton had Hillary been the nominee, but the major and distinguishing difference is that Bill Clinton is, in his own right, extremely professionally and politically qualified.
Mr. Palin, as far as I know, has never held any elected office. He just seems to hover over his wife's. The term "control-freak"comes to mind and suggests the possibility of some strange domestic dynamics.
What would you imagine his role would be in a White House?

Look! Over there! Isn't that Bill Ayres?! An excellently written and compelling piece Hilzoy, but you do fail to mention that (1) Governor Palin announced on Thursday that after extensive examination she'd discovered that she'd done nothing wrong; and (2) that her people insist that the legislature's report was flawed, because Branchflower didn't get her complete side of the story, because she'd refused to be interviewed. Anyone who wishes to send flowers or other tributes in honor of Irony should contact the Wasilla, AK funeral parlour.

@ Andrew:
"But it's also another test for those on the Right - do you want the people who run the country to act like this?"

Unfortunately (for the country), for about 30% of the electorate, the answer to this question is most likely "Yes". Given the Republican attempts at a Rovian realignment of politics in this country along near-tribalistic lines, there is a irreducible minority of the voters out there who will probably not only tolerate, but actively applaud behavior like this on the part of elected officials - as long as said officials are (like the Palins) part of the "tribe". And can excuse away their actions with the proper rhetorical flourish ("protecting their family" or some such).

And, yes, what Sydney said @ 11:58.

Full disclosure: I lived in Alaska for over 9 years. I spent nearly a year in Wasilla; my sister and her family still live there. I believe it is fair to say I speak with some awareness of the context of Palin's pursuit of power.

The mental image that sprung to mind almost as soon as Palin was selected is of a Twilight Zone episode. It featured young Billy Mumy as a child dictator who held everyone hostage to his whims. IMDB characterizes it like this, "On an isolated family farm, a young boy with vast mental powers, but lacking emotional development, holds his terrified family in thrall to his every juvenile wish."

If I changed "isolated family farm" to "isolated electorate" and "boy" to "woman" and "mental powers" to "political astuteness" and "family" to "state" it would come close to summing up the way I view this candidate.

Exaggerated? Overdramatic? Yes. But not incorrect, in my opinion.

This is all correct substantively. But as for *politically*, i think the real issue is the lying. I mean, i think people are going to be sympathetic b/c the trooper does seem to be a nasty guy. That doesn't excuse it, but i do't think the public will hold it against her.

she has, however, now quite clearly lied about repeatedly

The other thing that strikes me is the overbearing nature of Todd Palin's meddling in the affairs of his wife's professional life.

The thing that leaps out at me is why Todd Palin was involved in this AT ALL, IN ANY WAY.

Elected office is not a family-owned sandwich shop franchise. WTF was Todd doing in the middle of this?

Thanks -

And if this report is at all accurate, Sarah and Todd Palin are

I suggest "apparent criminals".

I was struck by the number of times the Palins were explicitly warned that what they were trying to do was illegal and/or that their actions were very likely to become public knowledge and cause them embarrassment. They paid no attention. Apparently Palin (like Leona Helmsley, whose younger self she somewhat resembles) believes that following the law is only for the "little people".

It's also striking that the Palins seemed to feel absolutely no obligation to follow the orders of Superior Court Judge John Suddock, who presided over the divorce of Palin's sister Molly from Wooten. Suddock repeatedly warned that their behavior was crossing the line, and that their attempts to get Wooten fired would backfire, since it would make him less able to provide financial support for the kids. Apparently, when the final decree was issued in January 2006, Suddock threatened that if their harassment continued, Molly's child custody rights might be curtailed. Yet the Palins seemed to have totally ignored his orders.

It seems fitting that all the people whom Plain gleefully stabbed in the back as she rose to power in Alaska will happily return the favor now that Spunky Sarah has morphed from a rising star to a national joke to a despicable rabble rouser. Maybe Gilbert was wrong, and every now and then justice triumphs outside of theatrical performances.

The mental image that sprung to mind almost as soon as Palin was selected is of a Twilight Zone episode.

If you haven't read it, there's a Neiwart/Blumenthal (Max) piece about how the Alaska Independence Party and Palin used each other to launch her doggone career. I don't see it as a 'shocking expose of Palin's right wing ties bla bla bla' a la Huffington Post as much as another illustration of the fact that choosing Palin was just a competely awful decision: she is everything McCain, and Palin herself, are supposed to be against, and incidently everything they say Obama is. She is a laughable and patent opportunist. Big time pols are better at masking their projection, usually. Her line about Obama launching his career from the 'living room' of Ayres is echoing now. hmmm.

As John Stewart has pointed out, the 'who is Obama?' line coming from Palin's lips sounds really preposterous.

AAT:

I don't think Palin's right wing ties are shocking because I expected them.

and

Schmidt will get The Blame, or has already gotten it, because McCain would never do anything that craven/stupid himself. It's well known that McCain is literally incapable of doing anything wrong. It's just not who he is.

Like I said before, his campaign is a veritable commercial for his own unsuitability for the biggest Exeutive job in the world - in this case, the Buck Stops Elsewhere. We had a discussion on this blog a while back about how much a pres. campaign really is an 'audition' for the job. Surely it's a variable thing, but this year both campaigns are almost *theatrical* auditions for the job. Psychodrama all the way. Any Repub was going to have a hard year, but McCain also muffed it big time. If I were a Republican, I'd be very PO'd about this whole thing.

You know, I don't think this story has legs, because one word defuses it: "Taser". I mean, you can omit it in a blog post, but WHY she wanted the guy fired is going to get around, and then all the sympathy for the trooper goes up in smoke.

I mean, i think people are going to be sympathetic b/c the trooper does seem to be a nasty guy.

Of course he sounds like a nasty guy. The coverage of him has been based almost exclusively on the Palin slander machine's version of the story. There's some real evidence that he's shown bad judgment, but everything beyond that appears to be unsubstantiated smears. It would be nice if the MSM stood up and presented things that way.

excellent post, as always.

except for this:


In addition, both Palins treated their subordinates terribly.

see, this is what really bothers me most about this whole affair. Todd Palin doesn't have subordinates in that administration... and neither should he get to make official calls on behalf of his wife (not to mention from her office).

I don't think this story has legs, because [of] WHY she wanted the guy fired is going to get around, and then all the sympathy for the trooper goes up in smoke.

I don't detect any sympathy for the trooper. So far, i detect sympathy for Monegan. Brett used 'has legs' because he meant this in a 'People Magazine' sense. Limited effect, I'd say, because the story is and probably will remain Palin - who's obscure enough her own self - rather than this Trooper. Actually, the TASER story is already out there - it was in 'People'! Palin isn't running for *congress* here, and it's late in the game.

Brett is right about the tolerance of some folks for lying scum. At least I don't have to listen to the judgments of such people about anyone outside their tribe now. (Adding to a long list of things I don't have to listen to folks on the rightward edge about. Obviously, people willing to call out their own can call out others . . .)

I would take some issue with some descriptions of 'at will' employment. IANAAL, but in some jurisdictions, there's a public policy exception, and I think the illegality exception is even more broadly accepted. Yes you can fire someone because you're having a snit. If you tell them to do something illegal, and they refuse, firing them can be another thing altogether.

Very good post Hilzoy. The one point you brought out that really got me, was that Monegan tried to warn Palin that what she was doing was potentially harmful. This guy was trying to protect her! Believe me, he knows the law regarding public employee discipline and saw alarm bells going off. Most states have "peace officers bill of rights" just to protect them from this type of improper action.

Brett, this isn't about whether we like Wooten, it's about Palin's comportment in public office. Which was clearly wildly inappropriate, in Juneau as in Wasilla. That said, if the Taser story were as you imply, you might expect that the consequences for Wooten in the official investigation at work and in the divorce proceedings would have gone rather more strongly against him than they did. My understanding is that Wooten had been issued a Taser, his kid thought that was really neat, and badgered Wooten specifically into using it on him at a Product Demonstration setting, so the kid could see what it was like - not, as it's so often reported, that "Wooten Tasered his kid" in the sense of a full-power or an aggressive or a punitive act. Still a really, really dumb and wrong thing for Wooten to do - but partly the fault of poor training and misleading marketing from Taser Int'l, where they try to convince everyone that Tasers are harmless, especially when set to low power to demonstrate the product - something Taser Int'l regularly does to journalists writing stories about Tasers, with the full consent of the Journalists. One assumes or at least hopes Wooten would never do the same with his service weapon, his nightstick, or even his pepper spray, but glossy brochures tell him it's OK with his Taser.

Perhaps whoever becomes the next president could appoint Michael Wooten to head the FBI office in Alaska. Apparently there's some abuse of power in state government up there that could use some investigatin'.

CharlyCarp,
Just checked, Alaska does recognize a public policy exception to "at will" employeement.

It’s OK.

h/t Southern Beale

It never ceases to amaze me how Brett can read a thread like this one, full of posts describing how the conclusions of the report make it clear that Palin's offenses (and the report) have nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not Trooper Wooten was a nice guy--and then ignorantly declare that some detail of Wooten's unpleasantness that was plastered across the news weeks ago will keep people from caring that Palin lied and abused her office.

I mean, doesn't carrying that much water get tiring after a while?

"Many of us have either been asked by a superior to do something illegal or wrong"

I have!

"Look! Over there! Isn't that Bill Ayres?!"

Ayers.

"The mental image that sprung to mind almost as soon as Palin was selected is of a Twilight Zone episode. It featured young Billy Mumy as a child dictator who held everyone hostage to his whims."

This actually is a famous science fiction story by Jerome Bixby: "It's A Good Life"; it's been anthologized countless times. It's a crying shame that Bixby, a fine writer, rarely gets credit, in favor of a tv adaption. The tv version is just a straight, and inferior, version. (Ditto the movie segment; the Simpsons version is cute, to be sure.) Every bit of it came from Jerome Bixby. (With all due credit to Bill Mumy and the other actors, to be sure.)

Warren T: Do you have a link or cite for that story about Mike Wooten tasering his son as a demonstration? Because I haven't read anything about this aspect of it before.

Still doesn't affect the irrelevance of Brett's comment, though: whether Wooten was a saint, or (as the McCainiacs will no doubt try to paint him) a veritable minion of Satan: the issue isn't his behavior or actions, but Sarah Palin's - as Governor.

But nice try at deflection....

"Her line about Obama launching his career from the 'living room' of Ayres is echoing now."

Ayers, doggone it. Bill Ayers. Ayers. Ayers. Ayers. Ayers. Ayers. Ayers. Ayers. Ayers. Ayers. Ayers.

Not "Ayres."

(Not meaning to pick on you, jonnybutter! Just trying to get everyone to remember the actual name of the actual Dread Terrist.)

"...and then all the sympathy for the trooper goes up in smoke."

Of course, as Hilzoy wrote, and you completely ignored, the problem with Palin's violations of the Ethics law have nothing whatever to do with the trooper. Nothing.

But I suppose you'll be fine, Brett, if President Obama launches a vendetta against some government employee he doesn't like on a personal level, so long as the person has some dislikable characteristics.

You'd probably be equally defending the firing of folks in Clinton's travel office, if you knew just how crappy people they were on a personal level. Right?

Jay C, I don't remember where I read it, but you can Google it, and it's in the Wikipedia page for "Alaska public safety commissioner dismissal", with, presumably, cites. I'd embed a link, but I'm phone-surfing and there's no cut-and-paste, plus HTML gets messed up. I completely agree that Wooten is a red herring, that if he were Satan incarnate it wouldn't justify Palin's misuse of office or her lies. In fact, I started my comment by saying that. Still, it really is a bit unfair to Wooten that since the Republicans all defend Palin by saying "But Wooten is evil!" and the Democrats all point out in reply that Wooten is irrelevant, the result is an unanswered maximalist portrayal of Wooten's malfeasance. The shmuck's famous across the country as a Bad Man, and it's a bit over the top. No one more important than a pseudonymous blog commenter should probably waste effort mitigating the criticism of the guy, but I can't help but think he is to some degree being traduced.

Taser incident. Washington Post story:

[...] Wooten said he deeply regretted the Taser incident, offering an extensive explanation. He said the device was set on "test" and contained less power than an electric fence. Wooten said he shocked boy using clips attached to his shirt and not darts fired from the gun.

He said his stepson became curious and wanted to feel the Taser in the same way that troopers tested the device on themselves during training.

"He was inquiring about the Taser and all the ins and outs about it," Wooten said. "I hooked him up to one of the training aides and turned it on for less than a second. I had him on the living room floor with pillows around him and made it as safe as possible. When it was over he thought it was great and wanted to do it all again. He was bragging about it and telling everyone in the family about it."
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Jon Marc Peterson, one of Wooten's attorneys, said the Taser incident was a violation of policy because he was using state equipment for personal use. "It was not the actual Tasing of the stepson that was the issue," he said.

Wooten's wife was in the home at the time, investigative reports state. The boy's extended family, including Chuck Heath, the father of Sarah Palin, thought the story was humorous, Wooten said.

"If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't do it," Wooten said. "It's one of those situations that nobody cared about. Everybody laughed about it, until several years later and it was made to be something it wasn't. It wasn't a good idea."

Wooten said he wishes he could turn back the clock. "I was a young guy, a trooper fresh out of the military, made some bad choices, made some mistakes and paid my penance," Wooten said. "I have not made any more mistakes and I definitely have not repeated my mistakes."

There are a few more links at the Wikipedia entry, including this official report on police interviews, which I see includes the charming detail of Tod Palin calling Wooten a "f*cking pussy" and a "lazy ass". Such language for good Christians.

But the interview with Molly McCann, for what it's worth, is slightly different, and doesn't include anything about the kid asking for it.

Most of the report is about the moose hunting, though.

Not meaning to pick on you, jonnybutter! Just trying to get everyone to remember the actual name of the actual Dread Terrist.)

I'm a terrible speller, Gary. I try not to be, but I just am. I blame the language. I have decided, rather conveniently, that it doesn't matter very much. ; )

Do you have a link or cite for that story about Mike Wooten tasering his son as a demonstration? Because I haven't read anything about this aspect of it before.

That it was demonstrational/screwing around is the original, mainstream version of the story, I believe. I don't know if there can be proof either way, unless the kid-tazee wants to speak up, I guess. I don't think the McPalin partisans have tried to contradict this detail - they just elide it. Lie of omission. Maybe Jay C doesn't read 'People'. I don't either, but I read people who read People.

"I don't know if there can be proof either way, unless the kid-tazee wants to speak up, I guess."

Fairness compels me to note that Wooten's wife story was different, though only to the degree that she didn't say anything about it being voluntary, or the kid being happy, and saying she was very upset by it. But, as you say, it's he said, she said, and only the kid could otherwise testify, and who knows who might have coached him?

The only other info might be from other family members who were familiar with the situation before it became political.

Wooten's wife story was different, though only to the degree that she didn't say anything about it being voluntary, or the kid being happy, and saying she was very upset by it.

Wooten's wife's story? Elision again. She was upset, and who could blame her? It was a doofus move by Wooten, as he himself admits. The alternative is that Wooten tazer'd the kid out of malice or for 'discipline', which is actually harder to believe. Possible, but less likely. As has been noted above, the TAZER is 'demonstrated' all the time, dumb as that is.

Bill Ayres? Didn't he play Dr. Kildare?

No, you're right, Gary. In this campaign, there is no Ayres apparent.

Still doesn't affect the irrelevance of Brett's comment, though: whether Wooten was a saint, or (as the McCainiacs will no doubt try to paint him) a veritable minion of Satan: the issue isn't his behavior or actions, but Sarah Palin's - as Governor.

I think that Brett is essentially correct, at least as far as public opinion is concerned. The Palin argument is that it was OK to break the rules because she was pursuing the higher good of protecting her family and/or eliminating a rogue officer. You and I and the majority of posters on ObWi may not buy that argument, but many voters will. Going against the rules to serve the greater good even plays well with the whole Maverick narrative.

FWIW, even though all the comments directed toward Brett are true, that this whole thing really has nothing to do with Wooten, that doesn't in and of itself say that Brett is wrong.

People keep forgetting that facts don't really matter to a large part of the electorate. Perception is what it is all about. And if the McCain/Palin camp present this as Palin doing whatever she had to do to protect family members from a psychotic, dangerous individual, and the public buys it, this could become a positive for Palin.

The question is to what degree they will try to do that. I would guess 95% of the public doesn't even know about the Tazer incident. Now, if Palin were actually to appear before the press in a real honest to goodness press conference, she might have to answer questions like, if this was so horrible so as to constitue child abuse, why didn't she report it, which, I believe, she had a legal obligation to do.

Also why did she watch a confrontation between Wooten and McCann where McCann had expressed fear for her life and didn't call the police?

Of course, she is never going to put herself in that position.

The Palin argument is that it was OK to break the rules because she was pursuing the higher good of protecting her family and/or eliminating a rogue officer.

That story will fly, and has already flown, with some people, but its efficacy depends on believing Palin is an honest person, which is debatable for plenty of others. It worked better before we 'got to know her', as McCain put it. Her poll numbers have fallen as fast as they rose...

FWIW, I am watching the Chicago Blackhawks game on WGN and between petriods they did a brief sports updat. It appears the hockey mom was in Philadelhia to drop the ceremonial first puck and according to WGN she was booed by the crowd.

I do not have verification of this but perhaps someone else does. Philly hockey fans (like all Philly sports fans) are notorious for booing, but they are some of the blue-collarest white demo there is.

If this report is true, then PA is definitely lost to McCain/Palin and it doesn't bode well for elsewhere.

For the record, it's "Taser," not "Tazer." The name is off of "laser," though of course it has nothing to do with Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

"It worked better before we 'got to know her', as McCain put it."

I don't understand how we could have "got to know her" when, after all, we "still don't know Barack Obama."

"I do not have verification of this...."

Google, John: 'Hockey Mom' Sarah Palin Booed -- At Big Hockey Game. Etc.

The only other info might be from other family members who were familiar with the situation before it became political.

I think you'd have to go back to before the divorce to have any hope of getting a straight story. It sounds as though the divorce was vicious well before Palin was elected. It's dollars to donuts that everyone who had direct knowledge of the incident had already taken sides long before it became political.

I would consider it extremely significant that (according to the references from the Wikipedia article mentioned above) the Taser incident was not reported until two years after it happened- and not until the divorce was under way. If the Taser had been at full power, Molly McCann (Palin's sister) would have been extremely negligent- to the point of child endangerment- if she kept her son for two years in the same house as a stepfather who had basically tortured him.

My take:

This report is pretty silly. The finding is based on flimsy evidence and horrible interviewing skills. I expected much more from a former ADA and AUSA.

Even so, Branchflower concludes that the Palins were genuinely concerned about whether ANY investigation was happening and that their frustration was understandable as they were not getting any info in return. As a result, Branchflower recommends an amendment to the Alaska Statutes to allow the police to keep complainants apprised to some degree. But you kept that out of your analysis, Hilzoy.

Further, Branchflower concluded that the Wooten issue was a "contributing factor" to Wooten's termination and not the sole factor and that Palin had legitimate reasons to terminate him and acted within legal bounds.

You know, the ethical statute at issue is pretty vague. What constitutes "any effort to benefit a personal interest?" Does supporting a tax cut count? Obviously not. How do you balance an interest in a "clean" police force with her personal interest vis-a-vis her sister? I would argue that you should look at what she actually asked for, which was for a thorough investigation. It is clear that she and Todd didn't feel that happened (and Branchflower concludes as much).

Look at the wonderful exchange between Branchflower and Monegan on pp. 21-23 or so. There, Monegan says Todd Palin gave him a stack of materials and testifies that Todd gave it to him to see if they missed anything in the investigation. The following ensues:

MR. BRANCHFLOWER: And what was his reaction when he heard you say that you would look into it? MR. MONEGAN: He said, that's good, thanks. MR. BRANCHFLOWER: And what did you see as your job at that point with respect to these materials? MR. MONEGAN: That -- was trying to resolve in this case a citizen's issue with a complaint and how it was investigated and handled.

Gee, Monegan at that point only felt Palin's interest was that proper interest that forms the basis for Branchflower's recommendation to amend the statutes so that complainants get better info.

Then:

MR. BRANCHFLOWER: Did he leave you with any impression of whether the troopers would be better served if Mr. Wooten was not -was no longer in the employ of the Department of Public Safety? MR. MONEGAN: That was the impression I got. Basically my impression is that he didn't think Wooten should be a trooper, and said that -- about said as much. MR. BRANCHFLOWER: Did he ever say something -- words to the effect, look what kind of guy you have on your force, or something along those lines? MR. MONEGAN: It was something to that effect, yeah.

Great, way to lead him on Branchflower. The guy can't ask a non-leading question. Why doesn't Branchflower just go ahead and testify? But apparently Todd Palin never said "you need to fire Wooten."

Then, this lovely passage:

Mr. Monegan testified about his thoughts on the drive back to his office following his meeting with Mr. Palin: MR. MONEGAN: Well, on the drive back, as I was reflecting on the meeting -- drive back to the office, I was thinking that in essence, they certainly didn't like the idea that Wooten was still employed. And they wanted severe discipline, probably termination, and that -- and if this was going to build, I had this kind of ominous feeling that I may not be long for this job if I -- if I didn't somehow respond ccordingly. MR. BRANCHFLOWER: So your career you thought might be In jeopardy unless you took some decisive action that might result In Trooper Wooten's dismissal from the force; is that your testimony? MR. MONEGAN: Yes.

So he only felt it was a citizen wanting to make sure there had been a good investigation based on what Todd Palin actually said, but once driving in his car . . . good grief. And way to testify, Branchflower!

This is like the typical employment "mixed motive" termination case. Those cases are hard to prove. How Branchflower manages to read Sarah Palin's mind is beyond me. Sure, the evidence may have some indication of that, but it looks like some of the evidence may have eminated from whatever beverage Monegan was drinking on his way home.


The one point you brought out that really got me, was that Monegan tried to warn Palin that what she was doing was potentially harmful

And, interestingly, Palin immediately responded "that's a better idea" and never has another conversation with Monegan about it. She never said anything about firing or anything else during that conversation (just "I'd like to talk to you about Wooten").


she has, however, now quite clearly lied about repeatedly

Clearly? How? You're mind reading now.

Generally, the report makes it sound as though the Palins, especially Todd Palin, were just obsessed with Wooten, in a truly peculiar and creepy way.

I disagree. It sounds like they really, really wanted to make sure the matter got investigated and Branchflower found that they didn't get the reassurances any citizen should be entitled to get.

And are we sure that Wooten isn't the creepy guy? Hard to tell from the investigation. There was minimal effort from Branchflower to see if a reasonable person (or reasonable governor) would have been concerned about Wooten.

Firing Monegan because he wouldn't fire Wooten obviously deprived Alaska of a perfectly good Public Safety Commissioner.

Obviously? Branchflower found that there were legitimate reasons to terminate him. How do you get this from the report?

Apparently Wooten didn't want to go to a station in the bush because of a hostility towards Native Alaskans. I'm sure this sat well with Todd Palin and maybe that helps explain some of his interest apart from being protective of his sister-in-law and nephew. You have to remember that in rural Alaska, troopers are THE law and often the only public safety officer for hundreds of miles. There is a huge interest in their having good character.

. . .he could only have known if he was having Wooten followed, or if he was himself stalking Wooten.

The "stalking" comment is a huge stretch. Pictures could have been provided by another party on the trip at issue.

Moreover, the Palins seem to have had access to a private investigator's report on Wooten (p. 18).

I think the family hired a pi before Palin was governor. It could have been Palin's sister. Happens all the time in family law cases.

When we discover that someone has put their interests above ours, we should punish them, at least if we want to give them any incentive to do their jobs right. We should not reward bullies who try to use their power over their subordinates to advance their own agendas. And if this report is at all accurate, Sarah and Todd Palin are bullies.

This all depends on whether the underlying facts surrounding Wooten are true. If he was in fact making threats against Palin's family, it advances everyone's interest not to have him in uniform, right? And the troopers concluded:

"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. After the union protested it, the suspension was reduced to five days.


Branchflower seems to miss the "uniform" thing as did Monegan. He talks about the moose issue as if everyone is equal (McCann for apparently just being there and her father for butchering the moose). Ridiculous. AST found it was a criminal misdemeanor and took Wooten off of wildlife. AST found that Wooten had driven in his patrol car with a beer and apparently ignored other independent reports of Wooten driving drunk.

And where is Wooten now? Married and divorced again. I wonder if anyone pulled that divorce file like they did McCann's.

The report lists nine people whom Todd Palin contacted about Wooten; two say that he had "numerous conversations" and "10-20x", respectively,

Uh, the "10-20x" guy was Tibbles, Palin's chief of staff. I've never been governor or president, but I assume most execs talk to their chief of staff about virtually everything, and probably about a bunch of personal stuff. And many of the "numerous conversations" that Bitney testified to were with Tibbles. You are double counting the conversations and assuming that they were contacts FROM Palin/Todd when in fact it appears most were simply prompted by the initial contact. In other words, two members of the Palin's transition team talked about Wooten. And this proves what?

Branchflower finds that the BEST example of impermissible pressure was the following:

That such a conflict of interest arises in such circumstances was best summarized by John Bitney.who summed it up when he testified: MR. BITNEY: I seem to recall that I said "I'll check it out," or "let me see what I can do." I mean, you know, that was, you know. My recollection of my own sense was, you know, "here's a friend and" if you will "the Governor's husband", who's got into office who's got a problem, you know, and someone that seems to be a serious problem for him, from my perspective. You know, when the First Gentleman comes into your office and says you got a problem, you sort of feel compelled to look into it and see if something can be done.

And what was the terrible thing that Todd Palin asked him to do? Well . . .

MR. BRANCHFLOWER: Did he have, like, and appointment, or just walked in? MR. BITNEY: No. He just walked in, you know, and because of the personal relationship it was always good to see Todd, you know? He usually came in, and I would always shut the door because, you know, because are confidants, if you will. And we had the conversation again, but this time I just, like I say, I sort of- it was a little more pointed in terms of he began to get into more specifics about what his issues were, and he talked about efforts on the part of the family to make complaints with the Department of Public Safety under the Murkowski Administration, and talking about sort of his frustration, if you will, in the sense that nothing was ever done about it, that it was sort of, you know, swept under the carpet, if you will. Those are my words. And you know, again, just a frustration that nothing was done to address - again, the common statement I recall in every conversation was "a trooper out there acting above the law". He's drinking in his car, poaching moose. You know, the litany of things that we're aware of now but, you know, he was talking about them,then. And, you know, frustrated but, you know, sort of - anyway, that was that conversation. This time it was much more detailed about what his concerns were. . . .

MR. BRANCHFLOWER: Did he ask you to do anything specific? Take any action, or?
MR. BITNEY: I don't recall him saying. I don't recall him saying, you know, I want somebody fired. I don't want you to take an action. He never said anything like that. Again, it was sort of an adamant expression of his frustration about this trooper and what this trooper had done to their family . . .

So Todd expressed frustration to a personal friend, close member of the administration that a Trooper was behaving badly and complaining that he didn't feel that AST was taking it seriously (a problem Branchflower agrees should be remedied) and this is somehow bad?

Branchflower ultimately finds that Palin's inaction in reigning in Todd constituted "official action" because he was a family member and that she acted "knowingly" because she certainly knew what Todd was doing (although he doesn't really tie that together in the report) to pursue a "personal interest" since she is related to her sister. Wonderful.

I certainly wouldn't have thought that asking AST to actually give feedback on what they were doing and expressing displeasure at a 10-day (reduced to 5-day) suspension for proven misconduct would constitute undue pressure.

IMHO, much ado about nothing. Listen, I think Palin may not have exercised the best judgment in the matter, but this hit close to home for her. This poorly reasoned report is overkill. There is no evidence in the report that Palin knew what Todd was doing, and what he was doing doesn't appear to have been putting too much pressure on anyone. Now, I would assume Palin knew, but the report is supposed to set forth EVIDENCE, not supposition. No evidence that Palin knew the extent of Todd's talks. The only evidence of any sort is from Monegan. And wait-I know you're not going to believe this-he's the guy who got FIRED. No axe to grind there.

And I'm not convinced that the Palins weren't motivated at least as much by the desire to rid the force of a bad trooper. At least there wasn't any evidence I could see. So it is hard to see how their actions fit neatly within the "personal benefit" aspect of the law. At least not enough for me to conclude that the ethics provision was clearly broken.

The case simply wasn't made.

And, it's "snowmachine" or "snow machine" in Alaska, not "snowmobile" although the latter is a far-less-used alternate. Kind of like "nucular." :)

bc, I think you're slightly missing the point here.

It isn't Michael Wooten who is under investigation here: regardless of what he did, or didn't do. To make a highly appropriate analogy: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed may be guilty as hell of at least some of the crimes he confessed to under torture. But pointing at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's guilt does not constitute a defense for torturing him to get him to confess: in fact, if you care about getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed convicted of being a terrorist and sentenced appropriately for crimes he committed or conspired in, you would be angry at the Bush administration for so fouling the justice system that in the end, the only thing that can be done with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is to let him go.

So with Sarah and Todd Palin with regard to Michael Wooten. If they "desired to rid the force of a bad trooper" they ought to have gone about accomplishing their desire legally. Trying to do it illegally just fouls the system. Defending their behavior by pointing at Wooten's behavior is actually backwards: if you think Wooten is guilty and ought to be punished, then you ought to be thoroughly furious with the Palins for so fouling the system with their own criminal behavior that they have ensured Wooten can't be punished.

As for example:

This all depends on whether the underlying facts surrounding Wooten are true. If he was in fact making threats against Palin's family, it advances everyone's interest not to have him in uniform, right?

If he was in fact making threats against Palin's family, it would certainly have advanced everyone's interests if Sarah and Todd Palin had made sure the investigation and prosecution had been carried out legally and thoroughly. So if the underlying facts against Wooten are true, you are defending the Palins for making sure that Wooten can probably never be punished for what he did.

As for your accusation that Hilzoy is "mindreading" when she says Sarah Palin lied: How do you get this? Palin claimed neither she nor anyone in her administration put any pressure on Moneghan to fire Wooten. That was a lie. Hilzoy didn't have to "mindread" to get that: just to read the reports available.

Wooten was 100 miles out of Wasilla when Todd took pictures of him snowmobiling.

How did Todd know to be in the woods 100 miles from town? Todd Palin is a stalker. Think about driving 100 miles to get pictures on your ex brother in law for a workman's comp case.

The records from the court show that Palin's family was targeting Wooten during the custody case as well. In fact, the judge wrote an order warning Palin's sister to rein in her family's badmouthing of Wooten or risk losing custody.

The real victims here are the sister's children. Apparently Sarah and Todd felt her children would somehow be better off if their father was unemployed and unable to pay child support. And apparently they didn't consider the emotional impact they were having as they made hateful remarks about Wooten in front of them.

Here is what the order stated:

"It is the mother's [Hackett's] responsibility to set boundaries for her relatives and insure [sic] they respect them, and the disparagement by either parent, or their surrogates is emotional child abuse," Judge Suddock wrote. He added that: "If the court finds it is necessary due to disparagement in the Mat-Su Valley [the area north of Anchorage where Palin and her extended family live], for the children's best interests, it [the court] will not hesitate to order custody to the father and a move into Anchorage."

http://www.newsweek.com/id/158140/page/2


Thanks for the Leftist propaganda.

Why are the offending officers ethical standards being omitted ? What of his abuse of power? Is this just part of your blind and seething hatred of the Republican party, that causes you to omit the catalyst of her actions? She did the right thing. She tried to get rid of a dirty cop. If this was flipped around and it was Obama that had this ONE and ONLY hint of a smudge on his record... you guys would be on your knees... washing his feet with your hair. For your side to even glance at her record in an unflattering way... while over looking Obamas MASSIVE amount of transgressions in judgment and character... shows your hypocrisy.

It is horribly interesting to reflect, when reading comments like the Preacher's, what the Republican attacks on Obama would be like if he had used his influence as a Senator to try to have his former brother-in-law sacked over a personal issue.

The time has come to ask: What might happen to our country if we elect a black Muslim terrorist president?

Again... you are willing to omit facts. Attacks committed in the most heinous and ruthless manor, such as "the baby is not hers" come from your party as well.

Preacher: Attacks committed in the most heinous and ruthless manor, such as "the baby is not hers" come from your party as well.

I agree that the set of personal attacks on Sarah and Bristol Palin about Trig was completely unjustified - root and source in sexism - and quite horrific in its impact on Bristol Palin. And, like many other feminist bloggers, I said so several weeks ago. I am very sorry I ever participated in it, however tangentially.

As a commentator on Avedon Carol's blog pointed out on 30th August:


A brilliant pick not because she's going to win over all those Hillary voters but because she gives the Dems an opportunity to remind women that not everyone who hates us has a (R) after their name.
This is going to be so much fun - racism from the right, sexism from the left. America rocks!

I read feminist blogs regularly, and on all of them I've seen posts protesting the sexist attacks on Palin - which are as unjustified as the racist attacks on Obama.

Pointing out that Todd and Sarah Palin tried to get Wooton fired illegally instead of going through proper channels is not a sexist attack: nor is it an unjustified one. It is a perfectly proper commentary on how Palin abused her powers when she was governor of Alaska. Trying to deflect this attack by pointing out that sexist people on the left have attacked Sarah Palin improperly is just not going to work.

I never once mentioned "sexism or racism" in my critique of the article. My "simple" point, was just that... By simply omitting the facts as to the officers abuse of power, was the catalyst to her reaction and not the reason solely given by the author.

Get over all this "sexism or racism" crap, as it only causes your thoughts to be clouded by a perceived cause of belief that you do not aspire to. You want to be truly equal... act as though you are. Don't demand equality... just be equal. I see you as my equal... regardless of our political differences. Why don't you ?

Another interesting fact I discovered while reading the report, is that Todd Palin was sat in on Cabinet meetings on a fairly routine basis. WHAT spouse routinely does that? I find it outrageous. Is this some kind of governmental amateur hour?

Hilzoy, I think you're right on target about the Palins' behavior. But I do agree with some of your commenters, that it's not enough to separate that issue completely from the question of what Wooten may or may not have done. I think BC's closely argued contrarian post is probably the fairest case I've seen *against* the Report and in defense of Palin. It needs to be answered, and I think it can be answered.

What I'd say to BC is: sure, I can relate to what the Palins did in everyday human terms. They despised Wooten, felt he got off way too easily, suspected the State Police of covering for one of their own. They were determined to make their displeasure known and see what follow-up action they could shake loose. What's wrong with that?

Lots of things. Let's start with Wooten, and I hope you'll indulge me in some equal-but-opposite devils' advocacy.

Wooten strikes me as at least a mild jerk, but I can't help noticing that every specific bad act the Palins are sounding off about sort of transforms into something a bit milder, the closer you look at it.

He poached a moose? Well, he was with his wife, and she had the permit. Monegan says: it's technically illegal but you'd never prosecute anyone for it, and technically, just to offer some perspective, Palin's sister and father were equally culpable.

The Taser incident? A dumb thing, unprofessional, but miles away from child abuse. When I was in high school, I volunteered to be the "victim" for a visiting cop who wanted to show how he "overpowered" a suspect -- I got smacked against a wall; it was pretty cool. In this case, fodder for Molly's divorce complaint, but otherwise pretty insignificant.

Drunk driving? Wooten had a beer at a family picnic and took along one for the road. Scary evil guy, there. Not model behavior, obviously. Probably one of the main things got him suspended.

There's a pattern of loutishness, here. But also a pattern of rather pathetic exaggeration on the Palins' part. And that impression is only intensified when you consider how the Palins came up empty on some of the things they turned up in their stalkerish pursuit of Wooten: He drove a snow machine when he was injured! He used his patrol car to drop off his kid, not only at school but at church, too! How devastating that in each case Wooten had appropriate OKs. You can almost hear the Palins' evil-villain complaint: "Foiled again!" This was the worst they could turn up?

And all of this offers context for evaluating the "death threat" accusation. Probably some stupid things were said in the course of what seems to have been a nasty family split. But on the one hand we have the Palins demonstrated tendency to exaggerate and overdramatize Wooten's misbehavior, and on the other hand we have the Report's evidence that Palin never seriously seemed to perceive a security threat. So I'm not sweating the alleged death threat, much.

It seems clear that, at least a couple of years back, Wooten was not a model cop. Not necessarily a bad seed, but a little rough, a little boorish, a little unprofessional. And he got smacked with a suspension for it. A proportionate penalty, not for someone too depraved to be fit for the job, but rather for some young idiot who needed to clean up his act if he wanted to keep his badge. And it seems likely that he did clean up his act -- hard to imagine he would have lasted, otherwise, given the scrutiny he was under.

I can see, really, how a kernel of real, offensive behavior on Wooten's part could have rankled the Palins, made them despise him, filled them with a sense of grievance, stoked their sense that, once they were in power, they would set things right. Everybody's got a story like this, a personal conflict that hits a sore spot, a grievance or two that they cherish. Balanced people know it's part of life, and do their best to keep some perspective on it.

Monegan sounds like he gets it -- he talks ruefully about his experience as a cop, and how people have conflicts and are sometimes left with bad feelings you can't do much about. Branchflower made one proposal that seemed pretty wise. He suggested opening up the disciplinary process just a little bit so that people have more confidence that their complaints are being taken seriously. They maybe won't be completely satisfied -- they may not be entitled, after all, to every bit of satisfaction that they crave -- but at least they'll feel some validation, and that may help them out.

BC, I'm not persuaded by your argument that there was no "undue pressure." The report pretty clearly shows that a wide range of key political and law enforcement officials were approached and lobbied on this, again and again, over a period of many months, after Monegan had explained to Palin that the process was closed and there was no proper way to re-open it. Hard to get too worked up about whether it was 10x or 20x.

I'll grant you that I find the application of the Ethics law a little dicey. It seems to turn on how tangible the "personal interest" needs to be. Clearly it wasn't in the Palin family's financial interest for Wooten to be unable to make child support. Is the desire for illicit vengeance as impermissible a motive as the desire for illicit cash? I've got to leave that one to the Alaskan legal system.

But what I get from this whole story is a really vivid sense of Sarah Palin as a personality that really shouldn't be trusted with power. She and Todd just leapt on the Wooten issue once she was in office and they felt they were in a position to get their own back. Her guide in this seems to have been her own sense of righteous indignation, and she didn't have the basic perspective or judgment to pull back from her own obvious personal bias, and accept that an independent agent had looked into this and made a judgment already. She bulldozed ahead, she didn't listen to advice (except when Monegan appealed to her political self-interest, so that she had Todd carry the weight instead of doing it herself.) She didn't follow the law, or basic standards of decency in dealing with someone's livelihood or in pressuring subordinates.

Her and Todd's actions come off as self-righteous, self-absorbed, entitled, spiteful, vindictive, disproportionate. Can I squeeze in an "unprofessional" as well? It's the sort of personality and behavior that you'd expect from a mildly obsessive school-board activist on a mission, not from a Governor trusted with discretionary and supervisory powers.

People are like that sometimes, and you can sympathize a little bit. But you look for a more solid character before taking a chance on putting them in high office.

Rich: excellent rebuttal.

Preacher, I don't wish to regard myself as your equal.

Well, have fun discussing whether she should have tried to get a criminal cop fired, and how likely the public is to be outraged at it. We'll be off to the hospital soon, my wife is at every 15 minutes.

Brett: Well, have fun discussing whether she should have tried to get a criminal cop fired [fire a cop illegally when she and her husband couldn't get him fired legally ] and how likely the public is to be outraged at it.

Fixed that for you.

We'll be off to the hospital soon, my wife is at every 15 minutes.

Obnoxious male baboons use cute little baboon babies to keep the rest of the troop from getting mad at them, too.

Best wishes to your wife for a safe delivery.

@ Brett: Congratulations !!!

@ Jesurgislac: Fine. You are above me.

@ Rick: Outstanding wright up !!!
I wish I had your vocabulary.

"People are like that sometimes, and you can sympathize a little bit. But you look for a more solid character before taking a chance on putting them in high office."

This is but one transgression, that was able to be found of her record. Contrast this to the overwhelming amount of transgressions committed by Obama in both character and judgment. If this be "only reason" to disgard vote for leadership... clearly Palin would make a better choice of the number two slot then Obama would make for the number one slot.

@ Rick: Outstanding wright up !!!
I wish I had your vocabulary.

LMAO !!! write up...

"Again... you are willing to omit facts. Attacks committed in the most heinous and ruthless manor, such as 'the baby is not hers' come from your party as well."

Might look into the fallacy of ad hominem.

Huh. Or maybe not, 2 hours later, they stopped again. Go figure.

The trooper admitted to tazing the kid. Not someone you want on the police force.

1) Brett, congratulations, best of luck, and try not to give the child a name it'll blame you for in adolescence. And what are you doing on Obwi at a time like this?

2) Preacher, the "troopergate" business is not the only example of Palin abusing her power to exercise personal vendettas, nor is it the only example of Palin lying about such behavior when it's exposed. I recommend that you look into her firing of the Wasilla, AK police chief after she became mayor: she denied firing him, and her lies were exposed when he released the letter with which she had done so; it was alleged that she fired him for supporting her electoral opponent, and he actually sued for wrongful termination; her only defense to the suit, which she successfully used in court, was that as mayor she was empowered to fire the police chief at will, and so she did not need to justify the firing as wrongful termination was a legal impossibility. With Monegan, Palin has offered at least three or four explanations of his firing, (again) starting with dishonestly claiming she hadn't fired him and proceeding to a bunch of inconsistent and easily disproven explanations. Her final defense is to cling to that fact that as Governor she had the power to fire him for no cause at all - sound familiar? And I won't even discuss in detail several other examples of Palin misusing her public office that I can think of offhand, including firing the Wasilla librarian, firing the Wasilla museum staff, using city resources for her personal business in precisely the same manner for which she latter denounced the chair of the state oil resources board, and illegally conducting state business via a private, non-archived email address.

P.S. And, Preacher, while there certainly were inappropriate comments about Palin's personal and family life on the blogs, most prominent people avoided or even condemned them, Sullivan being a notable exception. Hilzoy, who deals with issues of ethics for her day job, set the tone for this blog by taking exactly the principled stance on such matters that you'd expect and hope for.

doh, for heavens sake, read the thread lest you appear ignorant:
(1) Wooten could be the love child of Satan and Jeffrey Dahmer and it wouldn't explain the manner in which Palin - in fact, both Palins - chose to handle things, and especially their lying about it.
(2) As you'd know if you read the thread, the details of the Taser incident are disputed, but it appears highly probable that they bear little similarity to the impression given by your phrase "admitted to tazing the kid".

Just to be clear, Todd Palin is not a member of Gov. Palin's staff or a state employee, correct?

If true, then let's apply what he did, what they did together, in the real business world.

If I, as an executive of a company, allowed my wife (not an employee) to call meetings with members of my staff, or even colleagues for that matter, gave her access to personnel files and allowed those meetings to take place at my office, well ... I'd be immediately fired and would clearly be vulnerable to civil litigation.

This is what I find most appalling about the report, and hope that either the legislature files articles of impeachment against Gov. Palin, or the electorate put together a petition requesting a recall referendum.

Her abuse of power is no different than than reprehensible actions of Wall Street CEOs, which have certainly contributed to our economic crisis.

What a bunch of liberal piranahas. You just can't wait to jump on anything that may smear the candidate that you don't like. If everything that Obama has done in the past were vetted like the Palin's past, we wouldn't even be looking at him as a candidate for the highest office in the land. The liberals have to get their person elected so they can "live happily ever after" without any sense of what the world will be like. You can't have everything for nothing - work for a living like the rest of us and quit your complaining!!!!!!!!!!!1

Rich:

Re Wooten:

-the moose: Monegan is incorrect re shooting a moose without a permit and I'm not sure how you find the wife and father "equally culpable" as the wife testified about the shoot. See here, frex. And you have to remember the guy at the time was a wildlife investigation officer! He was the one in charge of investigating fish and game violations and had the audacity to tell the AST investigator that what he did wasn't wrong. AST found differently and found it remarkable that he would claim something so outlandish.

Look, if he wasn't a trooper, shooting when your wife gets cold feet might not be that big of deal. I'm not sure it would be prosecuted, but I wouldn't be too sure (I used to hunt moose up until five years ago when I left Alaska).

AST found re Wooten:

"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,"


Drunk driving? Wooten had a beer at a family picnic and took along one for the road. Scary evil guy, there. Not model behavior, obviously. Probably one of the main things got him suspended.

No, see above. Had multiple incidents. Only one was made into a finding (neighbors saw him drink a beer from his fridge in the garage then grab another and climb into his patrol car and drive off). In another incident, a trooper pulled him over after a bar fight and, while he didn't think he was drunk, smelled alcohol and made him park the car.

And the smowmachining incident-many are taking to task Todd Palin for being in the neighborhood when it apparenlty is an area he regularly uses for practice (he is, after all, a professional snow machine racer).

And all of this offers context for evaluating the "death threat" accusation. Probably some stupid things were said in the course of what seems to have been a nasty family split.

And now you have some more context. I find the death threat plausible. Three heard it: Palin, Track and Palin's sister. AST found it happened.

Monegan sounds like he gets it -- he talks ruefully about his experience as a cop, and how people have conflicts and are sometimes left with bad feelings you can't do much about.

He got it so much he dropped off a poster with Wooten on it for Palin to sign not realizing that was Wooten's picture. If for nothing else, he should have been fired for that!

Branchflower made one proposal that seemed pretty wise. He suggested opening up the disciplinary process just a little bit so that people have more confidence that their complaints are being taken seriously.

I agree. Apparently the Palins didn't even know about the AST fiding of a pattern of illegality under the personnel rules. That helps explain a lot of the so-called "obsession."

Look, I personally feel that it is likely that Todd Palin was obsessed with Wooten. He admits as much here . Read it for yourself and decide. It also points out some of what appears to be a clear conflict of interest with Branchflower himself.

But in the end, my objection is with the report. It makes a finding that simply cannot be found under the evidence. Show me one place where Palin or Todd said to fire him. And no real analysis of the actual firing except to say there were legit reasons. Really? Like your director of public safety not speaking up when someone lies and says you as governor cut the budget when it actually increased? Like Monegan interfering with trips to see her constitutents (Palin used the King Air that public safety used after she sold the jet)? Like Monegan not filling positions?

While there may be something to what you say, this report does not provide it. I stand by my "silly" assessment.

And am I the only one that finds it ironic that the left is not complaining about the illegal killing of a moose or a person continuing to possess a handgun after threatening the life of another and in fact being still assigned to patrol the neighborhood of the person they threatened? What, are you guys now clinging to guns and religion too?

I see Sarah Palin and Troopergate from the viewpoint of having grown up in a small town, Wasilla is somewhat larger and less isolated than my point of reference, but the same characteristics apply:

First, gossip is a much more prominent channel of communication. (This adds some doubt to the conclusion that Todd Palin must have been stalking Wooten to now what he was doing.)

Second, the boundary between the interests of the government and the interests of its leaders often is blurred. "Undue influence" would seem quite natural to someone whose political background is "small town". This is the opposite of integrity, limiting one's own behavior when no one else is able to see or prevent abusive choices. To me Sarah Palin clearly shows this character flaw, and it makes her completey unqualified for a position of great power.

"If everything that Obama has done in the past were vetted like the Palin's past, we wouldn't even be looking at him as a candidate for the highest office in the land."

Hint: everything that Obama has done in the past has been vetted, over a far longer time than Palin's past has been looked at by the national press.

Bc, thanks for your link: it clarifies that the Tasing incident was much more definitely nothing much:

[...] One day -- maybe a year or two before the investigation -- Wooten showed his stepson his Taser. He had just been to Taser instructor school. Wooten told Sgt. Wall that the boy was fascinated and pleaded to be tased.

"So we went in our living room and I had him get down on his knees so he wouldn't fall. And I taped the probes to him and turned the Taser on for like a second, turned it off. He thought that was the greatest thing in the world, wanted to do it again," Wooten told the investigator. The boy flinched but nothing more, he said. The boy was about 11 at the time.

In his interview with troopers, the stepson said it hurt for about a second, according to Wall's report. The boy said he wanted to be tased to show his cousin, Palin's daughter Bristol, that he wasn't a mama's boy. The probe left a welt on his arm, he said. His mother was upstairs yelling at them not to do it, the boy said.

As Bristol remembered it, the jolt knocked the boy backward, the trooper report says. She said she was afraid.

[...]

If the Taser is fired for just a second, it would feel like your funny bone was hit but the quick jolt wouldn't knock you over, Tuttle said.

This confirms Wooten's story. Thanks!

"And am I the only one that finds it ironic that the left is not complaining about the illegal killing of a moose"

The context is somewhat foreign to me, but a husband and wife go out to hunt a moose, and the permit is in the wife's name, and the husband fires the gun -- no, that doesn't seem like more than the most trivial of technicalities to me.

And I've never objected to hunting moose. What is it that as a "liberal," I'm supposed to be objecting to here?

bc, once again, you don't appear to be responding to the point that several people have made to you: it doesn't matter how awful Wooten's behavior was, he still needed to be dealt with by law and not by gubernational whim. You are focussing on how awful Wooten was, as if this justified anything.

I am prepared, for the sake of argument, to presume that everything you say about Wooten is perfectly true and not exaggerated in the slightest.

I still don't see how that supports the idea that a state governor and her husband are in any way justified in using, or in trying to use, state resources to get Wooten fired outside the legal process.

If Sarah Palin was unhappy with how the legal process had functioned to leave Wooten still serving as a cop, she was uniquely positioned to be extremely influential in changing the legal process: she didn't try.

The Palins weren't trying to change the system to make sure that drunk-driving troopers never got back on the job, or that anyone guilty of a hunting infraction such as shooting a moose when the permit is in your wife's name, or that for a cop to use his taser anywhere but on the job or on a proper test range was a firing offense. All of those would have been perfectly legitimate activities for any citizen, and perfectly reasonable reform proposals for a governor to support.

The governor and her husband were using state powers to target a single individual, which use of state powers has been declared unlawful. It does not matter what that individual did. Your repeated reference to Wooten's crimes and misdemeanors makes it seem as if you think governors are justified in making use of their powers unlawfully if they are sufficiently provoked. Is that actually what you think?

Gary: And I've never objected to hunting moose. What is it that as a "liberal," I'm supposed to be objecting to here?

I think I said the "left" and yes, that was unnecessarily broad. I think it's patently clear from the context what I meant.

And you appear to be missing the point about him being a wildlife investigation officer. He's the one enforcing hunting regs and he's out there violating them. Yes, he should be squeaky clean. As a hunter, I would not be all that offended by a typical hunter taking the shot if his wife got cold feet if he did it with her permission. But, a) that's not apparently how it happened and b) he's not just an ordinary guy.

Re the tasing, remember the safety comments came from the manufacturer. What are they supposed to say? And while I doubt tasing at the lowest level is all that dangerous, neither is pepper spray but you sure wouldn't expect an officer to try it on his own kid.

Jes: You are focusing on how awful Wooten was, as if this justified anything.

I'm not missing the point. I'm trying to make a point. Here it is:

The question raised is whether Palin's actions were in furtherance of a "personal interest." The statute says:

. . .and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.

And I say that to the degree that there are objective reasons to take a look at an officer's behavior, it transcends personal interest.

Read Todd Palin's affidavit. Read the report. The only thing I can find is that the Palins tried to make sure an investigation was actually performed. I find it beyond belief that AST did not give out any information even regarding Grimes' findings (not even a summary) prompting them to get quite frustrated. Are we now saying that a governor loses the right of a citizen to petition the government official responsible for trooper misconduct? She cant' even go to Monegan and say "what is up with this"?

I don't doubt (personally) that they were beyond upset (who wouldn't be when a police officer threatens your father) and wanted AST to take real action. I don't doubt that they were upset when no action was apparently (to their view) taken (who wouldn't be).

But that doesn't necessarily mean they went too far. Again, read Monegan's testimony. He realizes only after Branchflower puts words in his mouth that "on the way home" he realizes his job might be in jeopardy, but even then admits that all the Palins said to him was to make sure the investigation was thorough and complete.

The Palins weren't trying to change the system

I don't follow you. The system is set up already. Wildlife officers that violate the law should be taken off of wildlife (he was) and demoted or fired. He was given five days for everything he did, a "pattern" of "illegal activity." And as I read the facts the Palins were not informed until much later that even this action was taken.

Similarly, officers drinking in their patrol cars should be fired. There is an open container law in Alaska (as in most states). I would expect, given Alaska's alcohol problem, that there would be no second chances on this issue.

So I completely disagree when you state "it does not matter what that individual did." If Wooten had murdered somebody the Palins should have tried to change the system to make sure more troopers don't murder? They should have tried to just change the system? See what I mean?

Your repeated reference to Wooten's crimes and misdemeanors makes it seem as if you think governors are justified in making use of their powers unlawfully . . .

You jump to "unlawfully" when the report doesn't say that. It finds "unethically" which is not exactly the same thing. The firing was legal. In fact, Branchflower did little to investigate the facts surrounding the firing. Read above. There was plenty of justification (you have to admit Monegan was stupid to ask Palin to sign a picture of Wooten, apparently not knowing it was Wooten). Monegan didn't support the budget misinformation about his own department. Inexcusable.

And I'm not clear on what "state resources" were used. A few aids talked about it. She reported her concerns to Monegan. Monegan is the person in charge of AST. Any citizen could complain to Monegan. And the investigation by AST was certainly warranted.

Look, I agree that the Palins were too focused on the issue. But they weren't getting any feedback. I don't think asking AST and Monegan to look into it repeatedly under the circumstances went beyond the mark of the ethical statute. I would have been upset as governor at the five-day suspension in light of what I knew, and I expect a governor to be more incensed at the cases they actually know about than the ones simply reported to them.

And, as a former Alaskan resident, I find the slap on the wrist especially troubling. AST was held in quite high esteem when I was a kid. Trooper were not just police. The expectations regarding honesty and trustworthiness were very high. I am offended that even with what you find as "minor" infractions that Wooten is still a trooper. The union has obviously gained quite a bit of power in the last several years.

AST was held in quite high esteem when I was a kid....The union has obviously gained quite a bit of power in the last several years.

Generally, children don't know a lot about the world actually works, especially the seedier parts. It is possible that the troopers have become much worse since you were a kid, but it seems more likely that like all children, you were just ignorant of what happened in a small closed community that you weren't a part of. I thought the world of the FBI when I was a kid, but I later found out that various FBI officials engaged in all sorts of criminality at the time. That doesn't mean that the FBI became a much worse organization since I was a kid; it just means I was ignorant.

And I say that to the degree that there are objective reasons to take a look at an officer's behavior, it transcends personal interest.

I think you are still missing the point: a state governor, and her husband, used her gubernational powers and privileges to tackle an individual. Against whom they harbored a personal animus. To argue that they weren't going after Wooton because of the personal animus, they were going after him because he was a bad state trooper, kind of ignores the plentitude of evidence that their motivation was not that they profoundly cared about the kind of crimes he is alleged to have committed, but that they didn't like Wooton.

And I'm not clear on what "state resources" were used.

Then perhaps you should read the report?

I would have been upset as governor at the five-day suspension in light of what I knew, and I expect a governor to be more incensed at the cases they actually know about than the ones simply reported to them.

Then you have very low expectations of a governor. I would expect a governor to be equally incensed about the cases of any citizen - not to show favoritism about cases involving their own family.

And, as a former Alaskan resident, I find the slap on the wrist especially troubling. AST was held in quite high esteem when I was a kid. Trooper were not just police. The expectations regarding honesty and trustworthiness were very high. I am offended that even with what you find as "minor" infractions that Wooten is still a trooper.

As a former Alaskan resident, I would think you would care that rather than trying to improve the AST - which the Palins showed no interest in doing - they simply used Sarah Palin's gubernational powers to go after one trooper.

Focussing on one individual and trying to get him punished beyond the norm is not how you improve the standard of a service. Why are you so tolerant of the Palins' indifference to the general standards of the AST, when you profess such horror at the quality of one trooper in the AST? Why aren't you offended that the state governor of Alaska didn't care what any other trooper in the AST was doing - only and exclusively about the one her husband had a personal hangup about?

Then perhaps you should read the report?

I'm not clear on what YOU mean. Sure, there was an administrative investigation that was subsequently reviewed by the officer that Monegan handed the Todd "file" to. That, IMHO, was what should have happened. I'm speaking of state resources outside of those charged with doing such investigations when a citizen complaint comes up. Other than Palin's own chief of staff and a member of her own transition team, what other resources were there? And no, I don't think taking Monegan's time to talk about it counts because he IS the person one is supposed to talk to about trooper issues. It's like saying talking to the Ombudsman about a complaint is taking up "administrative resources."

I would expect a governor to be equally incensed about the cases of any citizen - not to show favoritism about cases involving their own family.

Fair point. I agree. I really meant to say that a governor can have more confidence in information from those he or she knows and trusts (or less as the case may be in the case of certain family members or friends).


. . . was not that they profoundly cared about the kind of crimes he is alleged to have committed,

Please show me from where you draw this conclusion. You're mind reading. If there is evidence of other troopers doing similar things out there that Palin ignored, or that there was a pattern of abuse in AST that Palin ignored, or proposals to improve AST that she ignored, you will have my full attention. I think, though, that one of the reasons for firing was that Monegan wasn't performing in these areas (trooper hiring and retention, frex).

Focussing on one individual and trying to get him punished beyond the norm is not how you improve the standard of a service.

I do not necessarily disagree. If the "norm" is wrong, it needs to be fixed. And I don't have a problem with examples so long as it is part of a reform process. I don't see that as the issue here. He wasn't disciplined for jay walking.

Geez, Jes, the man had a gun and threatened to put a bullet in a fellow citizen. Where's your British gun control sensibilities? What if he had threatened a member of Obama's family? Feel and different then?


"Geez, Jes, the man had a gun and threatened to put a bullet in a fellow citizen."

What's this, or anything to do with Wooten, got to do with anything?

And no, I don't think taking Monegan's time to talk about it counts because he IS the person one is supposed to talk to about trooper issues.

As one may say that if I have a problem with a serviceman from a nearby base, Robert Gates IS the person I'm supposed to talk to (along with the rest of my family), and that that's a good and efficient use of Robert Gates's time. Or does that work only if my sister sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee?

Small state or not, I'm pretty sure the AST chain of command doesn't run directly from Wooten to Monegan.

And no, I don't think taking Monegan's time to talk about it counts because he IS the person one is supposed to talk to about trooper issues.

I'm perhaps influenced by the fact that in the UK, there is a named offence that Todd and Sarah Palin could be charged with: wasting police time.

Time is a resource. Arguing that it was Monegan's job to deal with complaints about Trooper Wooton so it didn't matter how much of his time Sarah and Todd Palin wasted... well, as Hogan notes, I somehow doubt it was Monegan's job to deal with citizen's complaints about individual troopers. Nor do I suppose for a minute that it was just Monegan's time that was wasted.

I really meant to say that a governor can have more confidence in information from those he or she knows and trusts (or less as the case may be in the case of certain family members or friends).

And again my point is: if Sarah Palin felt that the standard of AST had gone down because of how Wooton had been treated, as governor of Alaska, she could have used her position responsibly and well to improve the service - and instead of irresponsibly and unethically, to target one trooper and ignore the rest.

Please show me from where you draw this conclusion.

That Palin was not using her gubernational resources to reform the AST: she was using her resources to target Wooton. How is this mindreading? Have you got evidence of some kind of reform plan that Palin was spearheading? Anything?

If there is evidence of other troopers doing similar things out there that Palin ignored, or that there was a pattern of abuse in AST that Palin ignored, or proposals to improve AST that she ignored, you will have my full attention.

That's an interesting perspective. You don't require evidence that Palin was trying to reform the AST: you take that on faith, because... she wanted to get Wooton sacked.

I don't have a problem with examples so long as it is part of a reform process. I don't see that as the issue here.

Where is your evidence that Wooton was used an example as part of a reform process? Please cite me something Sarah Palin said or did, other than trying to get Wooton sacked and firing Monegan because he wouldn't sack Wooton, that indicated she was interested at all in reforming the AST.

Geez, Jes, the man had a gun and threatened to put a bullet in a fellow citizen. Where's your British gun control sensibilities? What if he had threatened a member of Obama's family? Feel and different then?

Oh for god's sake. I agreed to presume for the sake of argument that every allegation made against Wooton by you was accurate, just because I was more interested in arguing about whether Sarah Palin had misused her powers as state governor (and Todd Palin had misused his influence as Sarah Palin's husband) than what Wooton had done. But you're still trying to argue that if a state governor is sufficiently provoked, it's okay for her to criminally misuse her powers - by bringing up things alleged against Wooton and saying "see, this? Doesn't that justify the Palins breaking the law?"

Is that really what you believe, bc? That a state governor is entitled to misuse their powers against an individual, if only that individual is bad enough?

BC: FWIW, AST are still held in pretty high regard up here. I find it odd that in the interest of advancing a particular viewpoint (Troopergate is no big deal, nothing to see here, etc...) you are willing to dismiss, discount and diminish an ever widening segment of people and organizations taking positions inconvenient to your viewpoint.

I mean yes, if your unshakable a priori assumption was that Wooten was the worst Trooper who ever Trooped, then a department investigation which did anything less than run him out on a rail would be suspect. In the real world, we tend to give the benefit of the doubt to people who actual know the facts, have interviewed witnesses, held hearings, all that good legwork.

Or you could just assume that reports coming out of Alaska Law Enforcement are yet another cog in a vast liberal conspiracy. Alaska.

The Alaska Daily News has an opinion.

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