Friday, October 10, 2008

Any of This Sound Familiar?
If George W. Bush was tragedy, I'm increasingly sure that Sarah Palin is farce.

Where Bush manipulated intelligence and had a CIA agent exposed to help start and then politically defend a war, Palin's abuses of power as mayor of a small Alaska town and governor of that state are a bit more, shall we say, relatable. But the pattern persists--and as was not the case with Bush, there's absolutely no question but that we should know what we'd be getting into this time. A just-released report to the Alaska legislature, commissioned on a bipartisan basis long before Palin was tapped as John McCain's vice-presidential nominee, found that the Alaska governor "abused her power" when she fired the state's public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, after a long-running dispute over the commissioner's refusal to dismiss Palin's former brother-in-law, an Alaska state trooper. The full report is linked above; the AP story is here.

One of the few things we know for sure about Palin is that for her, the political is personal. A recent New Republic cover story traces her careerlong pattern of using office to settle scores. An earlier New York Times feature detailed how she repeatedly appointed childhood friends to well compensated senior positions in state government. Palin's circle isn't quite as elevated as Bush's--the difference between Wasilla High School and Yale Skull and Bones, I guess--but the mindset is the same: loyalty trumps ability, and the more the appointee is your creature, the better.

As the two investigative articles indicate, Palin apes Bush in other aspects: a yen for secrecy, evident disgust for the press, and trouble telling the truth. (One could add their shared evident certitude that, by virtue of their faith views, any and all means are justified by the divinely sanctioned ends.) If "Troopergate" is Palin's equivalent to the Plame scandal or the U.S. Attorney firings, it's only fair to point out that, like Bush's flunkies in the ongoing investigation of the latter, Palin won't cooperate either. And just as with the Department of Justice scandal, apologists for the Republican will blow off the whole to-do as a substance-free partisan witch hunt.

That the report does not call for any formal punishment of Palin, or a criminal investigation, will make this easier. And I don't think there's any need for the Obama campaign, now effectively focusing on the economy while, as has it, "keeping the prevent defense on the field," to bring this up. But Palin isn't going away: if they lose this year, she probably starts the 2012 cycle as the favorite or co-favorite (with Mike Huckabee) for the Republican nomination. Having already played this sequence once, with disastrous results, let's not do it again.

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