Tuesday, October 14, 2008

this was going to be a post defending sarah palin.

I'm serious. It was. I was going to complain about all the coverage of Troopergate. I was, firstly, going to point out that this sort of abuse of power is unfortunately the sort of thing one is likely to find in most politicians' past. If we delved deeply enough into the careers of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, we are likely to find a case of not-entirely-ethical hiring and firing. Secondly, I was going to mention that the trooper in question had reportedly threatened the Palin family (though the report addresses the validity of these claims--turns out the Palins didn't really take the threats seriously), so while it may have violated ethics laws, I can understand the motivation to try to get rid of him through whatever means necessary.

Third, and most crucially, I was going to detail my annoyance at the blatantly partisan-ness of this issue. I don't mean the fact that it was an issue in Alaska. That was reasonable and driven by legitimate "good government" concerns. I mean, the committee doing the investigating was mostly Republican. I mean the reaction to it. The Democrats talked about how awful and scandalous it was that Gov. Palin was involved in this sort of thing. The Republicans said it was an Obama-supporter-driven attack that was based on nothing. You had pundits on all sides yelling that their way of interpreting it was the only, true way. But, say it had been Joe Biden. You would have the exact same arguments, just exactly reversed, with the Obama camp saying it was a partisan driven investigation and the Republicans decrying Joe Biden's lack of ethical and moral sense.

This post was going to express my frustration with the media for caring so much about this issue that does little to advance the debate about the issues.

And, well, I'm still frustrated about that. But I am more frustrated about Sarah Palin's out and out lying about the report. I understand that she might want to spin it, saying perhaps, "The report found that the firing was well-within my powers as Governor." That is true. But it also found that the pressure placed on Monogan to fire trooper Wooten violated state ethics laws and that Gov. Palin had abused her power in order to "advance a personal agenda." The report admonished the Governor that "Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional." The report clearly states that her actions violated Alaska’s Executive Branch Ethics Act, which says that a public officer’s attempt to ‘benefit a personal or financial interest’ is a violation of the public trust. When she says nothing is unlawful, she's kind of spinning. When she says the report clears her of ethical violations, she is willfully wrong.

Yet what is she saying? She is lying. Not spinning, not exaggerating. Lying. Repeatedly. Enthusiastically. Here is a sample of lies told on multiple occasions after the report was released:

"Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing," Palin said, "any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that." Lie.

"So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all."

"I'm thankful that the report has shown that, that there was no illegal or unethical activity there in my choice to replace our commissioner."

I still think the Troopergate scandal was blown out of proportion. But I am more scared by the prospect of a vice president who has no flinch of conscience about outright lying than I am about an overly-sensationalist media. I know, politicians lie. But usually, it's more of a "weasel," in that they are intending to mislead, but their facts are at least marginally true. Most of the time, it is spinning. (Which, don't get me wrong, is awful--perhaps worse because it's easier to buy. Here, one just has to read the report to know she is lying.)

It's one thing to be honestly wrong about policy. It's another to manipulate voters by playing to base fears and prejudices. And it is something different still to outright lie to the American people.

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