If there is one lesson to be learned from Sarah Palin and the workings of her so-called "inner circle," it is that you will eventually be cast off into the desert a la Hagar and Abraham in the Old Testament saga.
The list of those banished by Palin is a long one. Some prominent names include: John Bitney, Curtis Smith, Christopher Clark, Bill McAllister and Frank Bailey -- all of whom were thrown under the proverbial bus during Palin's failed and abbreviated governorship of Alaska. Even her most prominent critic in the Last Frontier, Andree McLeod, was once a member in the Palin inner-sanctum. Palin has left a wide swath of human collateral damage in her wake.
Now add the inimitable Meg Stapleton to the list.
In what was a truly disgusting bit of reporting today in Politico, news puppy Andy Barr, a shameless apologist for Palin these past 16 months, confirmed the rumor that Stapleton, Palin's longtime "spokesperson" and political assassin, was departing her $96,000-a-year position as a consultant to SarahPAC, though Barr never managed to set any of the significant facts in place.
Instead, Barr spun it exactly as Stapleton wanted it woven -- as a move "to spend more time with her husband and 2-year-old daughter, Isabella."
Perhaps you'd also like to buy some land from young Andy in Florida.
Barr's most recent suck-up to Stapleton came earlier this month when Stapleton used Barr to distance Palin from her criticism of Rush Limbaugh for his use of the word "retard." It was a barefaced bit of duplicity and perfectly reflective of the Palin-Stapleton spin machine.
There have been reports of trouble brewing in Palin's inner-circle for a while -- of near breakdowns and dramatic outbursts -- as the arrival of more paid political hacks from outside Alaska has created furious infighting for Palin's favors.
Ironically, Barr's lone source for his story (other than Stapleton herself) was the Palin sycophant Fred Malek who has apparently found new life and some pep in his step as a source for everything Palin. Indeed, last summer when I interviewed Malek (Richard Nixon's notorious Jew counter) at his retreat in Aspen, he confirmed for me that "bad blood" between Stapleton and GOP fundraiser Becki Donatelli of the Washington D.C.-based Campaign Solutions was what led to Donatelli breaking off her relationship with the Palin operation. Or as Vanity Fair's Todd Purdum put it: Donatelli "couldn't stand" Stapleton.
Stapleton was also anathema to the McCain campaign -- one of whose senior operatives described her to me as "incompetent and a bad person."
As my pal and blogger supreme AKMuckraker of The Mudflats has noted, Stapleton was once something of a "beloved" newscaster in Alaska (she once was knocked over by a reindeer while she was wearing a Santa outfit) before she swallowed the Palin Kool-Aid and went through a transformation worthy of Mr. Hyde.
"Stapleton's legacy in Alaska will not be her years as a trusted news anchor," Muckraker told me today, "but rather how quickly she sold out to become the weapon of choice for eviscerating Palin's perceived political foes in the state of Alaska. Alaska is a 'small town' and her reputation is forever tarnished here."
Stapleton's most notorious moment came during the 2008 presidential election, when serving as an attack dog for Palin's so-called Truth Squad in Alaska, she engaged in a nasty videotaped confrontation with well-liked Alaska legislator Les Gara. If there were an Emmy awarded for smarm and sleaze, Stapleton would have won in a landslide.
Today, Gara had this to say about Stapleton:
It's not every day you find a job that pays you gobs of money to say nasty things about good people -- but I'm sure she'll find something. Maybe she can be Glenn Beck's PR person next.
Stapleton's media instincts were, at worse, infantile and at, best, destructive. She frequently managed to turn a Palin gaffe from what should have been a one-day blip into a 72-hour-news sensation.
Last summer, while I was in Anchorage, Palin and Stapleton became involved in what seemed to be a never-ending series of controversies about whether or not Palin would be appearing at an event -- this time a planned appearance at the Anchorage mega-church ChangePoint. Members of the church assured me that representatives of the former governor had confirmed her appearance. In essence, Stapleton called the church leadership liars. One member of the ChangePoint community was irate about Stapleton's response.
It's hard to reconcile Sarah's and Meg's so-called Christian values, when they keep lying about things like this. I can only think that one of two things is going on. Either she [Palin] is flat-out crazy. Maybe something like a breakdown. Or she has become so arrogant, so above it all, that she feels she can treat people this way.
Stapleton fueled Palin's furies. One other longtime Palin confidante who worked shoulder-to -shoulder with Stapleton described her as "power hungry":
Meghan did more damage in this world than most people will ever know. She rose to her position by throwing everyone around Sarah under the bus, never being a team player, always sucking up and telling Sarah only what she wanted to hear.
Or as one other longtime Alaskan put it: Stapleton "sacrificed her integrity for her ambition."
In her bitter and vengeful memoir Going Rogue, Palin notes that Stapleton was with her at a rented San Diego condo working day-in and day-out on the writing. Afterwards, many in Alaska speculated that some of the nastier passages in Rogue were actually penned by Stapleton.
For those subjected to Stapleton's bile in recent months, there was little empathy in the aftermath of her departure. "Get thee to church, Meg dahling," said McLeod. "There's much atonement ahead..."
Stapleton's "explanatory" email to Barr begged for some follow-up (of course, there was none) -- and perhaps there was something to be read between the lines:
While I had hoped to work together on so many more projects, time with my precious 2-year-old has been further minimized with the whirlwind commitments of all things Palin. I have done my best to scale back, but Isabella is now resorting to hiding my BlackBerry, and she shouldn't grow up begging for a mother to start acting like a mother.
If she was hoping "to work together on so many more projects," why did she resign now? Why didn't she go to part-time? Why didn't she take up special projects? What did she mean by "whirlwind commitments" and "all things Palin"? What of the tone? And at whom was she directing that comment "start acting like a mother"? (At least one person who knows both players thought that it was a dig by Stapleton directed at Palin.)
Working for and with Palin has always been a contact sport. The departed always have scars. One former colleague from Alaska wished Stapleton some solace: "I hope Meghan can find some peace," he said. "I do."
Award-winning writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn's book The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power will be released by St. Martin's Press in 2010.