Alaska Governor and Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, while out on the hustings likes to ask her audiences: "Who is the real Barack Obama?" But it took a bipartisan commission of the Alaska State Legislature to give us a more accurate glimpse at the real Sarah Palin. The commission concluded that Governor Palin abused her powers in pressing subordinates to terminate a state trooper, Michael Wooten, who three years earlier had gone through a bitter divorce and child custody battle with Palin's sister, Molly McCann. As a result, Trooper Wooten ended up on the wrong side of a family feud.
Governor Palin first claimed that she never did anything to try to get Wooten fired, but later changed her story admitting that she did try to terminate him but only because she and her relatives lived in fear of him. The independent investigation for the State Legislature, however, concluded otherwise: "Such claims of fear were not bona fide and were offered to provide cover for the Palins' real motivation: to get Trooper Wooten fired for personal family reasons." The 263-page report also points out that Palin had reduced the size of her security staff, which didn't make sense if she and her family were "living in fear" of Wooten. A member of Governor Palin's security detail stated: "I never really felt they were in fear of Mr. Wooten doing anything to them."
The panel concluded that Governor Palin violated Alaska's Executive Branch Ethics Act. According to the report, Palin "knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda."
On July 11, 2008, Palin fired Alaska's public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, because he resisted dismissing the trooper who was under his command. Monegan also testified that Palin was slashing the budget for his department because he resisted her efforts to can Wooten. Palin has changed her story several times on why she fired Monegan, who had a long and impressive record as an Alaskan public official. She first claimed she wanted to move Monegan to another position in the government, and then she insisted Monegan's firing was performance related.
Brace yourself for the ear-shattering self-righteous anger blaring from the throats of Republican media shills as they denounce as "unfair" and "partisan" the Alaska State Legislature's account. But it will be difficult to sell that story given that it was a 14-member Republican-dominated Legislative Council that voted unanimously in favor of the investigation long before John McCain picked Palin as his running mate.
Late in a campaign, one thing any presidential candidate does NOT want to see is the name of his VP choice in an official government report that confirms a violation of a state law with the word "ethics" in its title. Especially in Alaska where the Republican Party leadership is notoriously corrupt and cut from the same cloth as Jack Abramoff. In fact, one of the reasons Sarah Palin was catapulted to the governor's office so quickly in the first place was because she was the last woman standing after the Republican leadership in Alaska imploded under multiple, overlapping corruption scandals. Now, with the commission's report, even the "maverick reformer" is tainted.
Who is the real Sarah Palin?
Is Sarah Palin the evangelical, do-gooder "hockey mom" who millions of people believe is truthful and honest? Or is she a "She-Bush" megalomaniac who wields power behind the scenes by personal whim? And lies about it?
Is Sarah Palin the wife of an empty-headed, yet harmless "First Dude?" Or is she married to a Machiavellian insider who carried out her wishes with efficient dispatch in an attempt to settle petty personal scores?
And can we really trust someone who is closely associated with a person who used to belong to a radical Alaskan separatist group that committed Treason against the United States of America by urging Alaska to secede from the Union?
If Palin can go around the country inciting mobs to call for Barack Obama's head after she grossly exaggerates his passing encounters with an aging '60s radical, then we should be able to scrutinize her more recent abuses of power as Alaska governor.
But the most dangerous problem Palin poses is her apparent cluelessness about the kind of overt racism and potential violence she is stirring up. Her highly personalized attacks against Obama are inciting hatred among the Republican herd. The mainstream press might be contented to portray this as nothing out of the ordinary in a "tough" campaign, but this false "balance" in reportage excuses the seriousness of Palin's attacks.
Palin is telling large crowds of white people in Red districts that Obama "pals around with terrorists" and she even implies that he may be a "terrorist" himself. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, who has been at the center of every civil rights battle for the past fifty years, thought the situation warranted writing a letter to John McCain calling for a more civil political dialogue. "As public figures with the power to influence and persuade," Lewis wrote, "Senator McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy." McCain simply blew off Lewis's legitimate concerns in favor of a predictable Republican counterattack. McCain threw the issue back on Lewis and demanded an apology from him for comparing McCain's tactics to those of Alabama Governor George Wallace.
The Republicans are playing the "race card" now because that is all they have left. Right-wing talk radio, Fox News, Kenneth Blackwell, and the McCain-Palin campaign have all been accusing the activist group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), of "voter fraud" and even playing a role in the subprime mortgage crisis. They have lumped Obama in with ACORN even though he never worked for the organization, and because ACORN is heavily identified with African-American urban communities the Rightwing is trying to tarnish ACORN's current voter registration activities as being somehow "unfair" to white Republicans and use that charge to smear Obama. The allegations have been proven false but they remind me of D. W. Griffith's 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, glorifying the history of the Ku Klux Klan. In the film there are scenes of black "freedmen" in the Reconstruction South stuffing ballot boxes to rig elections against the white majority. The KKK bursts on the scene to render "justice" for the white victims of what today Rush Limbaugh would call "voter fraud." It is noteworthy how little the tropes of racism have changed in America in the past hundred years.
The near total collapse of the financial system and the subsequent panic selling on Wall Street have repudiated everything for which the Republican Party stood for the last 30 years: Neo-cons wishing to use American military power to assert dominance and spread "democracy?" Forget it -- We don't have the money to do that anymore. War hawks who want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq until "victory" is attained? Forget about it -- We don't have $4 billion a month to throw at Iraq. Tax cutters and deregulators who promise that if we just strip away government our "ownership society" will efficiently distribute the bounty because that's what markets do -- Are you telling us a bad joke!?
The economic crisis upended the McCain campaign. In desperation, McCain has chosen to go negative 100 percent of the time. He sent forth his evangelical VPILF to hurl McCarthyite smears and race-baiting attacks at the African-American candidate. And she has done so in a way that only a person from a lily-white noncontiguous state could do.
But McCain's is a failed "strategy." The Bush Administration's reckless disregard for governance has finally precipitated the humungous crisis many of us believed was lurking beneath the surface for many years now. He ran the United States in a manner akin to that of a tin-pot dictator in a banana republic. We are fortunate that the timing of the great financial collapse allows us to hold a referendum on the miserable years of misrule under George Walker Bush. "No" or "Si."
Let the voting begin!