GOP's Defense: She Shot the Sheriff, But She Did Not Shoot the Deputy

11/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's hard out there for a shill. A bipartisan panel in Alaska finds that Sarah Palin abused her power and broke the law, and the best defense the campaign can muster is that she "acted within her proper and lawful authority in firing Walt Monegan." Hey, she did some things that weren't illegal.

Yes, Officer, I robbed that bank. But I didn't break any traffic laws on my way home.

It sounds like they're working up to that shopworn Scooter Libby defense, "there was no underlying crime." That's the phrase that showed a lot of seemingly legitimate right-wing political commentators to be nothing more than cynical partisans - so much so that they would cheerfully defend naked criminality in defense of their political interests. (We're not naming names, Bill Kristol.)

It's an incomprehensible defense. Any crime is, after all, illegal by definition. Think about it (if you really have to think about it): You tell me you're going to frame me for something I didn't do, so I murder you. According to this logic I should go free, because there was no underlying crime. And not only should I go free, I should still be considered a worthy candidate for high office.

Sounds ridiculous, and it is. Yet you will see one partisan after another make exactly that argument in a slightly-disguised way in the next three weeks. Man. You could almost feel sorry for them, couldn't you? That is, if so much weren't at stake.

If McCain and Palin are elected -- which isn't impossible even now -- Americans can now look forward to the spectacle of Todd Palin, boots up on the Vice President's (or the President's desk), making one call after another to settle old family scores. And we'll see Todd and Sarah's friends in the Alaskan Independence Party come to Washington, too. That's the party whose founder said he "hated" America and her flag, and who was murdered in an illegal explosives deal gone bad. Sound good to you? Then by all means vote for them.

Those Palins. They come across in this report like frontier Macbeths, the Borgias of Wasilla. It's not fair to say they're a cross between the Beverly Hillbillies and the Manson Family. But they are scary, and they sure aren't the "regular Christian working folks" we've been led to believe they are. I know a lot of evangelicals, and none of them pal around with separatist radicals. And none of them are as straight-up mean and vindictive as this report shows the Palins to be. (Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. Aren't the rest of us supposed to forgive?)

It's not like they didn't know what they were doing, either. Monehan made it clear to Gov. Palin that her actions in pressuring him were a violation of state ethics law. She didn't care, and she didn't stop. L'etat, c'est moi. (Or "c'est nous," I guess, since she was letting her husband abuse power on her behalf too.)

But as frightening as a Palin Vice Presidency (and possible Presidency) would be, this story is really about John McCain. This investigation was already underway when McCain picked her. That tells us volumes about his selfishness, his impulsiveness, and his willingness to take reckless risks with the nation in pursuit of his own selfish interests.

The day this report came out we saw McCain desperately trying to suppress the lynch-mob behavior of the crowds he's riled up -- at least until he's left the building. He looked like Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia, trying to get all those brooms to stop bringing him buckets of water. But they won't stop, because he's cast such a clumsy spell.

The lesson Mickey learned in that episode was that a little knowledge isn't enough, and that you shouldn't try to be the boss if you're not ready or able. Maybe Sen. McCain ought to watch that movie again the next time he fires up the DVD player on Cindy's private jet.

You know what's strange? I never agreed with his politics, but I really used to like John McCain. I even respected him.

RJ Eskow blogs when he can at: