Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Flywheel, Shyster and Mooseblaster

Just when the whole Sarah Palin saga reaches a nadir of credibility, along comes something even more eye-openingly bizarre.

So, yesterday John Nichols blogging at The Beat, courtesy of The Nation, was noting:
... the McCain campaign's determined effort to shut down the investigation of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's abuses of power in what has come to be known as the "Troopergate" scandal.
Now, we've had numerous "-gates", ever since Nixon's plumbers had compression-nuts caught in the mangle, but it takes some doing to get a "-gate" to one's name while only a candidate.

Ex Alaska semper aliquid novum

Mrs Mooseblaster is being sold as a "maverick" and a reform candidate, and for that branding exercise to work, she needs to be "cleaner than a hound's tooth". Well, Mrs Mooseblaster's pitbull fangs are well recorded: they may not be Colgate clean. As Nichols says:

Palin stands accused of dismissing the state's public safety commissioner because he would not fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper with whom the governor was feuding after he and her sister divorced.

If Palin did so abuse her office, she could face any number of penalties, up to and including impeachment as governor. That would make it harder to pitch Palin as an "original maverick" reformer.

That throws the review of Governor Palin's actions back to the Alaska legislators. They are overwhelmingly Republican, but:

  • have personal reputations at stake, in a State where the Republican Party has a dodgy past -- Palin herself made it to the Governor's mansion by dissing her predecessor, and elements of her (adopted) Party;
  • have no particular reason to show Palin any great loyalty. If she makes it to Number One Observatory Circle, there'll be a vacancy at home; if she doesn't, she'll be shop-soiled goods; and
  • (again from Nichols):
Alaska is a very small state where top Democrats and Republicans have traditions of working together -- especially on ethics inquiries.
So, the McCain campaign is going via the tradesman's entrance:
McCain's aides have gotten a handful of legislators who are tied to the campaign to file a suit in Alaska's Superior Court demanding that the investigation be halted. The clear goal is to prevent the completion of what is likely to be a damning report regarding Palin's misdeeds before election day -- as was evident when McCain aides suddenly began appearing on national news shows, fully briefed and ready to cheer on the suit, just moments after Alaskans learned it was being initiated.
In short, the McCain campaign is launching an action against a committee of the Alaskan legislature, eight Republicans and four Democrats, to prevent the truth coming out before 4th November.

Chicken-and-egg: question and answer

There is a case to be made for the McCainites: Governor Palin becoming such a national personality has made Troopergate into a partisan issue. But that, in itself, raises a different matter -- what did the McCain camp know about the Mooseblaster life and times before she was rushed to centre stage?

We are assured that the background scrutiny of Palin involved a three-hour interview and an eighty-item questionnaire.

Malcolm would love to know how that questionnaire worked. There would, inevitably, be one question, on the lines of "Is there anything in your private life which could emerge and embarass the Party and the campaign?" Was the Miss Mooseblaster pregnancy then discussed and discounted? Was the messy scandal over the Mooseblaster sister's divorce explained? Or, are the McCain team now involved in a continuing fire-fight to contain a potential Towering Inferno?

The song she kept singin' made a man's blood run cold When it's springtime in Alaska, it's forty below

It's worth taking the temperature in Alaska:

At issue is whether Palin abused her power by pressing the commissioner to remove her former brother-in-law as an Alaska state trooper, then firing the commissioner when he didn't.

The matter risks casting a shadow on Palin's reputation, central to her appeal in the campaign, that she is a clean-government advocate who takes on entrenched interests -- not a governor who tried to use her authority behind the scenes to settle a personal score.

(Steve Quinn for AP in the Anchorage Daily News).

The investigation into whether Palin abused her office by putting pressure on Monegan to fire her ex-brother in-law has become more heated since Palin was named the Republican vice-presidential candidate.

The Legislative Council, made up of four Democrats and eight Republicans, voted unanimously to investigate the circumstances of Monegan's dismissal. Although Monegan was an at-will employee who could be fired for almost any reason, lawmakers wanted to see whether Palin tried to use her office to settle a personal score with Wooten.

Before Aug. 29, Palin told reporters she welcomed an investigation because she has nothing to hide. Since being named to the Republican ticket, however, Palin now has a lawyer defending her during the investigation and representatives of the John McCain presidential campaign are now involved.

(Michael Rovito for the Frontiersman, the local for Wasilla.)

It's worth recalling a throw-away comment by a local newsman, when Palin's nomination was announced: despite the claims by the McCain team that she had 80-per-cent approval ratings in Alaska, he pointed out the actual numbers were in the sixties, and falling sharply. He then added, "but they're in the teens among local journalists".

Out of the State, the Kansas City Star sums it up with an op-ed which starts:

Sarah Palin becomes just another politician

So much for Sarah Palin's claim to be a maverick, someone who doesn't play politics the old-fashioned way. Now she is.

The character issue

Mooseblaster and her doings amount to a very small "-gate". Far more important is what it says about the judgment and methods of McCain.

McCain spend much of the Primary season running against his own Party (in view of the unpopularity of the President, even among Republicans, that was a no-brainer). It tallied with his record in the Senate: on tax, immigration, economic policy and much, much more. He went to his nominating Convention on a simple ticket:
The nominee's friend described him as a "restless reformer who will clean up Washington." His defeated rival described him going to the capital to "drain that swamp." His running mate described their mission as "change, the goal we share." And that was at the incumbent party's convention.

After watching two political conclaves the last two weeks, it would be easy to be confused about which was really the gathering of the opposition. As Senator John McCain accepted the Republican nomination for president, he and his supporters sounded the call of insurgents seeking to topple the establishment - even though their party heads the establishment.
(Peter Baker, New York Times, and generally syndicated.)

The shine is coming off that model. The more McCain resorts to the "old politics" for his methods (as is apparently happening in Alaska) and appeals to the coalition of conservatives and fundamentalists Karl Rove built for Bush, the less the "maverick" image can fit.

And a final horror

Towards the end of a long appraisal of McCain's foreign-policy attitudes, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic writes this:
In my conversations with McCain, however, he never appeared greatly troubled by his shifts and reversals. It’s not difficult to understand why: tax policy, or health care, or even off-shore oil drilling are for him all matters of mere politics, and politics calls for ideological plasticity. It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor—two notions that for McCain are thoroughly entwined—that he becomes truly unbending.

Equally, McCain has identified one of his "heroes" to be ... Henry Kissinger.


And for Malcolm's next trick,
how the "maverick" McCain,
scourge of Wall Street,
contributed to the collapse of Lehman Brothers,
and much more.
Stay tuned to Malcolm Redfellow's World Service!
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