Troopergate Dumb Arguments

Below are some rebuttals to some common arguments that you can cut-and-paste when discussing Troopergate with your friends and family. Except for Rebuttals 0-a and 0-b, Rebuttals consist of text from the bipartisan report released Friday. I have included my own Editorial Comments to clarify the meaning of the rebuttals.

[Dumb Argument 0] "This has been political from the start."

[Rebuttal 0-a] Ten Republicans and four Democrats voted for an investigation. The same Council approved the findings. The same council approved disclosure of the findings. Though perhaps political (see Rebuttal 0-b), it was not partisan.

[Rebuttal 0-b] Sarah Palin is a politician. Just like the merits of a restauranteur comes from her ability to manage a restaurant, the merits of a politician comes from her ability to manage politics. If Sarah Palin can't manage politics, she will succumb easily to a slew of political problems including but not limited to ethics violations.

[Dumb Argument 1] "Obama is responsible for this."

[Rebuttal 1] On July 28, 2008, approximately one month before Sarah Palin was named John McCain's Vice Presidential candidate, "a contract for legal services was entered into between the [bipartisan Alaska Legislative Council] and [Stephen Branchflower] to provide legal services." To this end, Stephen Branchflower agreed to "provide legal services to investigate the circumstances and events surrounding the termination of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan and potential abuses of power and/or improper actions by members of the executive branch."

[James's Editorial Comments 1] It is highly unlikely that Obama could have had the foresight to engineer this investigation months in advance of Sarah Palin's nomination. To provide evidence of such foresight would probably be grounds for a Pulitzer prize in investigative journalism. Speculation doesn't count as evidence.

[Dumb Argument 2] "The report said Palin engaged in 'official action' by her inaction." How could she be guilty of anything if she didn't do anything?

[Rebuttal 2] Sarah Palin "permitted [her husband] Todd Palin to use the resources of the Governor's office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired."

"Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda, to wit: to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired. She had the authority and power to require Mr. Palin to cease contacting subordinates, but she failed to act."

"As defined in AS 39.52.960(14), the term 'official action' means 'advice participation, or assistance, including, for example a recommendation, decision, approval, disapproval, vote, or other similar action, including inaction, by a public officer.'" (Emphasis added.)

[James's Editorial Comments 2] Palin's inaction is similar to allowing one's spouse access to an open cash register and not preventing theft of the cash. One is guilty by inaction. In other words, one would be an accessory to the crime by allowing it to happen.

[Dumb Argument 3] "Governor Palin was scared of Trooper Wooten. She did what she had to do to protect her family."

[Rebuttal 3] "Governor Palin has stated publicly that she and her family feared Trooper Wooten. Yet the evidence presented has been inconsistent with such claims of fear. The testimony from Trooper Wheeler, who was part of her security detail from the start [of her term as Governor], was that shortly after elected to office, she ordered a substantial reduction in manpower in her personal protection detail in both Anchorage and Juneau, an act that is inconsistent with a desire to avoid harm from Trooper Wooten or others. Moreover, assuming that Trooper Wooten was ever inclined to attack Governor Palin or a family member, logic dictates that getting him fired would accomplish nothing to eliminate the potential for harm to her or her family. On the contrary, it might just precipitate some retaliatory conduct on his part. Causing Wooten to loose his job would not have de-escalated the situation, or provided her or her family with greater security.

"Finally it is noteworthy that in almost every contact with subordinate employees, Mr. Palins's comments were couched in terms of his desire to see Trooper Wooten fired for reasons that had nothing to do with fear. His comments were always couched in terms that he was a bad Trooper, that he was not a good recruiting image for AST, that his discipline amounted to nothing more than a slap on the wrist, that nothing had happened to him following the administrative investigation, and so forth. Mr. Palin even sought to obtain information about Trooper Wooten that was confidential by law ["T. Palin asked for Wooten's file," "wanted Grimes report," "refused to give it to him"] The words selected by Mr. Palin, and his actions, give insight into his motivation and that of his wife, Governor Palin"

[James's Editorial Comments 3] If you are afraid of someone, you don't piss them off by trying to get them fired from their job. If you are afraid of someone, your words and actions will actually reflect that fear motivates you. If you are not afraid and are just being a maverick, don't lie and say you are afraid--that would be unethical.

[Dumb Argument 4] "Sarah Palin was never given a chance to defend herself."

[Rebuttal] "The Attorney General's office failed to substantially comply with my August 6, 2008 written request to Governor Sarah Palin for information about the case in the form of emails." The report also states: "it does seem there has been an unusual delay in material that was requested by [Stephen Branchflower] in writing two months ago. No satisfactory reason or explanation has been given"

"While it is true that in the absence of an interview with either Governor Palin or Todd Palin, the specific answers to questions such as these are left unanswered, it is likewise true that their apparent motives can be inferred from the circumstances, their actions and their comments."

[James's Editorial Comments 4] Sarah Palin, or her immediate subordinate, the Attorney General, has never complied "substantially" with information requests. Not only has she been given every opportunity to defend herself in this matter, her participation has been specifically requested by the investigator. If she really wanted to defend herself and really had nothing to hide, she would have complied with the investigation. Her evasive behavior towards this investigation suggests otherwise.

[Dumb Argument 5] Palin didn't really do anything wrong. AS 39.52.110(a) from the Alaskan Ethics Act is simply a statute, its not a real law.

[Rebuttal 5] "Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional. It is an individual responsibility imposed by law, and any effort to benefit a personal interest through official action is a violation of that trust. As explained [elsewhere in the report], the term "benefit" is very broadly defined and includes anything that is to the person's advantage or personal self-interest. The term "personal interest" as used in the Ethics Act means any interest held by the public officer or the public officer's immediate family, including a sibling such as Governor Palin's sister Molly, Molly's children, her father Mr. Heath or any other family member. AS 39.52.960(11)."

[James's Editorial Comments 5] First, Alaskan Statutes are indeed real laws. They are actually statutory laws. Second, ethics exists as a formal framework for establishing how actions may be considered right and wrong. Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional. The Alaskan Legislature decided to enact this ethics code into law to provide a lawful means to enforce compliance with the ethics code. Palin is bound to comply with the code as Governor.