Palin's abuse of power

Our view: If she and her husband behave like this in Alaska, what will they do in Washington?

October 14, 2008

Never mind the whopper that Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told this weekend in describing a state investigator's report that she abused her executive power by trying to get her former brother-in-law fired. "I'm very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing, any hint of any kind of unethical activity there," she told reporters.

Actually, the bipartisan report said just the opposite. It found that Mrs. Palin and her husband, Todd, repeatedly violated state ethics laws by browbeating subordinates to dismiss Trooper Michael Wooten, who had been involved in an ugly divorce with Mrs. Palin's sister, and by using state employees to score points in a family feud.

"Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda," the report stated. It said that although the governor had the legal authority to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, after he resisted her demands to fire the trooper, her use of her office to engage in a personal vendetta was an unethical abuse of power.

Aside from Mrs. Palin's misrepresentation of the facts, the report calls into question the role that Todd Palin, who was deeply involved in the "Troopergate" affair, might play in a Palin vice presidency. Alaska's self-described "first dude" has been compared by supporters to activist executive branch spouses such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan, all of whom involved themselves in policy decisions as trusted advisers. But those spouses used their unique access to influence matters of major public import, not to settle personal grudges against private individuals. The fact that Sarah and Todd Palin can't seem to tell the difference is troubling precisely because of the far greater official powers she might be called on to exercise responsibly if elected vice president.

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