Talk about an Abuse of Power


An Alaska ethics probe concluded today that Governor Sarah Palin did abuse her power in the ordeal surrounding the dismissal of state official Walt Monegan. Monegan had refused to fire state trooper, Mike Wooten, who had been married to Palin’s sister until that marriage ended some years ago. Wooten had, Palin alleged, tasered his 10-year-old stepson and threated to kill Palin’s father. This before Monegan’s departure from his job.

Inquiries into Gov. Palin’s possible conduct in the matter had already begun prior to her nomination to be John McCain’s running-mate. There is evidence, however, that the probe was managed by Obama supporters and was speeded up to result in a decision soon enough to have a bearing on the presidential election.

I don’t know the facts, but if this suspicion is true, or even if the suspicion is well-founded without being demonstrably true, then there ought to be a very speedy inquiry into the ethics of the ethics probe and the possibility that those who conducted the probe are themselves guilty of an abuse of power.

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It’s not surprising that Alan Colmes (of Hannity & Colmes) was pleased with this result. He interviewed Dick Morris, who noted that trooper Wooten had made a death threat on Palin’s father and tasered his stepson. Colmes’s response was interesting. He said that Wooten denies making any death threat. Apparently, Colmes had done his homework and knew that this did not apply to the allegation that Wooten had tasered the young boy.

A few weeks ago, during a televised interview, the officer in question acknowledged that he had tasered his 10-year-old stepson. He said he did it because the boy was curious about tasers and asked to be tasered. He agreed in the interview that it was a dumb thing to do.

I mention this because of the example it provides of the deterioration of public discourse. Morris’s statement was a conjunction: Wooten made a death threat against the father-in-law and Wooten tasered the stepson. To defeat this statement, Colmes challenged the second conjunct and ignored the first. In challenging the second conjunct, Colmes offered as evidence Wooten’s denial of the allegation. This is hardly compelling evidence, especially if the first conjunct is true. And the first conjunct is true. The evidence for that is that Wooten confesses to that.

Now, logically, if the second conjunct of Morris’s statement is false, then the entire conjunction is false. But it doesn’t follow that the first conjunt is false. That part of the conjunction is true. And Morris’s comments clearly indicated that he believed its truth is a sufficient condition for Sarah Palin to have fired Monegan if he refused to fire Wooten.

If the trooper had been anyone else than a former brother-in-law, then an ethics probe might never have been started. Who can say? But the grounds for questioning her ethics would certainly have been different, since the findings in the actual probe are tied to the investigators’ judgment that Palin’s behavior was, in some sense, payback. Again, I don’t know the facts, or the evidence that was produced during the probe. But I wouldn’t imagine that Palin’s previous relationship with Wooten would count as sufficient evidence that this was her motive.

What is of interest—because we are in a position to judge based on observation—is the conduct of the press in this matter and the jockeying that will go on among chieftains of the two presidential campaigns. Barack Obama is under closer scrutiny than ever before because of his financial support of ACORN and his relationship with sundry scoundrels. Treatment of the Palin news will be an illuminating test of the objectivity of the “mainstream media.” I make no predictions about what will transpire over the weekend, but if the several prominent news and commentary shows direct more attention to the Palin issue than the Obama probe they themselves should be conducting, it will be very telling.

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Sarah Palin and the Abuse of Blog Power


The social media that permeate the blogosphere have changed the way politics unfolds in this country. It is more difficult now than ever before to get solid, reliable information about the character of presidential candidates, for example. Today, rumors about Sarah Palin are flying with fury and labels are being applied as if these are factually established and relevant.

Anti-Palin bloggers are pumping out bile with the unrelenting force of an Alaskan gusher. These people are using their blog-power to influence voters. Nothing wrong with that. But fomenting discontent on the basis of rumor alone is an abuse of that power.

We need an example. One blogger who illustrates this obsessive, vicious lampooning of Sarah Palin (and John McCain) is “AKMuckraker” at Mudflats. On one post she insinuates that Sarah Palin is John McCain’s latest “trophy girl.” In another, she rolls out all the labels she can contrive—”Trooper-Gate,” “Baby-Gate,” “Bridge-Gate,” and “Veep-Gate”—and wails to the world that the GOP campaign will come unraveled in the days left before the election. Many who chime in with comments at her posts exhibit an astonishing willingness to believe on the basis of ethereal fumes. (One shining exception is Gerri; she candidly states that she’s pro-Obama, but says she wants proof because she doesn’t like rumors and blatant lies. Way to go, Gerri.)

I have four guidelines to recommend to blog browsers whose eyes are burning from all this smoke. If you find that rumor is beginning to influence your outlook, you might find these helpful.

1. Chase the rumor to its source and investigate the source.

The “scandal” that’s all the rage today swirls around allegations that Sarah Palin’s youngest child, an infant with Downe syndrome, is not her own child but the child of her 17-year-old daughter, and the spectacle of much handwringing about the news that Palin’s daughter is pregnant now and will soon marry the father.

Who’s behind the effort to bring this to national attention? The advertised culprit is Andrew Sullivan, of TheAtlantic.com, a leftist blogger and adoring fan of Obama, who seems to have proven that he can be truly unscrupulous if it will help the liberal cause. Norman Podhoretz explains what is worse than despicable about Sullivan’s behaviour here and here. This criticism extends to Sullivan’s channelers throughout the blogosphere.

2. Listen carefully to the tone of the blogger.

Is the blogger being sarcastic? Does the blogger rely on sarcasm to make the “argument”? Is it plausible to suppose that the blogger is being objective? That the blogger is willing to give the candidate the benefit of the doubt? That the blogger is sincere about relying on bullet-proof evidence when evaluating the candidate’s character and motives?

Does the blogger consider counter-evidence or counterarguments? Are these treated fairly?

Does it sound like the blogger is preaching to the converted? If so, then she probably is.

A muckraker is someone seeks out and publishes alleged scandals in an underhanded way. The writer at Mudflats calls herself “AKMuckraker.” Enough said?

3. Step back and remember what governing this country is about.

Don’t lose sight of the issues. This goes to the question, How relevant is the rumor, even if true? What aspect of prudent national leadership is threatened? Make a list the most important foreign and domestic policy issues facing this country. Then ask, How will the candidate who’s been smeared address those issues? Does the candidate act consistently with his or her declared principles?

4. Don’t expect the candidate to answer every scandalous charge of scandal with counter-evidence.

Putting an opponent on the defensive by making frivolous charges is one of the oldest tricks in the book. If Sullivan or someone else broadcasts an allegation, forbear not to believe it, or even to give it another thought, unless and until the sponsor of the claim presents compelling evidence. That is his or her responsibility, if a case can be made.

No one should be distracted by, and still less should one believe, a baseless allegation made by a scurrilous troublemaker who is ultimately indifferent about truth.

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Bottom Line: It’s time to shut the Rumor-Gate and get down to the business of sorting out the kind of national leadership, in both foreign and domestic policy areas, that is really needed. Maybe the concentration of muckraking in one party gives us a clue.

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