Alaskans angered that Palin is off-limits; The Sarah burns her bridges to nowhere behind her
Is this what Sarah Palin calls "open government"?
Now that the McCain-Palin campaign is handling all things Sarah, getting some "straight talk" out of Alaska is very difficult. All inquiries must go through the McCain campaign (to see if John McCain "approves this message"?). Hardly used to such treatment, many Alaskans say The Sarah is burning her bridges to nowhere behind her.
Alaskans angered that Palin is off-limits Email PictureAl Grillo / Associated PressANSWERS: McCain campaign staffers Meghan Stapleton and Edward O’Callaghan answer questions on the firing of Walt Monegan at an Anchorage news conference on Sept. 16. Queries are directed through the McCain campaign machine. Her political capital at home is eroding. By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 21, 2008 ANCHORAGE -- Jerry McCutcheon went to Sarah Palin's office here last week to request information about the firing of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, the scandal that for weeks has threatened to overshadow the governor's role as Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate.
McCutcheon was given a phone number in Virginia to call: the national headquarters of the McCain-Palin campaign.
Why, he wanted to know, did he have to call a campaign office 4,300 miles away to find out what was going on in Alaska government? The longtime civic activist phoned his local state representative, Les Gara, who quickly filed a protest.
These days, many such queries about Monegan -- or anything else involving Palin's record as governor -- get diverted to McCain staffers. A former Justice Department prosecutor from New York flew in recently to advise the governor's lawyer and field reporters' calls about Monegan. Soon after, Palin's willingness to cooperate in the Legislature's probe of the affair ended.
Ironically, as McCain's try to control her national image, The Sarah is taking a big hit at home.
"Why did the McCain campaign take over the governor's office?" the Anchorage Daily News demanded in an editorial Saturday. "Is it too much to ask that Alaska's governor speak for herself, directly to Alaskans, about her actions as Alaska's governor?"
The partisan spillover of the presidential campaign into the statehouse, political analysts here say, now threatens Palin's most powerful political capital in Alaska: her commitment to transparency, her willingness to forge bipartisan alliances with Democrats to advance her legislative agenda, and her battle to upend the good ol' boy network.
It's not just the governor's office, McCain-Palin have taken over The Sarah's Wasilla legacy as well.
In stubbornly independent Alaska, the sudden intrusion of a political campaign into so many corners of state government -- not to mention Wasilla, where a dozen or more campaign researchers and lawyers have also begun overseeing the release of any information about Palin's years as mayor -- has touched a raw nerve. McCain staffers have even been assigned to answer calls for Palin's family members, who have been instructed not to talk.
It's not just Democrats who are questioning whatever happened to The Sarah's promise of open government, transparency and reform. Many see her days as a "maverick" are over.
Democratic leaders, whom the Palin camp accuses of initiating rounds of partisan sniping, say the bipartisanship that helped Palin win passage of ethics measures, a new natural-gas pipeline and an increase in the oil production tax -- in most cases over the objections of her own Republican leadership -- is essentially over.
"She would have gotten none of her bills passed without us, and to see her come in and attack us now the way she's attacking us, when it's completely unwarranted, is just tearing people up," said Democratic state Sen. Bill Wielechowski. "I think it's going to make it hard for her to come back and govern in this state."
Even conservatives are expressing resentment over the governor's about-face on the Monegan investigation and the infiltration of state government by the McCain campaign.
"This Palin VP thing has Alaskans all stirred up. Much like Palin divided the Republican Party, she has managed to divide the state over her national candidacy," conservative talk-show host Dan Fagan complained in a commentary last week.
"My fellow conservatives, remember how frustrating it was when Bill Clinton committed perjury and liberals looked the other way. As conservatives, we are no better unless we demand full disclosure from our governor," he said. " . . . No politician is so popular and charismatic that they should be above accountability and telling the truth."
The standoff has ended any vestiges of bipartisan goodwill for Palin in Juneau, after just 21 months in office. "The level of money [the McCain campaign] sent up here to attack people is unprecedented in a small state like this. If [McCain] were truly a reformer, he'd end this nonsense and apologize to all the people he's attacked up here," said Rep. Gara, a Democrat.
"Troopergate" - the charge that Palin fired her public safety commissioner because he would not fire The Sarah's former brother-in-law - is central to Palins loss of popularity. Her flip flop on cooperating with the investigation and the McCain campaign's moves to delay the probe reflect badly on both McCain and The Sarah.
The biggest controversy came Tuesday, when the McCain-Palin campaign called a news conference to dispute the claim that Monegan was dismissed for refusing to fire the trooper.
Edward O'Callaghan, who until recently was co-chief of the terrorism and national security unit of the U.S. attorney's office in New York, and a former Palin spokeswoman now working for the national campaign, accused Monegan of a "rogue mentality" and "outright insubordination." They said he had flown to Washington, D.C., without Palin's approval to lobby for more police funding.
Democratic leaders, incensed that outsiders were attacking a respected former state official, produced a travel document Friday showing that in fact Monegan had a signed authorization from the governor's chief of staff before making what the Palin camp had called an "unauthorized" lobbying trip.
"I don't know why they're trying to paint this [legislative investigation] as a Democratic partisan attack," said state Sen. Wielechowski. "The thing I constantly remind people of is: Democrats didn't push this. You know who pushed it? It was the Republicans. This is the thing people conveniently forget now. There were no Democrats out there screaming for an investigation."
The House Judiciary Committee vote to endorse the issuance of the subpoenas included five Republicans and two Democrats.
Note: Exclusive ABC report questions Palin reason for firing public safety chief has more on the latest in "Troopergate".