Sunday, July 20, 2008


I declared "honeymoon over!" this week. So have a lot of other Alaskans. At the Mat-Su Democrats Egan Dinner last Friday, standing around talking afterward, one could tell, listening to Valley progressives and moderates who had had high hopes for Palin, that this past week marked a turning point.

I've never been in Saradise, like some of my progressive and moderate friends, but, up until this week, my admiration for Governess Sarah Palin's ability to learn from experience outweighed my skepticism about her ability to escape the demands of her political base to the point where she could set long-term policy on a rational base.

The first inkling, from my point of view, was when her administration stonewalled University of Alaska Anchorage Professor Rick Steiner, in his efforts to obtain documents from the state regarding the issue of dealing with the status of Polar bears. My first really sad moment was listening to longtime friend, Attorney General Talis Colberg on APRN's Alaska News Nightly, defending the stonewalling, and my other friend, Rick Steiner calling Colberg's stance on this "bullshit!" Steiner was right. And I could sense that - underneath Colberg's dutiful statement - that Talis knew Rick was right.

I've been watching this remarkable woman since she was on the Wasilla Planning Commission. Her move from there to the Wasilla City Council was made with the strong encouragement of the Mayor of Wasilla at that time, John Stein, a Republican. When Palin decided to challenge Stein for the mayor's job, I had my first chance to watch her "base" at work. Their issues were that Stein had introduced a sales tax, and that Stein's wife, the late Karen Marie, had kept her maiden name after their marriage. That was it. And - she won.

At that time, Palin used a lot of the same terminology in her public speeches that Vic Kohring used - very Libertarian. And, she used a lot of fundamentalist-evangelical code words. Early in her first mayoral term, Palin and I both had responsibilities at the graduation ceremony of a group of home schoolers. I directed the music there, she gave the commencement speech. In her address, Palin spoke of how "government schools" (a Kohring-inspired code word) were never the answer, that God must be an integral part of everyone's education, and so on.

I spoke to her afterward, telling her that I hoped she would come to realize that home schooling and parochial or private schools couldn't possibly be everyone's answer. She eventually came to rely upon the "government school" system for her own growing family. And, she used the money that came from John Stein's evil Wasilla sales tax to fuel her growing stature as a politician. And she did appear to be able to learn from experience, unlike most conservative Republicans.

Palin has, up until now, been lucky. She used the model city administration John Stein built to catapult herself into the public eye. She used the too obvious sleaze of the slimy Randy Reudrich to launch her "ethical maverick" image. She ran on that image precisely when the beginnings of the FBI GOP corruption scandal started to bloom. And she became governor right when Alaska's oil wealth once again - after 20 years of mostly limping along - became a HUGE factor in state budgeting.

For me, after the Steiner matter, the main reason I kept respecting Palin to a high degree, was her ability to marginalize the major oil producers here in the negotiations on how to build the natural gas pipeline. The major producers don't want the gas pipeline. But we need it.

Now, though, with her interjection of Hatfield-McCoy-style feuds into the political dialogue, during one of the most important special session of our state's legislative history, I've got to ask myself, as others have this past week, "Who is going to start willfully leaving this administration, and when?"

My only prediction so far is my friend the Attorney General. He's going to be under a lot of pressure to appoint a "special investigator" for "Palingate." Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell has hopes of leaving soon. In my book, he should have resigned soon after he declared his candidacy in the GOP primary for the AK-AL U.S. House seat. He was one of the people behind the scenes in the moves last winter to keep State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux from raising campaign funds while performing the duties to which she had been elected. But Parnell has been doing just that. For months.

The only major politician in Alaska smiling really big smiles over this is Don Young. I'm sure he's thinking that it is pretty hard for Sean Parnell to ride somebody's coat-tails when the latter has her butt caught in the wringer.

image of Sarah Palin yesterday - by Dennis Zaki


Anonymous said...

Since this blogsite is titled "Progressive", I'm gonna assume you're a lib and a Dem, and HENCE OF COURSE YOU WANT A PALINGATE TO BRING SARAH DOWN.

I'd be surprised if it were ever otherwise. But don't fool readers that you were supporting Palin until now!!!

Philip Munger said...


I have no idea what you are talking about. I've been in agreement with most Alaska governors over one thing or another - with the exception of Palin's predecessor.

Two Republicans, Hammond and Hickel, are among my favorites. Three Democrats, Sheffield, Cowper and Knowles, are among my least favorite. The best, IMHO, was Bill Egan.

I'm not trying to "fool" readers.

Anonymous said...

You seem hatePhil, Phil. I often agree with you and even some of what you say, but does this make the guv an evil person or unfit to govern? You are as bad as the Republicans when they bash the other side.

You take great pictures but you found a bad one. Bravo. I think that for the most part Sarah is a beautiful person. Is she out of line in this? Yes. Unfit to govern? No. Her covering is just making it worse, but like the Palins, I do not think that Mike Wooten is someone who I want in uniform. She should have tested the water with Monegan, then dropped it and replaced him way later. Wooten surely would have screwed up again and she could have nailed him. Maybe that was what Kopp would have done later? I don't know.

Philip Munger said...


just because the honeymoon is over, doesn't mean those of us who have stated that this past week want Palin to go. Yet.

Anonymous said...

OK, sorry, but what's wrong with Sarah or Todd Palin discussing Trooper Wooten with Monegan if the Palins' had a genuine safety and security concern for Sarah and Palin family over Wooten.

Palins' would be more than negligent and remiss had they said nothing, and Wooten remained a real threat. After all, Wooten allegedly threatened to the Palins' to kill Sarah Palin's father and bring down the Palin family!

As Sarah Palin reiterated, she does not get involved in disciplinary and/or personnel matters of the Dept. of Public Safety. No Palin ever relayed Wooten be fired. They did, however, discreetly, appropriately and carefully express their safety and security concerns to Monegan.

To summarily dismiss the matter as a "Hatfield-McCoy" type scandal does an undeserved disservice to Governor Palin, the State of Alaska, and the USA (which now needs Palin on the McCain ticket to defeat Obama-style socialism and international retreat in America).

Anonymous said...

To Ted:

1. You're right, we don't that Palin fired Monegan because he refused to fire Wooten. Unfortunately, since Palin has not disclosed her reason for firing Monegan, we can only speculate as to her motives. Is it the Wooten thing? Is it a desire to starve the Public Safety Department of the resources it needs to protect the public? Who knows! Apparently her defenders think Palin owes the folks who elected her no explanation for why she fired Alaska's Public Safety Commissioner.

2. Anybody who thinks Barack Obama is a socialist either doesn't know what "socialist" means, doesn't understand Obama's positions, is paranoid, or most likely all three.

Philip Munger said...

thanks, funkalunatic!

Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin deserves the same critical eye as any politician, in ensuring that power is used for the good of the people. Phillip has earned his reputation of informed critical writing. Where I would take issue would be automatic condemnation or automatic approval of an idea or a policy, simply because Sarah Palin was the author. Extreme partisans have both practiced and attracted that kind of perversity, and it seems to be an earmark of Valley politics to this distant observer. The result, in Alaska, has been the apparent inability to get anything of importance done at all, due to the resulting oh-so-predictable polarization and gridlock. The word "progressive" includes the ability to get things done, and move forward on initiatives of importance to us all. In looking at the issues surrounding the firing of Walt Monegan I hope we resist the temptation to demonize the players, and fall right back into the old gridlock trap. After all, there are children involved, a mother's well-being at stake, and a father's livlihood at stake; real world impacts deeply affecting real people. I hope we explore these issues with care. Where there are children involved and issues of safety, families get understandably intense, particularly familes for whom the children are the center and focus of daily life. I say move very carefully in this area.

So far so good, Phillip. I read you advocating for a more balanced examination of Governor Palin. I hope and trust you will keep the "balanced" part.

Erick Cordero said...

She gave me that glare once at her office in Anchorage.

Great gathering today Phil!

Anonymous said...

Any reason you're calling Ms. Palin a Governess? Being cute? Being sexist? Implying all Alaskans are children?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Philip Munger said...

Jean - who is dennis. "Governess" is one of Sarah Palin's nicknames on the web. It started out as a term of endearment.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, thought Dennis had posted other than photo. Its getting late and I am off.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation.
I'm pretty new at reading local political blogs and I've been appreciating your clarity.

I promise I will keep my attempts at humor to myself in the future.

Anonymous said...

I think the Palins should give Wooten the benefit of the doubt! Who knows what her sister has said is true? She might have primed up the Palins against her ex-husband for reasons we do not know that are not true! Think about it folks! Blessings.

Anonymous said...

You know its kinda funny looking for a reason why she fired him, when she didn't need a reason, he serves at the governors discretion and nothing more, the job of Alaska's Public Safety Commissioner has always been that way its nothing new now... and maybe just maybe when she meet with him she wasn't impressed and maybe just maybe she heard from other sources he wasn't doing a great job and Maybe just Maybe he was doing a crappy job but then theres also the fact that he was out there crying "she wanted me to fire someone and i being a big man told her no way" Yeah i would have fired his stupid ass as well...

Besides all that even if she did ask him to fire him, is it illegal for her to ask? Nope... Un-ethical? well i ask you this have you ever worked with someone you couldn't stand drove you nuts did a crappy job and you just all around wished would go away? Did you ever say to the boss or other co-workers "i wish that person would go away" well then maybe we should open a investigation of you too?

But No Matter what the reason it doesn't matter she can fire him Any time she wanted for what ever reason she wanted... that's all there is to it, and crying in your milk about it is just stupid and shows how partisan all the people who are insisting on some big investigation really are... sure go ahead waste a ton of money be my guest... its not my money, oh wait it is!!!

Anonymous said...

Great pic!

(I hope she's saving for a face lift.)

Anonymous said...

Looks like, in the end, Sarah Palin comes out on top after all! Take a look at this, just in, from palinforvp:

"Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Pipeline passes State House as Monegan allegations implode!

This is a great night for Gov. Palin, the State of Alaska, and our movement! Gov. Palin's plan to build a natural gas pipeline was approved tonight by the State's House of Representatives, sending the plan to the Senate for final approval. If passed, the licensing of the TransCanada corporation to construct this pipeline will be the crowning achievement of the Palin administration.

Meanwhile, Gov. Palin has put out a press release containing information that devastates the allegations made by former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. For instance, did you know that Todd Palin was ordered to discuss Trooper Mike Wooten with Monegan by the head of the Governor's security detail? How about the fact that schedules disprove Monegan's claim that he only met with Palin four times in seventeen months? It turns out that they had over two-dozen meetings during that time, including several visits by Monegan to the Governor's home and joint trips to remote parts of Alaska. The circus looks to be drawing to a close, with Palin coming out squeaky clean!"

Philip Munger said...

Thanks for the update, Ted.

I applaud the AGIA vote in the state house. We'll see how the senate goes.

Monegan is not going to go away, and I'm beginning to doubt that Kopp can be confirmed, especially if women's advocacy groups begin to question the wisdom of his appointment.

Anonymous said...

In the ADN editoral today, it sounds like the trooper might not be such a great guy. An independent investigation should clear things up.
Nobody is perfect and we all have a skeleton or two in the closet.
Politics in Alaska is never dull.
And I agree with you on Bill Egan.

Anonymous said...

So, the governor has a problem with a Trooper who shot his kid with a Taser? Or a problem with a manager who made the determination that the Trooper who shot his kid with the Taser would not be prosecuted, or even disciplined, beyond the minimal “days off without pay”.

If you or I had shot our kid with a taser, even by “accident”, we would be in jail. We would probably come out of our Grand Jury hearing with an indictment for assault with a deadly weapon, assault in the first degree, and reckless endangerment for the sweetener. Any explanation at this point that it was a demonstration of the effectiveness of the Taser would be taken as an admission of guilt and would be reenacted at our trial. The Judge would probably set bail in the neighborhood of $100,000 cash only, with a third party custodian who had better be the Pope, or Walt Monegan.

We might be able to work a plea bargain with the DA for a lesser charge and they would probably drop the reckless endangerment charge, but would leave the assault with a deadly weapon intact and reduce the assault in the first degree to assault in the second degree, if we were very fortunate. To get a deal like this we would have to agree to waive a trial, plead guilty to the set of charges as specified and accept a sentencing deal that would incarcerate us for a number of years.

If we decided to go to trial, we would face a jury of unsympathetic people who want to get back to their lives as soon as possible, they are not inclined to listen to explanations that we might try to make that it was a “mistake” or that we shot the kid to show him what it feels like to be Tasered. The part where we told the Police that we were just trying to show the kid what it feels like to be tasered would be brought up to show that when confronted by the evidence, we confessed our guilt. If we discussed with the kid our motivation to show him what it felt like to be tasered, they would tell the jury that the telling demonstrated “…intent, no matter how brief”, which is the new legal standard. The District Attorney would tell them that any protestations we might make at the end of the trial that you were remorseful were self serving and insincere, and that they should not believe us. They would then go into a room and look at the clock until it was time to go home. Our guilt or innocence would be decided by vote or popularity contest, probably in the first 15 minutes of the “deliberations”, and the jury would be on their way home before 4:00 PM.

By the time we got out of jail, many years from now, we would have been ridiculed and vilified in the press, lost our career, reputation, and family, and have paid bales of money to the State of Alaska for fines, surcharges, costs and whatever. Not to mention the Court ordered and OCS enforced mandatory drug or alcohol treatment, parenting classes and personal counseling, if we ever wanted to be permitted to see our kids again. No mention would ever be made of custody. Then there would be costs associated with the hire of an Attorney and an Investigator for our defense. Our family would have gotten to see us on TV, hear about us from friends and neighbors at home and at school and would have been able to read about our life and our crime in the morning paper. If we were real unlucky we might even rate an Editorial from the Daily News, expounding on how guilty we were and recommending the maximum sentence.

And God help us if we ever owned a gun or looked at Porn on the computer.

Our family would probably never hear our side of the story, or if they did, would be told by the DA to not believe us and that cooperation with our defense would be at the peril of losing custody of the children.

I am sorry if it was this situation alone that caused the Governor to offer Chief Monegan a different post. He is a good man and an honest one. It isn’t possible to discern what drove the governors decision. But there are rules that apply to all who hold jobs like Chief Monegan’s, first and foremost; we serve at the pleasure of the governor. Second; avoid the appearance of impropriety. Third; Pay attention to the boss. Don’t assume that you can give her a bad answer or no answer when she has a “need to know”, and a demonstrated understanding of the facts.

I have a great deal of respect for the governor too. She seems honest, capable and forthright. I don’t believe that she would allow personal circumstances to cloud or influence her judgment . I think that she holds the truth in very high regard, and if she comes to believe that she is not being told all of the details, or if those details are at odds with information received from a source she trusts, she will take whatever steps she feels are necessary to redeem the situation. If she believed that the Trooper had committed an act that might otherwise be considered a crime (or a number of crimes), then, she has an obligation as the chief law enforcement officer in the state to investigate it or to direct her Commissioner of Public Safety to investigate it. If the story she heard back from the Commissioner was at odds with the story told by witnesses, she not only has the right to question it, she has a duty. It is the “reasonable man” theory, the measure that most of us try to use in our daily lives, and if what we hear from outside sources outrages the reasonable man and no answer is forthcoming nor is anyone held accountable, then answers must be sought. If she perceived a reluctance to proceed or an over-reliance on the Troopers investigation and findings, a closed mind or an inclination to treat a Trooper differently than any other citizen, then I think that the governor has to step to the next level, which in this case appears to be replacement.

Most of the time, when we hear of circumstances like this, we do not hear all of the facts. There is no way to comment, no way to involve ourselves in the justice process. And that is probably a good thing. However, when these kinds of issues come to light inside the family of an elected official, it becomes very difficult to ignore the facts. And if the facts of the Taser incident are true and the Trooper was disciplined by his command, the difference in scale between what a citizen would experience and what the Trooper did experience smacks of special handling, favoritism and to this eye corruption (with a small “c”). Most of us, as reasonable people, can agree that it would probably be extra risky to shoot our kid with a Taser, spray him down with pepper spray, or beat on him with a Monadnock or an ASP. We all agree that to do so, even in “fun”, or to show him what it felt like would probably go very badly and we would end up in the clink (see above).

Philip Munger said...

john neville,

Thank you for your thorough, thoughtful essay/comment. Some parts of it are brilliant.

Steve Aufrecht has looked at some of the same aspects of this dilemma - how to deal with the continuing complexities of her ex-brother-in-law once she became governor, at his blog, "What Do I know?" If you haven't read his post on the ethical issues she has been facing, you should.

Anonymous said...

Palins' would be more than negligent and remiss had they said nothing, and Wooten remained a real threat. After all, Wooten allegedly threatened to the Palins' to kill Sarah Palin's father and bring down the Palin family!