McCain VP Pick Has History of Clashes
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Editor, The Konformist
McCain VP Pick Has History of Clashes
By Jason Leopold
August 30, 2008
The political career of Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's vice
presidential pick, has been marked by conflicts, score-settling and
her own claim that she faces "enemies powerful enemies."
But the 44-year-old first-term Alaska governor is a favorite of
right-wing Christian groups and was hailed Friday by one
organization as "a true Christian" who is "pro-life and pro-
marriage." She also has favored the teaching of creationism in
After the surprise announcement Friday, the McCain campaign tried to
frame Palin as a reformer who has taken on corruption in Alaska.
However, an examination of her career as a small-town mayor and
inexperienced governor reveals an official prone to petty squabbles
and personal retaliation.
In 1996, after winning the election to be mayor of Wasilla, then a
town with a population of 5,000, Palin sought to oust six department
heads because they had signed a letter supporting the previous
mayor, their old boss.
Palin ultimately fired two of them, the police chief and the museum
director, and pushed two others into quitting.
In 1997, some residents considered her actions so high-handed that
they tried to initiate a recall election.
"Four months of turmoil have followed in which almost every move by
Palin has been questioned," the Associated Press reported in a Feb.
11, 1997 dispatch. "Critics argue the [Palin] decisions are
Wasilla's ousted police chief, Irl Stambaugh, sued Palin that year
for alleged contract violation, wrongful termination and gender
discrimination The police chief claimed Palin fired him not for
cause but for being disloyal and because he was a man whose size 6
feet and 200 pounds intimidated her.
However, the recall election never got off the ground, and a federal
judge rejected Stambaugh's lawsuit.
Now, as Alaska's governor, Palin is under investigation for
allegedly ousting Alaska public safety commissioner Walt Monegan
because he refused to fire a state trooper entangled in a divorce
and custody battle with Palin's sister.
That probe also is examining whether Palin's extended family,
including her husband, and members of her staff tried to pressure
Monegan to fire state trooper Mike Wooten because of the divorce.
Monegan told the Anchorage Daily News that the governor's husband,
Todd Palin, showed him the work of a private investigator, who had
been hired by the family to dig into Wooten's life and who was
accusing the trooper of various misdeeds, such as drunk driving and
In early August 2008, the state legislature agreed to investigate
the circumstances surrounding Gov. Palin's firing of Monegan. She
initially welcomed the probe and denied that she had put pressure on
Later, however, Palin acknowledged that there had been more than two
dozen inquiries from her staff to the public safety department
regarding trooper Wooten, though Palin still insisted she had no
role in them.
Gov. Palin also released an audio recording of her director of state
boards and commissions, Frank Bailey, pressing police Lt. Rodney
Dial in February 2008 about why no action had been taken against
Besides the prospect of more embarrassing disclosures about Palin's
thin government record, McCain's VP choice also undercuts his
campaign's theme that Barack Obama lacks the foreign-policy
experience to be Commander in Chief, since Palin is a virtual
unknown on the international stage.
However, as the first woman on a Republican national ticket, she
potentially appeals to angry Hillary Clinton supporters and to so-
called values voters who pushed McCain to choose a running mate who
is against abortion and gay marriage.
"John McCain is to be commended on his choice of Sarah Palin, a true
Christian for Vice President," said Dr. Gary Cass, Chairman and CEO
of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.
"Palin, an evangelical who is pro-life and pro-marriage, meets all
the criterion that CADC set forth for a VP pick. Unfortunately,
Obama chose Joe Biden, a liberal Catholic, who is not in compliance
with Christian moral teaching on abortion or homosexuality."
Cass was particularly relieved that McCain did not tap former
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, or Sen. Joe Lieberman, a
"Will [McCain] pick a pro-choice Republican or perhaps a moderate
Mormon or a liberal Jew?" Cass said in an earlier statement of
concern that was echoed by other conservative Christian
"Unless McCain picks a true Christian for Vice President, real
conservative Christians are being disenfranchised from this
presidential election," Cass warned. "Obama missed a great chance to
reach out to Christians. Now we will see if McCain will let
conservative Christians have someone we can vote for, not just vote
On Friday, other conservative Christian groups also celebrated
"The country now has a clear choice," said Darla St. Martin, Co-
Executive Director of the National Right to Life Committee, "between
an avowed pro-abortion ticket that would continue to push for
unrestricted abortion on demand, and a strongly pro-life ticket that
will bring us closer to a society that embraces the value and
dignity of human life."
Palin is staunchly opposed to both same-sex marriage and granting
benefits to same-sex partners. When a state court ruled last year
that civil unions are to be permitted for same-sex couples, Palin
balked, and called for the state constitution to be amended to in an
attempt to upend the ruling.
She also has favored the teaching of creationism in schools along
with evolution. "Teach both," Palin said in 2006. "Healthy debate is
so important and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent
of teaching both."
Still, many political observers wondered if Palin's limited and
checkered career as an official in a lightly populated state like
Alaska might prove to be a liability for McCain.
Following her two terms as mayor of Wasilla, Palin made an
unsuccessful bid for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination
Then, as chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation
Commission, she fell into a public spat with fellow commissioner
Randy Ruedrich, the state's GOP chairman.
In 2003, she reported Ruedrich to Gov. Frank Murkowski's
administration, saying she suspected him of an ethics breach in
conducting work for the state GOP on government time.
To obtain evidence of Ruedrich's alleged malfeasance, Palin hacked
into his computer, an ethical lapse in its own right. She resigned
from the commission in January 2004.
But Palin's ethics complaint against Ruedrich gave her a reputation
as an anti-establishment reformer at a time when the Alaskan
Republican hierarchy was coming under scrutiny for corruption.
For two years, she stayed out of politics, acquiring a business
license for a marketing and consulting company named Rogue Cou, "a
classy way of saying redneck," Palin told the Anchorage Daily News
in a June 2005 interview.
Palin also faced questions about hypocrisy in the vendetta that she
waged against Ruedrich when it turned out that, as mayor of Wasilla,
she had used her office computer for political purposes.
"We wondered how her using a city computer to run for lieutenant
governor in 2002 was different than Republican Party chief Randy
Ruedrich using Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission computers
for party business, for which he was fined and resigned under
pressure. She said it was different," the Anchorage Daily News wrote
in a July 14, 2006, editorial.
"In a release [Palin] fired off to everyone she could think of after
the questions, she huffed about a `smear' campaign organized by
her `enemies -- powerful enemies.' Later, there were references on
various radio talk shows to whispering campaigns and other
craziness, but we wrote that off as the vapors and a touch of
The editorial continued: "She characterized as `innocuous' her
political e-mails sent on a city computer to the Alaska Outdoor
Council and another complaining about the Right to Life folks not
choosing her as their candidate in the 2002 race.
"That was bad enough, indicating she just does not get it, but then
she had this to say: `We've had lots of people come forward with
dirt on (gubernatorial candidate John) Binkley . . . as well as dirt
on (Gov. Frank) Murkowski. We've told them to bury it. I'm not
running that type of campaign.'
"Apparently, that is exactly the kind of vicious campaign the former
two-term Wasilla mayor is running. In our view, that kind of
backdoor character assassination is the most scurrilous type of
attack." the Anchorage Daily News wrote. "Oh, I have dirt, Palin
says smugly, yes, indeedy; but I'll not give the details because
that would be wrong. She is right. It is very wrong. It is very much
the hallmark of lightweight politicians in over their heads."
Now, however, John McCain has proposed putting Palin in a position
within a proverbial heartbeat of the presidency.
Jason Leopold has launched a new Web site, The Public Record, at