Normally I like the Washington Examiner; it’s a great center-right paper and they feature some excellent columnists. I highly recommend it.
But, in an editorial saying Sarah Palin was right not to run, the editorial writer showed himself to be intellectually lazy and shallow:
As he bowed out of next year’s race, Christie said President Obama “has failed the leadership test.” Christie added: “Everything else you can be taught. You can’t be taught how to lead and how to make decisions.” The reality is that by resigning her post as governor of Alaska — citing as her reason an ethics law that she had championed — Palin failed the same leadership test as Obama. It does not matter how deeply unfair the press was toward her during the 2008 presidential cycle, when John McCain chose her as his running mate. By quitting the job she was elected to do, Palin essentially acknowledged her critics’ most essential contention — that she was not ready for higher office. Nothing she has done since then has changed this.
Oh, boy. Here we go. It’s the “quitter” argument, again, the favorite of people who look at one fact —“She quit!”— and then shut off their brains. They only look at it from a national perspective, not recognizing or acknowledging or perhaps even caring about differences between states and their laws.
To whomever wrote this editorial: it wasn’t the 2008 press coverage that made her quit. It was the campaign of unending and baseless ethics charges that were aimed at her political paralysis and financial ruin. As I wrote to a friend when we were discussing this yesterday:
The law in question was the Alaska ethics statute. Under it:
- All complaints and charges had to be investigated. There was no preliminary vetting.
- The accused had to pay for their own defense, no state resources. In other words, the state AG couldn’t lift a finger, unlike other states.
- All document requests had to be honored. Given the number of requests filed, this ate up an enormous amount of staff time and public money.
By the time she resigned, the Palins had accumulated $700k of legal debt at least on a combined salary of (roughly) $200k. Again, there would be no reimbursement from the state, nor anything paid by losing complainants. I think asking someone to continue as governor and take bankruptcy on the chin is a bit much. (Regarding some sort of a legal defense fund, they tried that, a predecessor to SarahPac, and it was challenged under the ethics law, too. The money was locked up. I donated to it and was eventually given a refund.)
The ethics law was well-intentioned but (as is so often the case) poorly designed and fraught with unintended consequences. Not surprisingly (as I understand it), it was changed under her successor.
So I ask the editorial’s author: How would it be passing a test of leadership to hang on to an office at the price of it being paralyzed by the complaints (thus being unable to do “the job she was elected to do”) and her family being bankrupted? Would you seriously call that leadership? Honestly?
Sure, the rest of the editorial is largely complimentary, but the heart is in the quoted paragraph. This editorial wasn’t even a backhanded compliment; it was a thinly-disguised patronizing slap to Sarah Palin’s face from a mouthpiece for the Beltway Establishment.
AFTERWORD: My understanding of the Alaska ethics law is based on several years hashing over this topic. My apologies for not having a link handy. If I’m wrong in my summary, I’ll gladly stand corrected if someone can cite the relevant text from the law as it existed during Palin’s administration.
RELATED: Stacy McCain has a good article on Palin’s decision at The American Spectator.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)