One of the most interesting things about living in Alaska is that you get a true appreciation of how large and how small it is – large geographically, and small socially. The fact that there are so few people means that it’s almost impossible to spend a day doing errands without running in to someone you know, it’s common to find out that two of your unrelated friends actually know each other, and that engaged citizens can really affect positive change in the political process. Another consequence of this “smallness factor” is that those who hold public office, and do a good job, become very well respected in the community. Everyone knows who they are, and when they have something to say, people listen.
People generally respect one another here. You learn quickly that you’d better treat people well or it might come back to haunt you. The guy you just told off will undoubtedly end up being your kid’s soccer coach, or the guy who pulls over to help you change a tire when it’s 20 below zero. The woman that just made you land on the horn in traffic is undoubtedly going to be standing next to you in line wherever you’re going, or will be serving you your lunch.
This is why Alaskans, regardless of their political affiliation, watched in horror as Megan Stapleton (former local newscaster turned Palin spokeswoman) and attorney Ed O’Callaghan (an ‘outsider’ hired by the McCain campaign) started giving press conferences, calling themselves the “Truth Squad”. The Truth Squad’s purpose it seemed, was to sully the reputation of former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan. According to the independent investigator hired by the Alaska State Legislature, Palin abused her power in his firing. She wanted Monegan to fire her ex-brother in law, an Alaska State Trooper who she felt had wronged her family. Monegan couldn’t legally act, because the matter was already closed. Palin fired him anyway.
It was either going to play out in the media that Palin abused her power, or that Monegan deserved it. So the Truth Squad got to work, and they broke the cardinal rule in Alaska – treat people well. Monegan is well-loved, and respected across the board. So, for Palin’s story to stick, the McCain-Palin campaign had to make this look like Monegan’s problem. Enter the Truth Squad. According to them, Monegan had a “rogue mentality”, and he committed acts of “outright insubordination”. Try to get a job in law enforcement if the Governor of the state has called you an “insubordinate rogue”.
So, when Representative Les Gara, in an epic piece of video footage, demanded that Meg Stapleton (former news anchor turned Palin spokeswoman) apologize to Walt Monegan, and the other Legislators that had gotten smeared by the “Truth Squad”, he wasn’t kidding. This wasn’t some quaint, old-fashioned request, nor was it just a PR stunt. He really did think she owed them an apology. So did a lot of other Alaskans.
Now, two other prominent Alaska lawmakers have joined in the formal request for an apology. Gail Phillips, former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chancy Croft, former Democratic President of the State Senate released a press release yesterday, that has already received wide coverage in the state, on radio and in today’s Anchorage Daily News. This is one more thing that will be waiting on Governor Palin’s desk when she gets home. It’s a good letter, and it sums up eloquently what many Alaskans feel. Here it is reprinted, by permission, in its entirety:
October 28, 2008
Dear Senator McCain:
We are writing because we believe an apology is owed from your campaign to Alaskans and our former Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan. As former legislative leaders of both major political parties in Alaska, we haven’t always agreed upon political issues. However, we adamantly agree that Mr. Monegan, who is well respected in Alaska by people of all party affiliations, is owed an apology. The attacks against Commissioner Monegan for his role in administering a personnel issue, now known statewide as “Troopergate”, were unwarranted and wrong. Mr. Monegan is a former U.S. Marine, a front-line police officer, was Chief of Police in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, served as our State’s Commissioner of Public Safety and served both Republicans and Democrats with professionalism and honor.
This summer Governor Palin fired Mr. Monegan as Commissioner, which was within her purview. However, in July, the Legislature, through unanimous action by the bi-partisan Legislative Council, voted to investigate Commissioner Monegan’s termination and whether his refusal to fire Trooper Wooten played a role in his termination. The investigation had nothing to do with your campaign.
After Governor Palin was named as your running mate, your campaign stepped into the fray. In an effort to discredit and stop the bi-partisan legislative investigation into whether or not Governor Palin acted improperly in seeking the termination of her former brother-in-law, Trooper Wooten, your campaign engaged in a near-daily course of personal attacks against Mr. Monegan and members of the legislature. It’s obvious to many of us that you probably were not aware of these attacks by your campaign committee; however, since the final responsibility is yours, we feel Mr. Monegan is owed an apology from you.
In an effort to halt the bi-partisan investigation, your campaign staff tried to vilify Commissioner Monegan. Before Governor Palin was selected to your presidential ticket, she had agreed to the investigation; she publicly said it was justified and that she and her staff would cooperate with the investigation. She stated to the press that the public had a right to be concerned whether or not her administration may have placed improper pressure on the State Department of Public Safety to fire her former brother-in-law.
Following Governor Palin’s selection as your running mate, your campaign sent staff to Alaska to try to stop the investigation that Governor Palin had previously agreed to. Your campaign staff accused the legislative action as partisan in spite of the fact that the unanimous vote of the Legislative Council was bi-partisan.
Your campaign accused Mr. Monegan of being a “rogue”, of being insubordinate and other defamatory statements. To justify your involvement in this Alaskan issue and the Governor’s termination of Commissioner Monegan, your campaign continually changed the excuses for his termination. The various and changing excuses given by your campaign speaks clearly to the lack of credibility in its involvement.
Despite your campaign’s efforts to stop the investigation in court, and by public pressure, the investigation was recently completed. On October 10th the investigative report was released and the independent investigator, Steve Branchflower, concluded that the Governor had violated the State’s Executive Ethics statute by pressuring for the termination of Mr. Wooten from his position as an Alaskan State Trooper. The investigation also found that one of the probable reasons Commissioner Monegan was terminated was his refusal to fire the Governor’s former brother-in-law.
We acknowledge the authority the Governor has for terminating Commissioners; however, your campaign’s interference into this State matter and attempts to discredit Commissioner Monegan for campaign purposes is very troubling. Both the vilification of Mr. Monegan and the attempts by your campaign to stop the investigation were wrong.
We respectfully request an apology from your campaign to Mr. Monegan. He is a good man who has put his life on the line for Alaskans many times and he deserves better treatment from you and your campaign. Not only have the personal attacks from your campaign deeply affected and hurt the Monegan family, but also the people of Alaska who care and respect Mr. Monegan.
Former Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives
Former President of the Alaska State Senate
Alaskans for Truth, the organizers of the huge rally in downtown Anchorage last month, and the organizers of the petition demanding the resignation of the Attorney General Talis Colberg for his botched handling of the Troopergate investigation, has issued a call to action.
They ask that any and all people, from inside or outside the state, who agree with the above letter, and are disgusted by the treatment of this decent, hard-working man who has served his country and his state with honor, please send a postcard to the McCain campaign adding your name to those respectfully demanding an apology for their behavior. Then, let Alaskans for Truth know you did (firstname.lastname@example.org). It’s a small act, but it may help to restore something important that was taken from a good man.
Postcards can be sent to:
Honorable Senator John McCain
John McCain 2008
P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215