Did Governor Sarah Palin abuse the power of her office in trying to get her former brother-in-law, State Trooper Mike Wooten, fired? Yes.
Was the refusal to fire Mike Wooten the reason Palin fired Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan? Not exclusively, and it was within her rights as the states' chief executive to fire him for just about any reason, even without cause.
Those answers were expected, given that most of the best pieces of evidence have been part of the public record for months. The result is not a mortal wound to Palin, nor does it put her at much risk of being forced to leave the ticket her presence succeeded in energizing.
But the Branchflower report still makes for good reading, if only because it convincingly answers a question nobody had even thought to ask: Is the Palin administration shockingly amateurish? Yes, it is. Disturbingly so.
The 263 pages of the report show a co-ordinated application of pressure on Monegan so transparent and ham-handed that it was almost certain to end in public embarrassment for the governor.
Monegan consistently emerges as the adult in these conversations, while the Palin camp displays a childish impetuousness and sense of entitlement.
Some weeks ago, the McCain team devised a plan to have Palin file an ethics complaint against herself with the State Personnel Board, arguing that it alone was capable of conducting a fair, nonpartisan inquiry into whether she fired Monegan because he refused to fire Wooten, who had been involved in a messy custody battle with her sister. Some Democrats ridiculed the move, noting that the personnel board answered to Palin. But the board ended up hiring an aggressive Anchorage trial lawyer, Timothy Petumenos, as an independent counsel. McCain aides were chagrined to discover that Petumenos was a Democrat who had contributed to Palin's 2006 opponent for governor, Tony Knowles. Palin is now scheduled to be questioned next week, and the counsel's report could be released soon after. "We took a gamble when we went to the personnel board," said a McCain aide who asked not to be identified discussing strategy. While the McCain camp still insists Palin "has nothing to hide," it acknowledges a critical finding by Petumenos would be even harder to dismiss.
As the lead federal prosecutor of the Weathermen in the 1970s (I was then chief of the criminal division in the Eastern District of Michigan and took over the Weathermen prosecution in 1972), I am amazed and outraged that Senator Barack Obama is being linked to William Ayers's terrorist activities 40 years ago when Mr. Obama was, as he has noted, just a child.
Although I dearly wanted to obtain convictions against all the Weathermen, including Bill Ayers, I am very pleased to learn that he has become a responsible citizen.
Because Senator Obama recently served on a board of a charitable organization with Mr. Ayers cannot possibly link the senator to acts perpetrated by Mr. Ayers so many years ago.