Sarah Palin is a conservative living in Alaska, and I am a progressive living in Alabama. It might seem that we are worlds apart.
But after reading numerous articles about Palin, the Alaska governor who is John McCain's choice as a running mate, I kept thinking, "I feel like I know this woman from somewhere."
How could that be? I think it's because Palin is cut from conservative central casting. And anyone who has come face to face with Republican-driven corruption, as I have, will recognize certain disturbing traits in Palin's up-from-obscurity story.
From Barrow to Boca Raton, from Walla Walla to Wedowee, corrupt conservative minds tend to think alike. When confronted with someone they perceive as a threat or an irritant, they rely on certain strategies. And one of the old chestnuts from the conservative playbook is to mess with someone's livelihood.
If the target is a "big fish"--say a Democrat who keeps winning elections in a Southern state (see Siegelman, D.) or a wealthy attorney who provides financial support to Democratic candidates (see Minor, P.)--this might take the form of a bogus criminal prosecution. It's hard to win or fund political campaigns from federal prison.
But if the target is a "smaller fish"--say a troublesome blogger in Alabama or a state trooper in Alaska--this takes the form of a stealth campaign against a person's job.
I know all about this tactic. Roughly five months after starting Legal Schnauzer, after the blog had been cited by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and been referenced by Scott Horton of Harper's magazine, my work life at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) took a dramatic change--for the worse.
I was winding up my 19th year as a UAB employee, so it was pretty well established that I knew how to do my job, follow university policy, and conduct myself according to UAB standards. I had known my supervisor, Pam Powell, for almost the entire 19 years at UAB and had worked directly under her for 12 years, so it was pretty well established that I knew how to get along with her and perform my job to her satisfaction.
But in a roughly five-month period that started in December 2007, I suddenly couldn't do the simplest things right. I couldn't fill out a vacation request properly. I couldn't keep job notes properly. I couldn't keep daily electronic time sheets properly. And university clients who had never complained to me about my performance--in fact, clients who had highly praised my work--suddenly were inundating Pam Powell with complaints.
Because I had written proof that a particular client was, in fact, very pleased with my work--in other words, I had proof that Pam Powell was lying about client complaints--I stood up for myself. First, I sent an e-mail to Powell, including a written document that refuted her claims of client unhappiness. I later would discover that five days after I sent this e-mail, Powell instigated an "investigation" of my computer usage at work.
Can we say "retaliation?"
But UAB was just warming up its retaliatory act. When I filed a formal grievance against Powell, which UAB policy says an employee can do without fear of penalty or reprisal, I was placed on administrative leave roughly two weeks later--and then fired on May 19.
Don't know about you, but I would call that a pretty stiff penalty.
Since leaving UAB, I've unearthed substantial evidence that suggests people connected to the Alabama Republican Party took steps to get me fired. Specifically, U.S. Attorney Alice Martin appears to have played a prominent role in an effort to pressure UAB into giving me the heave-ho. We will be presenting this evidence in the coming days and weeks at Legal Schnauzer.
For now, let's say the stories about Sarah Palin's "Troopergate" problems in Alaska have a familiar vibe. Not surprisingly, Palin appears to be a favorite of the Karl Rove Machine that runs the Republican Party--very much the way Martin is seen in Alabama.
Palin's ethical woes stem from her administration's efforts to get Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten fired. Wooten had been married to Palin's sister and was engaged in an ugly child-custody battle.
Palin fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, and several days later, Monegan said he had been pressured to fire Wooten
The governor first said no one from her staff had pressured Monegan to fire Wooten. But evidence then revealed that Monegan had received heavy pressure to get rid of the governor's former brother-in-law.
(By the way, Walt Monegan is a new hero of mine. I didn't know supervisors with spines still existed. I certainly haven't seen any around UAB recently.)
The Washington Post presents a compelling overview of the trooper story and shows how the Palin family, and their associates, were deeply engaged in trying to get Wooten fired--even though appropriate disciplinary action already had been taken against him.
So what have we learned about Sarah Palin in the past four or five days:
* When she feels threatened by someone (rightly or wrongly), she tries to cost that person their job;
* When she can't get that person fired, she fires their supervisor;
* She lies about her motives and the actions of those close to her;
* She abuses her public position, and wastes public resources, in an effort to extract personal revenge.
Sarah Palin might be a woman of the Great White North, but she would be an ideal fit in Karl Rove's Deep South.