If Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska and John McCain’s new running mate, were a private citizen, her campaign against her brother-in-law Michael Wooten would be sympathetic, if not quite admirable. Wooten took a new girlfriend in the winter of 2005, and his divorce from Palin’s sister, Molly McCann, and custody battle with her seem to have been bitter. Palin has written that she believes that Wooten assaulted McCann and threatened to kill Chuck Heath, who is Palin and McCann’s father.
These charges have not been substantiated [UPDATE, Sept. 3: In fact, longtime Palin foe Andrew Halcro claims that when Wooten went to court to challenge a restraining order against him, Molly McCann “testified that Wooten never hit her or never physically abused her or ever touched the children”.], but some of Palin’s other charges against Wooten have been, and he hardly sounds like a model citizen. He has admitted to using his Taser on his ten-year-old stepson, for example. In his defense he claims that the stepson asked him to, because he wanted to know what it felt like. A child’s request is no extenuation; the act is appalling. And there is evidence suggesting that Wooten drove a state vehicle while drinking out of an open can of beer. Many people might feel that if it were their sister getting a divorce from Wooten, they would be tempted to be a little casual with the truth in their haste to protect their sister and to force Wooten out of a job that provided him with social authority and firearms.
Palin is not a private citizen, however. For someone who might soon be a heartbeat away from the presidency, the standard is higher. A person of presidential caliber is not supposed to take an expedient view of the truth, however personal and intense her motive. I joked in yesterday’s post about the Great Moose Carcass Controversy, but there are real issues of character and judgment involved in Palin’s pursuit of her brother-in-law.
In the moose-hunting incident I described yesterday, there is something a little odd about Palin’s knowing in 2003 that her brother-in-law shot a moose in technical violation of the law (Wooten didn’t have a permit, though his wife, Palin’s sister, who was standing beside him at the time, did), her overlooking that fact for two years, and then her recalling it after his marriage to her sister had broken down. When you factor in that Palin’s father helped carve up the moose and that Wooten may have shared the moose meat with Palin herself, the delay in reporting looks even dodgier.
Consider another of Palin’s charges. In an email to Colonel Julia Grimes of the Alaska State Troopers, dated 10 August 2005, Palin accused Wooten of bragging about “a wolf hunt where he illegally chased down the animal with his snowmachine to kill it unfairly.” After an extensive investigation of this and other charges, Sergeant Ronald Wall wrote in his Memorandum of Findings, dated 29 October 2005, that the charge was “Not Sustained.” Here’s Wall’s report:
During the investigation it was also alleged that Investigator Wooten had illegally chased a wolf down with a snowmobile and killed the animal. Chuck Heath was interviewed and acknowledged that he witnessed the event. Heath advised that Investigator Wooten had been wolf hunting in an area off the Denali highway with him. Heath stated that he shot a wolf and wounded it and the animal ran. Heath stated that Investigator Wooten pursued the animal with his snowmobile and shot it several times. Investigator Wooten acknowledged that he did chase the animal with his snowmobile and that he shot the animal. Investigator Wooten stated that he did not shoot the wolf while riding the snowmobile. After I spoke with Lieutenant Waldron, of the Wildlife Investigations Unit, I learned that the Butte Lake area, where Heath and Investigator Wooten were, is a predator control area and wolves may be legally shot from aircraft and motorized vehicles.
Aside from the fact that it was legal for Wooten to shoot the wolf from the snowmobile, if in fact that’s what he did, there is the complication that the witness to the alleged but nonexistent crime was Heath, Wooten’s father-in-law and Palin’s father. If the family sincerely felt that this wolf shooting represented an instance of outlawry by Wooten, how do they explain that Palin’s father was the one who shot the wolf first? Did it occur to Palin that she might here be incriminating her father?
And, as with the moose-shooting incident, why the delay in reporting? If you witness a crime but fail to report it until later, when the supposed criminal has antagonized you for other, unrelated reasons, it is fair for others to infer that your decision to report it isn’t motivated by a concern for justice. It’s motivated by something else, something akin to revenge or blackmail.
And here’s yet another upsetting episode. In his analysis of charges that Wooten physically abused McCann—charges that Sergeant Wall deemed “Not Sustained”—Wall wrote this:
It should also be noted that Sarah Palin stated that she listened to Investigator Wooten and McCann argue over an open telephone line with her son, Track, for Molly’s safety. Track, however, states that they listened solely for the purpose of maybe hearing Investigator Wooten acknowledge that he was having extramarital affair.
That’s not a pretty picture: a future vice presidential nominee eavesdropping on her sister’s conversation with her husband, in hopes of hearing an admission of adultery. Not only that, a future vice presidential nominee recruiting her son to help her eavesdrop for an admission of adultery by her brother-in-law. In 2005, Track would have been sixteen years old.