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As the Anchorage Daily News wrote in a blistering op-ed over the weekend: "Is it too much to ask that Alaska's governor speak for herself, directly to Alaskans, about her actions as Alaska's governor?" One longtime observer a Palin fan who says she's done "brilliant" things in the state worried aloud to me over coffee in downtown Anchorage that allowing the McCain campaign to antagonize both parties in the legislature on Palin's behalf could even lead to her eventual impeachment, if her bid to become Vice President fails and she returns to the state with a little less political luster.
That seems far-fetched, but the whole affair is a rarity in Palin's charmed career: a political miscalculation. To many observers, the underlying accusations in Troopergate are not all that damning. Many Alaskans have sympathy for the anxiety and frustration the Palins felt over Wooten's continued employment. In Anchorage, I've heard time and again that Palin could have avoided further scrutiny with a single convivial mea culpa at the outset, apologizing in particular for her initial inaccurate denial that anyone in her administration, including herself, had contacted Monegan about Wooten. Stapleton says the firing was a personnel matter that the state attorney general advised Palin not to comment on initially. But still, Alaskans say that if Palin had ignored that advice and spoken openly to the public, she could have defanged any investigation and signaled to Alaskans that even as the vice-presidential nominee, she would still be the same supposedly straight-talking Sarah they had voted for overwhelmingly.
But almost every move she has made related to Troopergate since she was named McCain's running mate has damaged her credibility and standing. Most recently the shifting public explanations for why Monegan was fired have looked shaky at one point, it was that they didn't share the same general law enforcement priorities, at another it was that he hadn't done enough to crack down on rural bootlegging, and most recently it was for his unauthorized travel to Washington to lobby for federal dollars. After many Democrats complained that the McCain campaign appeared to be trying to run out the clock on the investigation, the campaign's announcement that Palin would work with the personnel board is designed to blunt such criticism and show voters nationwide a renewed openness in the case. But it's unclear whether the board will actually reach any findings before the Nov. 4 election.
Even in iconoclastic Alaska, there are rabid Democrats and rabid Republicans who now view Troopergate only through the lens of national politics. But far more people, on both sides, see this as a more nuanced situation, and one that may end up costing Palin more here than it ever should have.