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Politics

Why Palin Matters -- And What McCain Must Do

Let's remember that this investigation was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote, that Palin supported it and agreed to cooperate -- right up until her nomination as vice president, when she abruptly reversed course. The investigator, a former Anchorage prosecutor, issued a 263-page report that detailed the actions that led him to his conclusions.

Not unexpectedly, the McCain-Palin campaign is dismissing the results of an investigation authorized by the Alaska legislature, an investigation that found Palin guilty of abusing her power, blaming Democrats in general and Obama supporters in particular for a political smear job. (You can be forgiven if you didn't know Obama controlled the Alaska legislature.) McCain-Palin aides insist it's a personnel matter that has no relevance on the campaign, but nothing can be further from the truth.

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However you feel about Sarah Palin, this is serious stuff.  Americans are rightly tired of leaders who think the laws of the land don't apply to them.

Let's remember that this investigation was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote, that Palin supported it and agreed to cooperate -- right up until her nomination as vice president, when she abruptly reversed course. The investigator, a former Anchorage prosecutor, issued a 263-page report that detailed the actions that led him to his conclusions. The report is troubling. It concludes that while Palin didn't break any laws, she did violate the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act by using her official power to pursue a personal vendetta against her former brother-in-law, a state trooper. That doesn't suggest either a reformer or the kind of person who ought to suddenly be given a lot more power -- not without some real answers and a better understanding of how she would use her office if elected.

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Any other candidate in this position would be out front at this point, holding a news conference to try to put all questions to rest. But Palin, having survived her one debate after flopping during a rare televised interview, is under wraps, pretty much allowed only to make prepared speeches or be interviewed by conservative talk show hosts guaranteed not to ask any tough questions.

John McCain made a blunder when he picked Palin to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. It was a choice driven by political calculations, not the needs of the country.  Even many conservatives who otherwise prefer McCain question Palin's qualifications. The irony is that the troopergate investigation was out there from the start and McCain should have known from the start what a problem it was. If he asked Palin about it and she was less than honest, that should be grounds for dumping her. If he didn't ask, well, what was he thinking?

The right thing to do would be to drop Palin, not just because of troopergate but because she has proven herself not ready in so many instances and in so many ways. But McCain can't drop her. The GOP base that loves her no matter what would never forgive him. And he can't afford another erratic move three weeks before the Election Day.

But he really ought to at least send her out for her first real news conference of the campaign and make her stay until she answers all the hard questions about her time in office that have been accumulating on this and other matters. It can only help. And besides, the American voters deserve it.

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