If Ethics-Charge Costs Caused Sarah Palin to Step Down, Did the Vultures Win?

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Man, she was so well dressed before all those politics of personal destruction. Photo: Getty Images

In Friday's press conference announcing that she'd step down as governor a year before her term ended, Sarah Palin made a point to mention the ethics charges that bogged her down in office. Fifteen probes took up her time, her money (she's $500,000 in the hole in legal fees), and $2 million in taxpayer resources. "We've won!" she crowed, going on to lament the cost of her victories. "That's money not going to fund teachers or troopers — or safer roads. And this political absurdity, the 'politics of personal destruction' ... It's pretty insane — my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with this instead of progressing our state now." It's a fair point — some of the ethics charges were dubious at best (our favorite is the "job interference" claim filed by "Edna Birch," who is not a resident of Alaska but in fact "a busybody character on the British soap opera Emmerdale"). The AP has a comprehensive list of the charges, and they really run the gamut. All but one of them — ironically, a charge that she inappropriately sought gains in order to pay her legal bills — have been dismissed.

Palin listed a number of explanations for why she decided to quit. But her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, told Fox News yesterday that the time and expense of the ethics charges was the most compelling reason he could detect. The charges have clearly been on Palin's mind. She's never been one to let attacks roll off her back. From the start of her vice-presidential campaign, she directed staffers to devote time and energy to quashing untrue or extraneous blog rumors. This weekend, she directed her lawyers to preemptively block stories about a federal investigation that wasn't even happening. And frequently in between, she's peppered the "mainstream media elite" and "liberal blogosphere" and those old "politics of personal destruction."

For the past three days, the Internet has been awash with theories of why Palin has stepped down, and in all likelihood the real reason is a combination of many things. Whether you like it or not, of course it would be miserable to be Alaska governor Sarah Palin, constantly exposed to scrutiny and attacks of the legitimate and illegitimate sorts. But if those ethics charges were really a key element to her stepping down, what's the takeaway? That the very politics of personal destruction she has so often railed against are, in fact, a very effective way of toppling your enemies? That making up unprovable accusations is a quick, inexpensive, and easy way to push aside a politician you don't like? Forget 2012 — that's just a bad lesson for us all.

Ethics complaints filed against Palin [Anchorage Daily News]