September 9, 2008, - 3:54 pm

On This Non-“Scandal”, Sarah Palin is (Mostly) Right

By Debbie Schlussel
As I’ve acknowledged, while some of the criticism of GOP Veep nominee Sarah Palin is fair, a good deal of it is unfair.
One of those is her firing of former Legislative Director John Bitney. When I read about it this morning in the Wall Street Journal, I had mixed feelings. But in total, Palin was absolutely justified in terminating him, even if it was not based on job performance.


Then-Legislative Director John Bitney & Gov. Sarah Palin

Palin fired because he was having an affair with a married friend of hers. Bitney, who was an early Palin supporter and key campaign aide, was hired as her Legislative Director. They’d known each other since junior high, and she heaped profuse public praise on his abilities and job performance in his job as a gubernatorial aide. But once he was getting a divorce, Palin found out that Bitney was having an affair with the wife of a couple with whom the Palins were close friends.
A governor has a right to fire anyone he or she wants at any time. That’s the prerogative of being governor. And a governor has to be able to work comfortably with his or her staff. And it might be hard to work with someone you know is cheating with your friend’s wife and breaking up his marriage.
What is, indeed, troubling about the situation is the trashing that’s now going on regarding Bitney’s performance by the Palin portion of the Palin-McCain camp. While Palin publicly gushed over Bitney’s job performance and fired him only because of his extramarital affair with her friend’s wife, her spokespeople are now saying that Bitney was fired for “poor job performance.” While the Palin team claims she’s being unfairly torn apart by the press, it seems her camp is now unfairly doing the same to a former employee.
Is that right? Only if you wanna win.
Frankly, if it were me, I’d say, “Mr. Bitney was an excellent Legislative Director. But given outside circumstances in his personal life, we decided to part our working relationship amicably.” Was there really a need to trash the guy’s ability? There’s nothing wrong with telling the truth about why she could no longer work with him.
Bottom line: Sarah Palin, as Governor of Alaska, is absolutely justified in firing staffers with whom she feels uncomfortable. Every other elected official does that in an attempt to get maximum performance. That’s not the scandal the Wall Street Journal claims.
But it would have been nice if she didn’t trash the guy’s reputation, one which she built.
One other thing: The Wall Street Journal article claims that

Allies of Republican presidential nominee John McCain like to point out that his running mate is the governor of the largest state in the union. But at times, Alaska seems more like a small town, run by folks with overlapping professional, political and personal ties that can be difficult to untangle.

But that’s an inaccuracy designed to make Palin look like a “Soap Opera figure atop a hick-state”. Most people, unfortunately, who work in state capitols and their political parties, are connected. And it’s as incestuous and dysfunctional at the seat of the Governor in Albany, New York, or Lansing, Michigan, or even Washington, DC, as it is in Alaska. People in politics hire their friends and relatives. That’s the way it is.
It’s called “the spoils of victory.”

11 Responses

Palin cant comment negatively on the Bitney affair due to the divorce rate and “spouse cheating” is so so common in the USA…besides her running mate cheated on his wife.

RadicalRightWinger on September 9, 2008 at 4:17 pm

No, it isn’t. What they should said is he did a good job but he had to be let go for reasons of state and we wish him well in his future. But politics isn’t about the truth, its about power and I highly recommend every one read the 15th century political thinker and Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli’s treatise on the subject. Politics and morality have nothing in common.

NormanF on September 9, 2008 at 5:00 pm

But the perspective is that maybe she handled it in a awkward matter but Obama is friends with all our enemies, and his dealings with Rezko and support of the Chicago machine are much worse than any of this.

c f on September 9, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Dittos to your comments, Debbie. She/they should just say–I won’t/don’t have philaderers in the state government I am running. Bitney–clean up your act. End of story.

BB on September 9, 2008 at 7:25 pm

You have mixed feelings? Well, I am conflicted, too. Although, over another element in the story.
My conflict is that non-work related conduct is cause for dismissal. This is potentially a slippery slope as a principle. This issue involves morality and friendship. This raises the issue of Gov Palin, her sister and the State Trooper she was married to.
Though I may work for someone, or that someone works for me, should the one live by the others moral compass? What if the friend of one offends the friend of another, or if a family member is involved? Heck, what if a family member offends your morality?
Well, now I am not only conflicted but uncomfortable. Who wouldn’t use their position to protect their family and friends? I really don’t have an answer except to say that when it intrudes upon policy does it become dangerous.
Sort of like Pres GW Bush jusitfying the invasion of Iraq for many reasons, including that Saddam Hussein threatened Pres GWH Bush’s life.

zyzzyg on September 9, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Good points, Debbie, and I agree. Hopefully, word will get to Palin’s (and McCain’s) staff and the trashing will stop. They don’t need to act like the Democrats. And the comment by one poster that Senator McCain cheated on Cindy was proven an entire fabrication. Gee, how unusual. The MSN fabricate and distort? Wow…
And regards the comment that a person in charge shouldn’t require personal integrity of their employees is wrong. If one of my employees exhibits bad judgement in his personal life, that bad judgement can have direct bearing on his job performance/judgement. Absolutely, I would confront him/her and advise them to knock it off or face the consequences. I would not tolerate any appearance of impropriety that would affect the team, and we are all a team. No, not every supervisor or manager has that chutzpah, but, some do. Apparently, Governor Palin does. Good for her.

Floyd R. Turbo on September 9, 2008 at 9:50 pm

I’m beginning to believe that the State of Alaska is the world’s largest small town.

There is NO Santa Claus on September 9, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Well the problem I have isn’t this one case. It is her atitude that she is against “the all boys network” when she hires her own ” all boys network” and that she is different then other politicians which she clearly isn’t. Also I am sure not every politicians fires everyone when they come into power and she has shown little ability to be anything then a partison on any issue which this whole mavrick game by McCain is a big fat joke and the same thing with Palin.

adam6275 on September 9, 2008 at 11:39 pm

I consider moral turpitude and job performance to be closely linked.
Certainly having an affair with your supervisor’s family or close friend….would cause a distraction, and affect employee morale, and possibly disrupt the entire performance of the work unit as a whole. These are certainly performance issues. The personal does indeed affect the professional, in many cases.
With respect to the fired employee’s “reputation” …seems like he, himself, damaged it the minute he started sleeping with the boss’s friends and family.
Hard to believe, though, he’ll never be able to work again. I’m sure the Democrats would be more than happy to hire him.

Maxine Weiss on September 9, 2008 at 11:48 pm

Like the witchhunts against Obama, this too is a non-story.
As for Palin’s “troopergate”–WHY is it that only the Reich-wing is reporting that her brother-in-law tazered his CHILD???

EminemsRevenge on September 10, 2008 at 8:16 am

Yes this article has blown me away just like Grandmole of Michigan

ohboyohboy on September 10, 2008 at 12:41 pm

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