Who said what about which state-trooper scandal?

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Sept. 23 2008 3:33 PM

Troopergate vs. Troopergate: Who's Crying Now?

Who said what about which state-trooper scandal?

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Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin

Apparently, Americans are destined to suffer through periodic political scandals labeled "Troopergate." In 1993, we were plunged into the Bill Clinton/Paula Jones/Arkansas state-troopers version. Last year, we witnessed the Eliot Spitzer iteration, and this fall, we are forced to endure the Sarah Palin drunken brother-in-law Taser story. The truly delicious part is that some of the same folks who once proclaimed that the compulsive legal wrangling over Bill Clinton's "distinguishing characteristics" was motivated by the need for truth and transparency now dismiss as a partisan witch hunt the inquiry into Gov. Palin's dismissal of her former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. And vice versa, of course. Which scandal was truly a scandal, and which is just partisan politics run amok? Turns out the answer to that question often has more to do with one's own partisan politics than anything else.

Dahlia Lithwick Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate

The Bill Clinton version mess (Troopergate I) broke in 1993 with allegations from a pair of Arkansas state troopers that they had been involved in procuring some ladies for Gov. Clinton back in the day. It mushroomed into impeachment. The Sarah Palin version  (Troopergate II) surfaced last July with allegations that Palin, or someone in her administration, improperly pressured Monegan to fire her ex-brother-in-law—state trooper Mike Wooten—for his misbehavior while divorcing her sister. When Monegan balked, she allegedly fired him. * Think you know which scandal is a baseless witch hunt? Think pundits can differentiate them any better? Herein, Slate presents Troopergate vs. Troopergate, the quotation quiz. We have substituted XXX for "Clinton" or "Palin" as necessary because this wouldn't be much of a quiz otherwise. Points for identifying the scandal. Double points if you can name the speaker.

1. This scandal was masterminded by "a small, intricately knit right-wing conspiracy—and I'd like that clarified."

2. "The media hysterically denounced XXX. … They tried to create a 'Troopergate.' "

3. "No one wants to get this matter behind us more than I do—except maybe all the rest of the American people."

4. "I'm happy to comply, to cooperate. I have absolutely nothing to hide."

5. "You [in the media] like to hurt people, and you like to talk about how bad people are and all their personal failings."

6. "In the course of a few weeks, the [members of the opposing party] have launched attack after attack on me, my family. … They're desperate to win and they'll no doubt launch these attacks against other reformers."

7. "This story seems ridiculous, and I frankly smell a rat."

8. "I think it's fair to say that XXX is not going to cooperate with that investigation so long as it remains tainted and run by partisan individuals that have a predetermined conclusion."

9. "Such pressure could have been perceived to exist although I have only now become aware of it."

10. "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

11. "XXX did everything [they] could, creating all kinds of new privileges to deny the grand jury any information or evidence that was part of this investigation. [They] made a mockery of the investigation, and it was all because [he/she] was trying to protect [their] lily-white ass."

12. "I'll tell you what this Troopergate's all about. I'm going to tell you exactly what it's all about. It's about the good ol' boys  … This is pure sexism … on the part of these old boys trying to get rid of XXX, and [he/she] didn't put up with it, and ... didn't bend over and let them have their way."

13. "This is not about politics. I don't know—and I don't care—how this 'strategy' polls. This has nothing to do with vendettas or witch-hunts or partisan advantage. … This is very simply about the rule of law, and the survival of the American system of justice."

14. XXX "is a 'threat' to modern feminism and that is why the 'elite media' is trying to tear them down."

15. "When the … scandal broke, XXX affected the role of victim while at the same time [he/she] was quarterbacking the coverup, manning the battle stations, and manufacturing the spin about a … conspiracy."

16. "[He/She]'s just authentic, [he/she]'s for real, and [he/she]'s just a total package."

17. "The most dangerous thing about XXX is … [his/her] seeming inability not to be self-reflective, not to look back on some of the things [he/she]'s done in her own life, see mistakes, come clean, and make changes."

18. "I have no doubt we will continue to see vicious, unfair and horrible attacks on XXX."

19. "This trooper tasered my nephew. … It's all on the record. It's all there. His threats against the first family, the threat against my dad. All that is in the record. And if the opposition … chooses to forget that side of the story, they're not doing their job."

20. "If XXX insists on having her day in court and her trial, and she really wants to put her reputation at issue as we hear, we are prepared to do it.''

21. "[He/She] may want to take a cue from the Miss America contest: make a graceful, magnanimous exit and wait in the wings."

22 "[W]hen you use sexism as an across-the-board shield for any legitimate question, you only hurt women. And that's just another splash of reality."

23. An "organization that was founded in 1997 to protect religious freedoms and First Amendment rights for individuals, groups and churches."

24. "I don't suppose there's any public figure that's ever been subject to any more violent personal attacks than I have. … And that's fine. I deal with them. But I don't believe that it's the work of God. And I think that's what the issue is."

25. "I've learned quickly, these past few days, that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone."

26."It's a way we can get our story out there in our own words, without someone making their own interpretations or corrections."

27. "I didn't shoot him with live, you know, actual live cartridge. … [T]he Taser was activated for less than a second, which would be less than what you would get if you touched an electric fence. ... It was as safe as I could possibly make it."

28. "It is self-evident to us all, I hope, that we cannot overlook, dismiss or diminish the obstruction of justice by the very person we charge with taking care that the laws are faithfully executed."

29. "Less than a week after balking at the XXX Legislature's investigation into [their] alleged abuse of power, YYY on Monday indicated [they] will cooperate with a separate probe run by people [he/she] can fire."

Click here for the answers.

Correction, Sept. 24, 2008: The piece originally read "Wooten" instead of "Monegan," implying that the trooper had been balking at firing himself. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

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