Did Sarah Palin eat the moose?

Adultery. The Tasering of a child. A disputed moose carcass. A family feud that may have led to the inappropriate firing of a government official. John McCain’s new running mate Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, comes with a vivid and colorful back-story, well worth the attention of America’s journalistic community.

It seems that before Palin became governor, her sister Molly McCann’s marriage to Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten disintegrated. The divorce and the custody battle appear to have been bitter. In 2005, Palin and her husband pushed the state troopers to investigate Wooten for driving while drunk, for using a Taser on his stepson, and for shooting a moose without a permit. They even hired a private investigator to speed the process along. Wooten was eventually suspended for ten days, a sentence reduced to five days after his union protested. But after Palin became governor, she continued to push the Troopers to punish Wooten further, and she may have stepped over the line by firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan when he failed to respond to her pressure.

The alleged violation of government integrity by a personal agenda—that’s business as usual. What makes this fun and new is how messy it is. There’s lots here that isn’t very vice presidential. Take the moose, for example. Apparently it was shot in 2003, and Wooten indeed lacked the permit necessary for shooting it. But his wife did have the permit, and she was standing beside him at the time, and once they had killed the moose, they dropped the carcass off at the house of her father, Chuck Heath—who’s also Sarah Palin’s father. Wooten later told blogger Andrew Halcro that Palin did not object to the moose-killing at the time. Not only that, Wooten claims that Palin helped to eat the moose.

It’s hard to know whether the claim is true. “CHUCK [Heath] did most of the butchering,” Mike Wooten told an investigator for the Alaska Department of Public Safety in September 2005. “Boning and stuff like that he did most of that.” Wooten said that he took the rest to Shop Right and had it made into burgers and sausage. Wooten also claimed that during the hunt itself, when he and his wife spotted the moose, he asked her if she wanted to shoot it, and she told him to. On this topic and that of the moose carcass’s fate, however, Governor Palin told a different story when the Department of Public Safety interviewed her in August 2005.

[Palin]: . . . He went hunting with MOLLY and with WPD Officer CHRIS WATCHUS. He shot a moose. It was a . . . it was a drawing permit system. So he was . . . MOLLY had the tag MIKE shot it anyway. Didn’t give MOLLY a chance even to shoot it. CHRIS WATCHUS my understanding is didn’t . . . it’s never it didn’t register with him that, that “Oh MIKE you just illegally shot this. He doesn’t have the tag.” Cause he wouldn’t have known. But MIKE shot it. Umm . . . didn’t know how to or didn’t want to. I don’t think he even knew how to. Didn’t, didn’t want to process the meat umm . . . dropped it off at my dad’s house knowing that my dad was home and my dad would take care of it if it needed to be taken care of rather then [sic] go to waste. . . .

My dad process[ed] it. MIKE never did come back to gg-pick up the moose or anything else so my dad brought the meat over to MIKE’s house even. He probably even put it in his freezer for him because MIKE didn’t ah appear to have any intention at all of . . . using the moose or eating the moose.

This seems to be a touchy point in Alaska, not eating a moose after killing it. Wooten claims he paid $500 for the processing at Shop Right, and that it fed his family for a year. But check it out for yourselves. A number of the transcripts and emails in the Great Moose Carcass Controversy are available at the blog Celtic Diva’s Blue Oasis and in the sidebar to an Anchorage Daily News story about whether Wooten is as bad an egg as Palin makes him out to be. Whatever the verdict on Wooten, Palin emerges rather clearly as petty, vindictive, and lacking in judgment.

13 thoughts on “Did Sarah Palin eat the moose?”

  1. This is so brilliant. It is really important to evaluate how Palin handled the tensions surrounding that moose carcass!! And I'm glad someone is researching this touchy situation with care, because, you know, it will teach us about how she handles other difficult situations. Like, for instance, mediating between Russia and Georgia? Something like that.

    i love yr blog, btw. it's always a treat.

  2. Sarah – Sarah Palin can't even figure out how to teach her daughter how to use a condom. How on earth do you think she is going to figure out mediating between Russia and Georgia?

  3. If Americans don't vote for Obama only because he's black and choose McCain and his joke of a vice-president, the entire world will laugh at them and think that they are beyond stupid.

  4. Sarah Palin has ten times the experience of Obama. How can Obama be an agent of change – picking a 35 year senator that is so far left that no independant should even consider their ticket. He is afraid of Hillary.

  5. Bob:

    Interesting, but I'm afraid I disagree.

    Palin may have said dismissive things about Obama's experience, but her dismissal doesn't erase the fact of it. His work as a community organizer, law professor, and senator are substantial—much more so, in my opinion, than that of Palin. Palin's experience, unfortunately for her, shows that she has a vindictive character (for example, in her vendetta against her ex-brother-in-law Michael Wooten), has trouble managing money (she left Wasilla saddled with an enormous debt and has given away large chunks of Alaska's surplus without providing for the future), and lies often (see her attempts to cover up her unlawful persecution of Wooten).

    What makes you think Obama is afraid of Hillary? He asked her and Bill Clinton to speak at the Democrats' convention. John McCain, by contrast, only allowed Bush to address the Republican convention by video link.

    I'd argue that Obama's choice of Biden was a nice piece of balancing: an agent of change choosing an experienced hand. With McCain, however, the so-called maverick, we see not a distribution but a concentration of risk. A candidate known for his impulsiveness and instability has chosen a running mate who also seems to be ruled by her (largely negative) emotions.

  6. Caleb:

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate and respect your point of view.

    I think that we would agree that either ticket would be a vast improvement over the Bush presidency. He has been a major dissappointment to say the least. I give McCain credit for minimizing Bush's presence at the RNC. At least both tickets candidates can put a sentence together, unlike Bush!

    I am ready for real change. McCain is more of an independent(maverick), in my opinion. He often took positions and butted heads with his own party. He along with Palin may,as you say, offer more risk; but I think that they both are independently oriented. They both have proved numerous times to work accross party lines to get things done. In fact Palin's governing has included several posts filled by Democrats.

    Obama went back to the old guard by picking Biden. He lost his credibility as an agent of change. He has allowed McCain-Palin to steal his Change label. As his stances come out on the issues, he offers the same positions as the left.
    I see him as a left candidate and Mcain as middle-right.

    As far as experience, Obama's and Palin's experience they have very different experience. I would rather see a governor than a lawyer/senator in the White House. With the Obama ticket you get no governing experience. I think the McCain experience versus Obama's makes McCain more attractive. Why does everyone compares Palin to Obama? Only Obama and McCain are at the top of the tickets. Palin also took on the corrupt Republican leaders in Alaska(and won).

    We don't really know a lot about Obama. He has never governed a state to see his management. He always votes to the left and has not shown a willingness to work with the other side to any degree. His connections with William C. Ayers, a member of the Weathermen terrorist group which sought to overthrow of the U.S. government are worrisome. In addition, the criminal Rezko was linked to Obama through two 2005 real estate purchases in which the senator bought a Chicago mansion at less than the asking price on the same day Rezko and his wife, Rita, purchased a lot adjacent to the property. Rita Rezko then sold part of the lot to Obama. Scores of media reports describe Rezko as an Obama friend and a key campaign fundraiser and networker for the presidential candidate. Obama's 20 years of listening to Reverend Wright is also scary and makes many of us question his judgement. These concerns far outway any concerns of Palin who has not been charged of wrong-doing in relation to her brother-in-law. If she did anything, it was probably only to help her sister. Plus Obama is at the top of the ticket.

    McCain and Palin have made a big focus on cutting wasteful spending. McCain, who would be the president, has lived the talk. McCain, unlike Obama and Biden, has not taken the 100's of millions of dollars in earmarks. I find this attractive.

    Have a great day.

  7. Hi, Bob,

    Thanks for writing back; I, too, appreciate the exchange.

    I do think we agree that either candidate will be an improvement on this administration. And if we were talking about the McCain of eight years ago, or even four years ago, I wouldn't be as concerned as I am about him now (though I would probably still vote for Obama personally). But I think McCain has lost a lot of his credibility as a maverick. His pick of Palin is just the most recent example: he wanted Lieberman, but his advisors told him he couldn't go with someone pro-choice, and he yielded. When the issue of banning torture came up in the Senate, McCain went very far toward passing a good law, but then at the last minute let the Bush administration have the loophole they wanted.

    I'm not anywhere near as alarmed as you are by the connection between Obama and Ayers. Ayers is just an academic these days, and the Washington Post has called Obama's connection to him "tenuous." (They served on a charity board together, and Ayers donated $200 to Obama.)

    As for the Rezko affair, Obama has called buying land from Rezko "boneheaded." But Obama didn't buy his house from the Rezkos. He bought a 10-foot strip of land, and the Rezkos sold that strip and the rest of their land at a profit. In other words, the Rezkos did no financial favors to Obama by selling to him. The non-partisan site Fact Check has a detailed explanation. In my opinion, the Rezko matter is trivial when compared to John McCain's errors in judgment in the Keating Five scandal. True, the Keating scandal was long ago, but it was momentous, and the recent difficulties that McCain has had keeping the lines clear between lobbying interests and the management of his campaign suggest that it remains pertinent.

    As for Rev. Wright, Obama has repudiated Wright's anti-American comments, and the worst were said when Obama was not in the pews. For comparison, consider that Palin was in the pews of Wasilla Bible Church three weeks ago when David Brickner, leader of Jews for Jesus, called terrorist attacks on Israel part of God's judgment on unbelievers. Her church recently distributed a flyer promoting a conference by Love Won Out, a group that purports to cure homosexuality through prayer. (For more on the ex-gay movement, please take a look at this Boston Globe article by my friend Tanya Erzen, who spent a year studying the ex-gay ministry and wrote an excellent book about it, Straight to Jesus.) Also of concern to me, though I haven't yet seen the kind of reporting that will bring the story fully into focus, are reports that several Assemblies of God churches that Palin long worshiped in are associated with a militant, apocalyptic theology called the Third Wave movement, which the mainstream Assemblies of God declared heresy in 1949 and again in 2000. As I said, I haven't yet time to digest this claim; provisionally, there's more here and here.

    It's true that no criminal charges have yet been filed against Palin in the matter of her ex-brother-in-law Mike Wooten, but she is under investigation by legislature's ethics committee, and the latest charge is that she peeked in his personnel file in her attempts to get him fired. I concede that helping one's sister is a sympathetic motive, but this isn't the only case where Palin has brought one of her private grudges into the public sphere; see also her firing of John Bitney. And one last thing, since you say that McCain's opposition to earmarks concerns you: Palin has avidly pursued them,, and as a result, Wasilla residents received about 200 times more in federal earmarks cash per capita than the average American (graph here).

    As for focusing too much on Palin, I agree wholeheartedly and wish the debate would move away from her, but she's new and it's understandable that people are more curious about her right now than the other three.

    I hope you'll give Obama another look, if you're in the market for a candidate for change. In my opinion, the greatest challenge the country faces in the next ten years is energy, and Obama has offered more than McCain on making the investment we need in new energy technologies, promising in his speech accepting the nomination to invest $150 billion. That kind of Apollo-style investment in underlying technology (much as the U.S. Defense Dept. invested in computer-networking technology decades ago, eventually giving us the internet) is what the analysts Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus recommend in Breakthrough, their recent book on getting past the left-right polarization on environmental and energy issues.

    Take care.

  8. Caleb:

    Hello again:

    McCain may be good friends with Lieberman, but their main agreement politically is the Iraq war. On almost every other issue, they are in disagreement. Just look at their voting records. The media is really the main group who thought Lieberman was a viable Republican VP candidate.

    The Republican party platform is pro-life, the Democratic platform is pro-choice. McCain picking Lieberman would be like Obama picking a pro-life running mate. This just doesn't happen in America.

    I like parts of McCain's energy plan and part of Obama's. We need to drill now! We also need a much stronger emphasis on new technologies. McCain is offering both, but Obama focuses more on alternative energy sources – almost soley.

    On the gay rights issue, I am not personally effected. Many Christians feel that homosexuallity is a sin. They should still treat everyone with respect and understanding – with a loving heart.

    I admire McCain's service to this country as well as his multi-generational family of public service. I know he is a through and through American. I am not sure of Obama's convictions. I initially was considering voting for him when he was talking about change and was offering something different. His VP choice, policy and rhetoric has demonstrated that he offers the same left agenda as Hillary or Kerry or Gore in my opinion. If you are on the left, this is great. He is your candidate.

    Being from rural America, I hear the concerns of these voters about Obama and his inexperience compared to McCain.
    People here are connecting with Palin. They like Moose hunters and her fighting to take on corruption.

    I think that McCain is the first candidate that has run as a moderate in my life-time. He picked Palin to sure up the right and it has worked.

    It should prove a close election again! To be truthful, I am not crazy about either candidate. Obama lacks experience and McCain is over the hill. Due to my conservative beliefs in less government, I will probably go with McCain. McCain and Palin have made a big focus on cutting wasteful spending. McCain, who would be the president, has lived the talk.

    Hope all is well in NY.

  9. Hi, Bob,

    The media may have thought Lieberman was a serious candidate for the Republican vice presidential nomination, but McCain himself thought so, too. Last week, around the time of Palin's selection, the New York Times reported that "For weeks, advisers close to the campaign said, Mr. McCain had wanted to name as his running mate his good friend Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrat turned independent." But McCain gave up the idea under pressure from social conservatives.

    It seems as if our concerns about the VPs are somewhat parallel. We both think the other fellow would be plausible as a centrist candidate if he hadn't chosen the VP he did. To me Palin seems much further from the mainstream than Biden does, but people will be making up their own minds about that in the next few weeks.

    I, too, admire McCain's service. But I don't have any doubts about Obama's convictions. I feel very deeply that Obama is committed to America. I feel it so deeply that I'll sound corny if I try to put it into words.

    It doesn't sound as if either of us is going to convince the other, but I appreciate the exchange. I am on the left, and as you say, Obama is my candidate. Thanks for the back and forth.

    all best, Caleb

  10. Caleb:

    Thanks for your comments. I enjoy discussing the campaign and listening to different perspectives. I have friends with a wide range of beliefs across the political spectrum.
    Folks should be able to discuss without getting mad.

    As far as the New York Times article. Many of us feel their continual bias in their reporting makes them unreliable to say the least. They are like the polar opposite to wacky Rush limbaugh to us.

    I think Palin will attract roughly 50% of voters and Biden the other 50% depending on where your political beliefs are.
    I see Biden as far left as Palin is right. McCain is trying to pull a few more with his independent streak.

    The Republican party has been so undermined by the incompetency of the Bush administration. It is amazing that McCain can compete at all. It is going to be another close one, I think.

    Best of luck and enjoyed the dialogue,


  11. Joe Biden is hardly "left", unless you think Karl Rove is a centrist. The old left-right categories matter little in the Putin era, where the question is whether the American government will regret the intuitive kinship Mr. Bush felt for Mr. Putin. Unless we free ourselves from the oil addictions that dance around the Republicans, we will continue the decline most Americans experienced under Mr. Bush. Energy is what will determine our fate; Ms. Palin is simply the political equivalent of daytime television, a distraction from real concerns of the day. Joe Biden and Barrack Obama offer some hope of a change in the drifting fortunes of Americans under Mr. Bush. Think about it…and see what you really believe Mr. McCain would do differently from the current administration. Reform? Not from a Bush-hugger and lobby lover.

  12. Maybe after the dust has settled we'll find out more about whether McCain really wanted Lieberman, but on the general point, I can't say I agree that the New York Times and rightwing talk radio are equally devoted to telling the truth. (Full disclosure: I've contributed to the New York Times since 1998, and I have a dozen friends who work there.) People interested in the truth worry about their errors, try to estimate their size, and correct them publicly. And the Times worries about its errors obsessively. It publishes a list of them every day. I can attest to the burden of this personally: I once spent six weeks correcting a very small error in an article that only took me four weeks to write. The error? I accidentally slandered a dead Nazi pedophile by saying he was tried for a murder, when in fact he was only named as a suspect in the murder case. Unless Limbaugh devotes a share of each of his radio programs to correcting errors from earlier episodes, there's no parallel between him and the Times. In the long run, I believe, you can only trust an institution that worries about its errors to tell the truth. Such an institution may not always succeed, but no other method comes close. (Further disclosure: In practice, I believe that this means no one should watch television or listen to the radio except for entertainment [except for major addresses and moderated debates], but then, when there's not an election on, this blog is mostly about my wistful feelings about the nineteenth century.)

  13. Hi Dick:

    Based on their voting records in 2007:
    Biden was actually ranked as the 3rd most liberal Senator by the National Journal and Obama was ranked number 1.

    Mccain has ranked about 45th in his past several years as a conservative. In my opinion and as their voting records demonstrate, McCain is by far closer to the middle of America as a whole than Obama, Biden, or Palin.

    Have a great day,

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