Tuesday, September 2, 2008

McCain's Choice for VP: America First or Alaska First?

Last week, in one my posts discussing the selection of Gov. Palin as the Republican nominee for Vice President, I included a quotation from an interview that Gov. Palin did with CNBC's Kudlow & Co. In that interview Palin said:

As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.

When I first referenced this statement last week, I focused on Gov. Palin's lack of understanding of what the Vice President does. However, with recent revelations about Gov. Palin's political affiliations, another part of this statement becomes even more important:

We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S.

(Emphasis added.) Why have I focused on this statement? Well, it seems that before Gov. Palin decided to run for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she was a member of the Alaska Independence Party.

From what I've been able to gather, the Alaska Independence Party does not believe that the 1958 vote that brought about statehood for Alaska was fair or legal (they claim that ineligible people were allowed to vote and that the vote did not conform to United Nations standards). The party apparently wants Alaskans to have another chance to vote and they want the vote to include the option of Alaska becoming an independent nation. (The reason that the previous statements are left somewhat hazy is because the party's website seems to be giving way under the strain of so many people trying to learn about the party; I haven't been able to access it at all to get a copy of the party's platform.) In 1990, Alaska elected a governor from the Alaska Independence Party. That former governor, Walter Joseph Hickel, was a supporter of Gov. Palin when she ran for the office in 2006. The party's founder, Joe Vogler, is buried in Canada because he refused to be buried under the flag of the United States.

So, with all of this in mind, think back to Gov. Palin's statement that the Vice Presidency would need to be "a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans" and ask yourself whether she is seeking the Vice Presidency to put America first or to put Alaska first. I don't know about you, but the idea of a Vice President who was a member of or supported a party with a secessionist agenda leaves me a bit ... um ... er ... cold.

And, even if her links to a secessionist party weren't enough, her lack of understanding of basic American history is also troubling. While running for governor in 2006, then-Mayor Palin was asked a series of questions by Eagle Forum Alaska in a candidate questionnaire, including the following question and Palin's response:

Q: Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

A: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.

Apparently, Gov. Palin doesn't realize that the phrase "under God" was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950s (in response to "godless" communism). Moreover, the Pledge of Allegiance itself wasn't written until 1892 (by a socialist Baptist minister)! Neither the founding fathers nor the framers of our Constitution had anything to do with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Constitution does not make reference to God.

That same candidate questionnaire and Gov. Palin's responses also help flesh out some of her positions on other issues:

Q: Complete the sentence by checking the applicable phrases (you can check more than one).
Abortion should be:
Banned throughout entire pregnancy.
Legal to save the life of the mother.
Legal in case of rape and incest.
Legal if the baby is handicapped.
Legal if the baby has a genetic defect.
Legal in the first trimester.
Legal in the second trimester.
Legal in the third trimester.
Other:__________________

A: I am pro-life. With the exception of a doctor’s determination that the mother’s life would end if the pregnancy continued. I believe that no matter what mistakes we make as a society, we cannot condone ending an innocent’s life.

So, it appears that Gov. Palin would not make an exception, even in the case of rape or incest. This position seems far out of touch with the position of much of the electorate, even much of the anti-abortion electorate. Furthermore, as I've discussed in the past, Judaism has a different view when it comes to abortion. Thus, while I respect Gov. Palin's reviews with regard to her own life, I am offended that she wants to tell me that my religion's understanding of life and death issues is wrong.

Q: Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?

A: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.

In other words, Gov. Palin believes that the only information that children (including teens) should receive with regard to sexual education should be abstinence. I, for one, have a very difficult time believing that we should not teach children the truth or give them the full set of facts. How many teens get pregnant (or STDs) because they either didn't have access to a quality, medically accurate, sex education program or didn't have access to contraceptives? I think that it is naive to think that, just because we tell teens to abstain, they will. We tell them not to drink and smoke but they do it anyway; we tell them not to do drugs, but that doesn't always work either. We even have trouble getting kids to do their homework when we tell them to. So why do we think that telling teens to abstain from sex will work? Everywhere teens turn, they are pummelled by images of sex and sexuality and we tell them to just ignore those images and, more importantly, ignore their teenage hormones, and simply abstain. Yeah, right. And if abstinence only education doesn't work, shouldn't we inform teens so that they will be able to make better decisions and better protect themselves, either from STDs or pregnancy? Not in Gov. Palin's world (or, for that matter, in world of Sen. McCain or President Bush or Gov. Daniels here in Indiana).

Q: Do you support the Alaska Supreme Court’s ruling that spousal benefits for state employees should be given to same-sex couples? Why or why not?

A: No, I believe spousal benefits are reserved for married citizens as defined in our constitution.

I don't really have much to add to this position other than to note that the question isn't even about gay marriage, but rather simple fairness of treatment. Gov. Palin doesn't believe that same-sex couples should be treated the same way as married couples. Thankfully (for Alaskans), the Alaska Supreme Court apparently believed that Alaska should not be allowed to discriminate against gay couples.

All I know is that it really appears as if Sen McCain's campaign did a very poor job of vetting Gov. Palin. I can't imagine Sen. McCain choosing a candidate who had previously espoused secession from the U.S. (or even giving people a chance to vote on the issue). And it seems incredible to have a candidate who doesn't even know the history of the Pledge of Allegiance (forget the issue whether "under God" should or should not be included; shouldn't the Governor or a state, let alone the Vice President, know the background of such fundamental American topics as the Pledge of Allegiance?). Add "troopergate" to the list of issues and controversies and Gov. Palin's nomination seems even less sound (but, as I've already suggested that her nomination was never about a quality candidate, but rather about gender politics, then these "extraneous" issues may not have mattered much to the McCain campaign).

Finally, I hope that all of this "disgruntled" supporters of Hillary Clinton to whom Gov. Palin's selection is supposed to be appealing will look closely at Gov. Palin's views on issues like abortion, sex education, and gay rights. Sen. Obama may not be the candidate that you wanted, but if those issues are important to you, then Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are even less worthy of being your candidate. Think about the questions that Sen. Clinton asked during the Democratic convention and ask yourself whether you support Sen. Clinton or whether you support the issues for which Sen. Clinton remains such a strong advocate. I have a hard time believing that anyone to whom those issues are important would rather give in on those issues solely to elect a woman to the Vice Presidency.

This is the third post in a series. Part one was posted on August 29, 2008 and Part two was posted on August 30, 2008.

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