Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Who Is Sarah Palin?

The Republicans worked quickly to disprove allegations that Gov. Sarah Palin was once a member of the Alaska Independence Party (the AIP), a party that has as its principal goal the "lofty" idea of redoing the 1958 vote that made Alaska a state and, in so doing, allow Alaskans the right to choose independence. Reports surfaced over the last few days that Gov. Palin was a member of the AIP before leaving the party to become a Republican in order to run for Mayor of Wasilla. According to ABC News, Lynnete Clark, Chair of the AIP, said that Gov. Palin and her husband Todd were members of the AIP in 1994 and attended the AIP convention in 1994 (held in Wasilla). The Republicans have now produced voter registration records that confirm that Gov. Palin was registered as a Republican from 1982 onward and Ms. Clark has indicated that she may have been mistaken. Whew. Good to know. But...

It is worth noting that, according to Gail Fenumiai, director of the Alaska Division of Elections, Gov. Palin's husband Todd did register as a member of the AIP in both 1995 and 2000. Can you imagine the furor and righteous indignation that we would be hearing from the Republicans if Michelle Obama had registered as a member of the Green Party or a socialist party? One of the mottoes of the AIP (found on the platform page of their website) helps to put the party's views in context: "The problem with you John Birchers' is that you are too damn liberal!" (Attributed to Joseph Vogler, the party's founder.) By the AIP standard, George W. Bush is practically a communist...

It would be very interesting to know if Gov. Palin and her husband share similar political views or whether they actually differ on the subject of Alaskan independence. Was she a Republican because she believed in that party's platform more than the platform of the AIP or was she a Republican because it made her more electable? It is also worth noting AIP members recognize that one of their political strategies is to "infiltrate" the major parties.

Some dispute has arisen as to whether Gov. Palin attended that 1994 state convention in Wasilla. Some members of the AIP continue to say that Gov. Palin did attend and, even as recently at the 2008 AIP state convention (held before Gov. Palin became the Republican nominee), the party's vice chairman talked about her membership in the AIP before becoming Mayor. And why, as Governor of Alaska, did Gov. Palin feel it was necessary or even appropriate to send a welcome message to the AIP for their state convention? I'm not exactly convinced that this is just a matter of procedure. After all, I can't see Gov. Daniels sending a welcome message to Indiana's Libertarian Party convention (let alone the Democratic Party convention). I don't recall seeing President Bush welcoming the Democrats to their National Convention. I'd be curious to know if Gov. Palin sent a similar message to Alaska's Democratic Party when they held their state convention. Was her welcome message just a simple ministerial function of her office or did it indicate some degree of support for the views and goals of the AIP?

One other interesting little nugget has also arisen in the last few days. Apparently, during the 2000 campaign primaries, Pat Buchanan visited Wasilla, Alaska (while Palin was Mayor). According to news reports at the time, Mayor Palin was wearing a Buchanan campaign button at the event. A few days later, Mayor Palin wrote to respond to the article and said:
When presidential candidates visit our community, I am always happy to meet them. I'll even put on their button when handed one as a polite gesture of respect. ... The article may have left your readers with the perception that I am endorsing this candidate, as opposed to welcoming his visit to Wasilla.

(Mayor Palin became co-chair of Steve Forbes' campaign in Alaska.) Again, I wonder whether Mayor Palin would have worn an Al Gore button had Vice President Gore visited Wasilla? Would she have worn the button of any candidate, just to show respect? I for one am troubled that the Mayor would extend that kind of respect to a candidate as divisive as Buchanan, especially one known for his antisemitic rhetoric? Would Mayor Palin have worn an Al Sharpton button? What about David Duke?

It just seems to me that Gov. Palin (and then-Mayor Palin) makes odd choices and follows those choices with somewhat implausible explanations.

Oh, remember that whole "Gov. Palin took on the Republican establishment" line that the McCain campaign has been repeating over and over. Well, guess what? According this article in the Washington Post, Mayor Palin was a director of Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc., a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. Just in case you forgot, Ted Stevens is the now-indicted Alaskan Senator responsible for the Bridge to Nowhere! And, according to the same article, a campaign ad that Stevens made for Gov. Palin during her gubernatorial run was removed from her campaign website shortly after she was announced as Sen. McCain's running mate. It wasn't removed for almost two years after the election; it wasn't removed when Sen. Stevens was indicted; it was only removed when Gov. Palin was thrust onto the national stage. Gee, I wonder why?

And I may as well throw in a few more bits, just for yucks (this stuff keeps showing up online, almost too fast to keep up with -- and she hasn't even opened her mouth yet!).

One of the criticisms leveled against Gov. Palin is her lack of foreign policy and international experience. Not true, says Sen. McCain's wife Cindy: "Remember, Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia, so it's not as if she doesn't understand what's at stake here..." Huh? I really, really want to comment on this, but frankly can't quite up with anything pithy enough to live up to the lunacy of Cindy McCain's statement.

What does Gov. Palin think about the war in Iraq? She thinks that it's God's war (watch this video and listen to her comments at 6:11):
Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan.

And at 11:20 or so, watch Gov. Palin nod as the pastor talks about Alaska being a "refuge" during the "last days" when "hundreds of thousands" of people from the Lower 48 will come to Alaska. It's also worth noting some of the things that Gov. Palin's pastor has said, including suggesting that anyone who doesn't vote for a Republican will go to hell and that anyone who criticises President Bush will go to hell. If Sen. Obama is subject to criticism for things that his pastor said, then Gov. Palin may be equally open to criticism related to her pastor's teachings.

Gov. Palin also supports aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska. (For additional information on this, please watch this video, but be forewarned that some of the images are disturbing.) I'm generally opposed to hunting, but recognize that hunting for food or to protect humans, livestock, or crops is acceptable. But hunting wolves in the Alaskan wilderness from planes? That's like fishing with dynamite. And the bounty on left legs is simply charming, isn't it?

As to earmarks, Gov. Palin's claim that she was against the "bridge to nowhere" also turned out to be incorrect. Apparently, she was for the bridge before she was against it. Only when Congress killed the funding and told Alaska to pay for the bridge themselves did Gov. Palin decide to end her support for the bridge. (Why do I doubt that Republicans will show Gov. Palin as much indignation for her flip flop as they did for Sen. Kerry in 2004...) Moreover, Gov. Palin's most recent requests to Congress for Alaskan earmarks totals $300 for every Alaskan! Maybe in Alaska they call it caribou instead of pork, but it all smells the same.

At the same time that she was asking the federal government to fund Alaskan projects, Gov. Palin was using her line item veto to cut by 20%, the budget of Covenant House Alaska, a series of programs for troubled teens, including Passage House which provides a transitional home for teenage mothers. I guess this shouldn't be a surprise given that Gov. Palin (and Sen. McCain) opposes medically accurate and comprehensive sex education programs and funding to prevent teen pregnancy. Abstinence only, baby!

I know that I'm rambling a bit, but I also wanted to briefly address the charge that some Republicans have levelled that the amount of scrutiny being aimed at Gov. Palin is unfair or is on account of her gender. My response to that? Bullshit. The problem is that nobody has ever heard of Gov. Palin and nobody knows what she stands for. Sen. Obama, Sen. Biden, and, for that matter, Sen. McCain (not to mention Sen. Clinton and all of the other former candidates for President) went through many months of talking to voters and the press, answering questions about their records and their plans and their ideas. They've debated each other, in public, repeatedly. Their detailed platforms have been posted online for all to read. The voting records (not to mention written records, in some cases) of the candidates have been examined in detail as have the numerous speeches and talks that the candidates have given. Each statement has been picked apart analyzed and reanalyzed and each gaffe has given rise to volumes of press and posts. But Gov. Palin comes to the process without all of this. She is an unknown thrust upon the national stage just days before she is to be formally nominated to run for Vice President. So neither the media nor bloggers nor the public have the time to wait to get to know Gov. Palin. The election is two months away and it is critical that as much information about the candidate become available as quickly as possible. That much of the information coming out is negative? Well, that just raises questions about the vetting process and Sen. McCain's judgment.

Finally, I couldn't help but chuckle at a story in this morning's The Indianapolis Star in which a Hoosier delegate to the Republican convention is shown proudly wearing her "Hoosiers for the Hot Chick" button. Can you imagine a "Hoosiers for the Black Dude" button? Nope, this election isn't about race or gender politics at all...

I'm not the only one with questions for Gov. Palin. Many members of the media would love to ask her questions about the AIP, troopergate (I just read that she refuses to testify...), earmarks, and numerous other things (oh, like issues, for example). But, since being named as the presumptive nominee last Friday, she has not answered any substantive questions from reporters except for an interview that she gave to People magazine (known for its hard-hitting political reporting...). Is she hiding from interviews and tough questions or are the Republicans working so hard to train her and bring her up to speed that they don't have time (or dare take the risk) of letting her be grilled yet? Ah, yes. The true spirit of the marketplace of ideas at work.

So who is Sarah Palin and why does John McCain think that she is qualified to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency?

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2 Comments:

At Wednesday, September 03, 2008 5:03:00 PM , Blogger Charles said...

One of the criticisms leveled against Gov. Palin is her lack of foreign policy and international experience. Not true, says Sen. McCain's wife Cindy: "Remember, Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia, so it's not as if she doesn't understand what's at stake here..." Huh? I really, really want to comment on this, but frankly can't quite up with anything pithy enough to live up to the lunacy of Cindy McCain's statement.


How 'bout:

Mrs. McCain went on to assure Jewish voters that she could see the desert from one of her homes, so she could identify with their 40 years of wandering.

 
At Wednesday, September 03, 2008 5:07:00 PM , Blogger Charles said...

I should have read to the bottom before commenting.

As to earmarks, Gov. Palin's claim that she was against the "bridge to nowhere" also turned out to be incorrect. Apparently, she was for the bridge before she was against it. Only when Congress killed the funding and told Alaska to pay for the bridge themselves did Gov. Palin decide to end her support for the bridge. (Why do I doubt that Republicans will show Gov. Palin as much indignation for her flip flop as they did for Sen. Kerry in 2004...) Moreover, Gov. Palin's most recent requests to Congress for Alaskan earmarks totals $300 for every Alaskan! Maybe in Alaska they call it caribou instead of pork, but it all smells the same.

If I'm not mistaken, she said "thanks but no thanks" after the bridge deal had all but fallen down, but she did take the money, and just spent it elsewhere.

 

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