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Monday, September 1, 2008

Conservative Ire Pushed McCain From Lieberman

John McCain and Sara Palin at a rally in Washington, Pa.

By ELISABETH BUMILLER and MICHAEL COOPER

WASHINGTON — In the end, the choice of his running mate said more about Senator John McCain and his image of himself than it did about Sarah Palin, the little-known governor of Alaska whose selection has shaken up the presidential race.

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 by the end of last weekend, the outrage from Christian conservatives over the possibility that Mr. McCain would fill out the Republican ticket with Mr. Lieberman, a supporter of abortion rights, had become too intense to be ignored.

With time running out, and after a long meeting with his inner circle in Phoenix, Mr. McCain finally picked up the phone last Sunday and reached Ms. Palin at the Alaska State Fair. Although the campaign’s polling on Mr. McCain’s potential running mates was inconclusive on the selection of Ms. Palin — virtually no one had heard of her, a McCain adviser said — the governor, who opposes abortion, had glowing reviews from influential social conservatives.

Mr. McCain was comfortable with two others on his short list, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. But neither was the transformative, attention-grabbing choice Mr. McCain felt he needed, top campaign advisers said, to help him pivot from his image as the custodian of the status quo to a change agent like his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama.

Not least, Mr. Obama’s decision to pass over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate opened the possibility for Republicans to put a woman on the ticket and pick off some of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters.

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, at the McCain vacation compound near Sedona, Ariz., Mr. McCain invited Ms. Palin to join him on the ticket. He hardly knew her, and she had virtually no foreign policy experience, but Ms. Palin was a “kindred spirit,” a McCain adviser said. Mr. McCain was betting, the adviser said, that she would help him reclaim the mantle of maverick that he had lost this year.

The selection was the culmination of a five-month process, described by Mr. McCain’s inner circle and outside advisers in interviews this past weekend, and offers a glimpse into how Mr. McCain might make high-stakes decisions as president.

At the very least, the process reflects Mr. McCain’s history of making fast, instinctive and sometimes risky decisions. “I make them as quickly as I can, quicker than the other fellow, if I can,” Mr. McCain wrote, with his top adviser Mark Salter, in his 2002 book, “Worth the Fighting For.” “Often my haste is a mistake, but I live with the consequences without complaint.”

Mr. McCain began the search for a running mate shortly after he secured the Republican nomination, with some 40 names on a list. By early spring he had cut it to 20, including, a top adviser said, at least five women: Ms. Palin; Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Carleton S. Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard; and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas.

Mr. McCain cast the process, at least in those days, as orderly and said that the last thing he wanted was the kind of rushed decision that President George Bush had made in 1988 in selecting his running mate, Dan Quayle, then a senator from Indiana.

But it was not until the last few weeks that Mr. McCain winnowed his list to five or six finalists. They included, a McCain adviser said, Mr. Pawlenty, Mr. Romney, Mr. Lieberman, Ms. Palin and Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania who also supports abortion rights. Ms. Palin, unlike the others, was barely mentioned in news media speculation.

The finalists, including Ms. Palin, were vetted, a campaign adviser said, and Mr. McCain then asked his inner circle — Mr. Salter, Rick Davis, Steve Schmidt and Charlie Black — to provide him with assessments of each. “He said, ‘Give me plusses and minuses on each of these people,’ ” Mr. Black said.

One of Mr. McCain’s closest friends, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, weighed in as well, pushing so hard for Mr. Lieberman — Mr. McCain, Mr. Graham and Mr. Lieberman are longtime traveling companions — that he vexed some of the other advisers. Others in the inner circle favored Mr. Pawlenty or Mr. Romney. Ms. Palin had no strong advocates in the group, an outside adviser said, but she had no detractors, either.

Last Sunday, 24 hours after Mr. Obama announced his running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Mr. McCain met with his senior campaign team at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Phoenix. By then, campaign advisers said, the group had long decided that Mr. McCain’s “experience versus change” argument against Mr. Obama had run its course, to the extent that it had worked at all.

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s coming acceptance speech before a stadium of about 80,000 people (and what turned out to be a television audience of nearly 40 million) loomed large. As much as the campaign was publicly dismissing Mr. Obama as a celebrity in a rock-star setting, the concern was that his command of such a large crowd on the last night of the Democratic convention would give him the aura of a president.

In any case, one campaign adviser said, Mr. McCain hated running as the wizened old hand of experience. Despite his embrace this year of President Bush and many of the administration’s policies, Mr. McCain, a campaign adviser said, still saw himself as the maverick who delighted in occasionally throwing political grenades at his own Party.

Ms. Palin, and not Mr. Pawlenty or Mr. Romney, would reinforce Mr. McCain’s self-image, an adviser said. She had a reputation as a reformer in Alaska, she hunted and fished, and she had once belonged to a union. Just as crucial, Ms. Palin, 44, was beloved by the party’s religious base but did not come off as shrill. “She’s conservative,” Mr. Black said, “but she’s not an ideologue.”

After Mr. McCain contacted Ms. Palin, Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Salter met with her on Wednesday in Flagstaff, Ariz. It was not until the following morning that she traveled to Sedona to meet with Mr. McCain, who then sat down with her for his only interview of a potential running mate.

Within hours if not minutes after the interview was concluded, Ms. Palin had the job.

Over the next weeks, Ms. Palin will be prepared by Mr. McCain’s foreign policy staff, led by Randy Scheunemann, for the vice-presidential debate with Mr. Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who moves easily among heads of state.

Introducing Ms. Palin at a rally Saturday in Washington, Pa., Mr. McCain praised her and spoke about her selection.

“You know, I had a lot of good people to choose from, and I want to thank Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani,” said Mr. McCain, referring to his rivals for the Republican nomination. “And,” he added, “it’s with great pride and gratitude I tell you I have found the right partner to help me stand up to those who have corrupted Washington.”

For her part, Ms. Palin still sounded surprised to have been picked. “Well, I know that when Senator McCain asked me to be his running mate, he had a short list of highly qualified men and women,” she said. “To have made that list at all was a privilege. And to have been chosen, it brings a great challenge.

“I know that it will demand the best that I have to give, and I promise nothing less.”

Elisabeth Bumiller reported from Washington, and Michael Cooper from Pittsburgh and Washington, Pa.

Original here

Not all evangelical conservatives are thrilled with Palin (updated with DIGG links)


Many conservative pundits were not impressed by John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, since her glaring lack of experience undercuts McCain's main message against Barack Obama.

On the plus side for McCain, just about everyone agreed that putting an anti-abortion mother-of-five on the ticket would delight the evangelical Christians who were so crucial to George Bush's re-election.

Although the "pro-family" interest groups applauded McCain's choice, I had a hunch that Palin wouldn't be unanimously embraced by the evangelical rank and file.

I lurk and occasionally comment at a few "mommy blogs" written by religious conservatives. Checking in on some popular sites in the evangelical Christian blogosphere over the weekend, I did find some commentaries that praised Palin for her views and for continuing a pregnancy while carrying a child with Down syndrome.

However, if you join me after the jump, you'll see that plenty of evangelicals are far from "fired up and ready to go" for this Republican ticket.

Christian conservative bloggers were not united behind any presidential candidate during the primaries, but many favored Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul. Sam Brownback was distrusted for having converted to Catholicism as an adult. John McCain was never a favorite in these circles, although he was also not as detested as Mitt Romney.

Whatever their political differences, evangelical Christian bloggers share a general philosophy about a woman's proper role in the family and society. As the recommended reading list of the Biblical Womanhood site suggests, they are not big on moms of young kids working outside the home. Ladies Against Feminism is frequently found on Christian blogrolls, and that blog is adamant about God wanting women to focus on home and family.

This post by the talented preacher Voddie Baucham sums up the case against Palin from the Christian right:

Unfortunately, Christians appear to be headed toward a hairpin turn at breakneck speed without the slightest clue as to the danger ahead. I don’t see this as a pro-family pick at all! Moreover, I believe the conservative fervor over this pick shows how politicized Christians have become at the expense of maintaining a prophetic voice. I believe that Mr. McCain has proven with his VP pick that he is pro-victory, not pro-family. In fact, I believe this was the anti-family pick. I say that for at least two reasons. [...]

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in the article is Mrs. Palin’s recent decision to travel for work (against her doctor’s orders) in the final days of her pregnancy. [...]

She put her child at risk, not for an official, necessary, or emergency duty as the Governor of Alaska, but because she simply "was not going to miss out on that speech." A speech! The more I learn about the choices this woman has made, the less inclined I am to see Mr. McCain’s choice as pro-family. [...]

Not only do I believe that a pro-family candidate would prefer to see Mrs. Palin at home taking care of her children, I believe a pro-family candidate would also avoid validating and advancing our culture’s desire to completely erase gender roles. [...]

In an effort to win the pro-family political argument, we are sacrificing the pro-family biblical argument. In essence, the message being sent to women by conservative Christians backing McCain/Palin is, "It’s ok to sacrifice your family on the altar of your career; just don’t have an abortion." How pro-family is that?

This post by an at-home mom has dozens of supportive comments below it:

The home, the family, the raising of children--it is the zenith of human accomplishment. It's a full-time job, requiring full-time attention if it's to encompass all God intended. [...]

The message is "women can have it all"...and it is a lie, because they can't.

The message is "men and women should have equal access to the same roles". The reality is, that's not how God created HIS universe to run. He created them male and female, and yes, by their very biological design, nature screams at our dull senses "YOU ARE DIFFERENT"! Created for different purposes, created to compliment one another in their life work.

Doug Phillips, the president of Vision Forum Ministries, was annoyed that Palin "praised and thanked feminist role models Clinton and Ferraro for what they had accomplished for women’s rights" in Dayton. He unloaded on Republican priorities in this post:

The selection of a feminist, pro-life mother of five with four children, seventeen and under, including a newborn Down’s syndrome baby, to fulfill the post of vice president is without precedent in American history. What Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was unable to accomplish for the feminist cause in 1984 may now be handed as a fait accompli to America through the hands of evangelicals and conservatives. After decades of Christian leaders fighting against the feminstic vision of the working supermom, Republicans are now showcasing the vision in the most high profile election in the world.

[...] I am confident that Mrs. Palin is a delightful, sincere, thoughtful, and capable woman with many commendable virtues. But in fairness, there is nothing "traditional" about mothers of young children becoming career moms, chief magistrates, and leading nations of three hundred million, nor is this pattern the biblical ideal to which young women should aspire. At a time when motherhood and marriage is so under attack, the message Republicans are sending is this: Winning political elections is more important than the following proposition given by the Lord: "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, [To be] discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:4-5).

Bonus track: Phillips linked approvingly to this 2004 post by an ordained minister who argued,

So then, if we are to be faithful to Christ, we must search the Scriptures to see what the Lord says in regards to the issue of women civil rulers, and whether it is permissible for Christians to support a woman for the office of civil magistrate. Second, we should recognize that the issue here is not the character or ability of the woman seeking the office; nor is it her spiritual condition, her views on the issues, or even if she is the "best" available candidate. The point in question is this: does the Word of God give us the liberty to place a woman into a political office where she will in some sense bear rule over us in the civil sphere? Or, to state it more precisely: is it biblically proper for a woman to hold political office, and thus rule over men? Has God ordained women to be civil leaders, or has He reserved this authority for men only? I believe that the Bible gives a definitive answer to this question: women are not permitted by God to hold political office and rule over men in the political sphere. There are four lines of evidence in the Bible that establish that women are not to hold political office.

The title of this post by "Mrs. Chancey" is "Woe to My people":

Why is a wife and mother with five children (including a newborn with Down's syndrome) running for vice president? She has a bountiful amount of work cut out for her by the Lord sitting in her lap and around her dining room table. I can certainly respect her Christian and biblical views, but I am really amazed at Christians leaping to embrace putting a wife and mother into political office--particularly an office that will essentially make her the helpmate of the highest official in the land and practically remove her from her husband and children.

Isaiah 3:12 truly applies: "As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths." I can assent to Sarah Palin's conservative views and even applaud them, but I mourn for a nation whose men have forgotten how to lead their families and their land in the way our Founders envisioned and the way God intended. A wife and mother has already been elected by God to the highest office in the land. She has her own particular husband to help, his calling to make successful, and her children to nurture and train to the glory of God. How could the vice-presidency possibly compare with a task that God has personally designed her to fill?

This Ron Paul supporter said Palin seemed like a pretty good governor who is worth listening to, but she had some concerns:

can she REALLY put her husband and children first if she has the second highest office in the country? Especially if things go wrong, which they very, very likely will? Can she be there for her husband if she's a very busy working mother? Can she fulfill her duties as a wife if she's traveling abroad and attending congressional sessions and casting deciding votes? Can she drop everything and handle a crisis with one of her children? Pro-family doesn't mean you're pro-HAVING a family, or pro-LOOKING like a family, or pro-God's designation of a family (which she is--one man, one woman, for life, etc). Pro-family means family comes FIRST, and each spouse puts that responsibility FIRST. [...]

I am not arguing that large numbers of conservative Christians will refuse to vote for the Republican ticket because they disapprove of Palin. But we should be aware that this pick was controversial within the evangelical Christian community as well as among other segments of the Republican base.

Even with Palin at his side, I do not think McCain will inspire as large an army of volunteer Christian soldiers as Bush did four years ago.

Original here

Ron Paul followers gather for own convention

Despite a substantial performance in the Republican primaries, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, didn't receive a speaking assignment at the GOP convention.

WASHINGTON - There's no room at the Xcel Energy Center for maverick Ron Paul, so his acolytes have packed their cars, hitched rides on "Ronvoys" and will pitch tents at Ronstock '08 in defiance of next week's GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Almost 9,800 tickets had been sold for the Rally for the Republic, being held in Minneapolis, which seeks to bring together activists who are anti-war, anti-government regulation, anti-immigration, anti-taxes, anti-Federal Reserve, anti-outsourcing, pro-individual liberty, pro-civil liberties and pro-Paul.

The Ronvoys — fleets of buses and vans carrying Paul's loyalists — were to begin arriving Saturday. A few rally-goers planned to walk from Green Bay, Wis., and join up with Paul for the final miles of their Walk4Freedom. Other attendees are driving, carpooling or flying in for the convention alternative.

Paul, a Texas congressman who failed in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, considers the rally a celebration of traditional Republican values of limited government — and a poke in the eye of the GOP. They don't plan to crash the Republican party, but to show they and their Campaign for Liberty are not going away.

"No matter how much our message is ignored or ridiculed, as was done in the campaign, no matter how much they did to us, it only energized our grass roots," Paul said.

No GOP speaking role for Paul
The rally builds on Paul's presidential bid, in which he set a record for single-day fundraising on the Web and touched a nerve with some disaffected voters, largely in the Republican Party.

In a few Western states, Paul was a serious contender for votes, placing second ahead of Republican John McCain in Nevada and Montana. He drew 14 percent from McCain in New Mexico, a battleground state.

But Paul has no speaking role at the GOP convention. He said his staff made overtures to the party, but nothing came of its efforts.

Republican Party spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said she had to research whether Paul was invited to speak when asked about a convention role for Paul.

"Our focus is really on this side of the river," Burgos said. "We think there's enough excitement and energy on this side." McCain's campaign spokesman did not return a phone message.

Paul's faithful still hope to permeate the ranks of the establishment by winning local and state races and pulling in disenchanted party members. There are a couple dozen Paul delegates attending the GOP convention, though some loyalists say there are more delegates who support Paul.

'We only want to cause noise'
Meanwhile, their focus is on their own political convergence in Minneapolis.

"We only want to cause noise in the sense of letting people know there are other movements out there that other people believe in," said Kathleen Buchholz, 28, of Denver. Unable to take time off from school for the rally, Buchholz is attending Tuesday's events, when Paul will speak. She's bypassing sleep to save on hotel costs and flying out early Wednesday.

Rally organizers reported last week they sold all 500 tickets priced at $85 each for their Real Politics Training School scheduled for Sunday. Attendees will learn political-organizing skills and "how to compete and win at the political game," organizers said on the rally Web site.

Speakers at the Paul rally include former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, tax activist Grover Norquist, former California Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr., political commentator Tucker Carlson, former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and the baby-delivering doctor supporters call Dr. Paul.

A few entertainers also are joining in, such as country star Sara Evans; pop singer Aimee Allen, known for the song "Cooties" from Hairspray but whose favorite song among rally-goers is "Ron Paul Anthem"; and Texas blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan.

Paul backers who aren't staying at the Minneapolis hotel or a budget motel for the rally planned to bunk in group cabins at Camp Ihduhapi on Lake Independence, park RVs or pitch tents at campgrounds. Many others also prepared to head to a Goodhue, Minn., dairy farm for Ronstock '08, an imitation of the 1960s Woodstock counterculture festival; organizers there say a neighbor of the farm's owner is donating a cow to feed the flock.

Sonny Thomas of Springboro, Ohio, plans to drive 12 hours to attend the rally, leaving Sunday. He was offering in a Web posting to fit one or two others in his car.

"I feel as one person who stands up, I have a voice and letting it be heard sends fear to the establishment," said Thomas, a gas station manager who was laid off a previous job.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Original here

Cindy McCain on ABC Today: Palin Has National Security Experience Because Alaska Is Close To Russia

When a Fox News morning host, Steve Doocy, testified to Sarah Palin's national security experience on Friday by saying that her state, Alaska, was so close to Russia, it drew hoots across the media and blogosphere (and even, no doubt, from a few Fox viewers).

This morning, on ABC in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Cindy McCain endorsed this very view.

Asked about Palin's national security experience, Cindy McCain could not come up with anything beyond the fact that, after all, her state is right next to Russia. "You know, the experience that she comes from is, what she has done in government -- and remember that Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia."

She added that Palin has "way more experience than...." but Stephanopoulos cut her off before she could say, for example, "Barack Obama" or maybe "others give her credit for."

Earlier in the interview, she said that Palin was "heavily experienced" in general, citing her going from the PTA to mayor to governor -- and having a son headed for Iraq. She actually said that she started her political career at the PTA "like everybody else."

Meanwhile, Palin's mother-in-law, Faye Palin, told a New York Daily News reporter that she didn't agree with Sarah on everything and hadn't yet decided how she would vote. She added: "I'm not sure what she brings to the ticket other than she's a woman and a conservative. Well, she's a better speaker than McCain," Faye Palin said with a laugh.

But this actually isn't as appalling as a phone interview Palin herself gave yesterday to reporter back home, at the Anchorage Daily News.

The reporter, Kyle Hopkins, asked, according to the transcript posted today, "Are you ready to be President Palin if necessary?"

"I am ... I am up to the task, of course, of focusing on the challenges that face America," she answered, and that was all she could say on her behalf on this question. Then she abruptly shifted to how her candidacy would help Alaska. "And I am very pleased with the situation that I am in, when, when you consider the situation now that Alaska will be in.

"And that is Alaska, and Alaskans will be allowed to contribute more to our great country and they'll be allowed to do that because I -- if we're elected -- will be in a position of opening the eyes of the country to what it is that Alaska is all about and what Alaska has to offer. So, I am happy to and very honored to be asked to do this. I know it's going to be great for Alaska."

Who said the woman was against earmarks? Actually, it seems like she sees herself as an Alaska earmark.

The early returns are not good, with most in the media still stepping lightly around the issue of John McCain's hypocrisy in asserting, for months, that Barack Obama is "dangerously" inexperienced in facing international threats -- and then appointing Palin as his running mate. See below for photo of Wasilla City Hall-- where she reigned less than two years ago.

Original here

McCain’s Baked Alaska

By GAIL COLLINS
DENVER

It is conceivable that some people will think John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate because she is a woman. I know you find this shocking, but I swear I have heard it mentioned.

McCain does not believe in pandering to identity politics. He was looking for someone who was well prepared to fight against international Islamic extremism, the transcendent issue of our time. And in the end he decided that in good conscience, he was not going to settle for anyone who had not been commander of a state national guard for at least a year and a half. He put down his foot!

The obvious choice was Palin, the governor of Alaska, whose guard stands as our last best defense against possible attack by the resurgent Russian menace across the Bering Strait.

Also a woman, but that’s totally beside the point.

True, the only nonfamily members other than McCain that Palin really mentioned in her introductory speech were Democrats Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Whatever happened to Ronald Reagan? Isn’t there a rule that you have to mention Ronald Reagan?

“It was rightly noted in Denver that Hillary made 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America,” Palin said. “It turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”

O.K., the women thing might have been a little bit of a selling point. Not nearly so much as the national guard commandership, of course. But if the millions of Democratic women who are still ticked off at Obama for stepping in front of Hillary in the line want to look elsewhere ...

John McCain has a low opinion of the vice presidency, which he’s frequently described as a job that involves attending funerals and checking on the health of the president. (Happy 72nd birthday, John!) There’s a lot we don’t know yet about Palin, and I am personally looking forward to deconstructing her role in the Matanuska Maid Dairy closing crisis. But at first glance, she doesn’t seem much less qualified than Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota who most people thought was the most likely pick. Unlike Joe Lieberman, Palin is a member of the same party as the presidential candidate. And unlike Mitt Romney, she has never gone on vacation with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car.

However, I do feel kind of ticked off at the assumptions that the Republicans seem to be making about female voters. It’s a tad reminiscent of the Dan Quayle selection, when the first George Bush’s advisers decided they could close the gender gap with a cute running mate.

The idea that women are going to race off to vote for any candidate with the same internal plumbing is both offensive and historically wrong. When the sexes have parted company in modern elections, it’s generally been because women are more likely to be Democrats, and more concerned about protecting the social safety net. “The gender gap traditionally has been determined by party preference, not by the gender of the candidate,” said Ruth Mandel of the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

Over the last week, we have heard over and over and over that Tuesday was the anniversary of the day women got the right to vote. (They got it when a state representative in Tennessee, where the House was split on the ratification issue, changed his vote because his mother wrote him a letter telling him to shape up. That’s a story that I would love to get into, but, unfortunately, right now we have Sarah Palin to deal with.)

After that big moment of enfranchisement, women went through a long period in the desert where they had the vote but not much else. Then came the great revolutions of the 1970s, when all the assumptions about the natural divisions between the sexes were challenged. During that era, women could be excited and moved by symbolic candidacies that promised a better, more inclusive future, like Shirley Chisholm’s presidential race and Geraldine Ferraro’s presence on the Democratic national ticket.

This year, Hillary Clinton took things to a whole new level. She didn’t run for president as a symbol but as the best-prepared candidate in the Democratic pack. Whether you liked her or not, she convinced the nation that women could be qualified to both run the country and be commander in chief. That was an enormous breakthrough, and Palin’s nomination feels, in comparison, like a step back.

If she’s only on the ticket to try to get disaffected Clinton supporters to cross over, it’s a bad choice. Joe Biden may already be practicing his drop-dead line for the vice-presidential debate: “I know Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine, and governor, you’re no Hillary Clinton.”

Original here

What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective.


Lovely Downtown Wasilla, Alaska

“Is this a joke?” That seemed to be the question du jour when my phone started ringing off the hook at 6:45am here in Alaska. I mean, we’re sort of excited that our humble state has gotten some kind of national ‘nod’….but seriously? Sarah Palin for Vice President? Yes, she’s a popular governor. Her all time high approval rating hovered around 90% at one point. But bear in mind that the 90% approval rating came from one of the most conservative, and reddest-of-the-red states out there. And that approval rating came before a series of events that have lead many Alaskans to question the governor’s once pristine image.

There is no doubt in my mind that many Alaskans are feeling pretty excited about this. But we live in our own little bubble up here, and most of the attention we get is because of The Bridge to Nowhere, polar bears, the indictment of Ted Stevens, and the ongoing investigation and conviction of the string of legislators and oil executives who literally called themselves “The Corrupt Bastards Club”.

So seeing our governor out there in the national spotlight accepting the nomination for Vice Presidential candidate is just downright surreal. Just months ago, when rumors surfaced that she was on the long version of the short list, she was questioned if she’d be interested in the position. She said she couldn’t answer “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….”

There is no doubt that Palin has fierce territorial loyalties. When elected governor there was much concern because she came right out and said she would favor her own home town of Wasilla (where she was mayor) and its surrounding environs collectively known as “the Valley” while leading the state. And it’s obvious from her statement that Alaska was on her mind when accepting the VP nod (see my emphasis above).

So what is it that we’re “trying to accomplish up here”?

  • Palin is currently in the middle of a controversial gas pipeline project in Alaska. She’s favored the ‘Trans Canada’ proposal that will run the pipeline through Canada, in effect shipping US jobs over the border. Many Alaskans, including former governors, have favored the “All Alaska Route”.
  • She is also suing the federal government over listing the polar bears as a threatened species. The science was even compelling enough to convince the Secretary of the Interior that the bears needed to be listed. But acknowledgement of this issue, and the potential disruption to development on Alaska’s oil-rich north slope spurred Palin to attempt to stop the listing.
  • Does she want to open ANWR? Yes. Every politician in Alaska wants to open ANWR. It’s basically a requirement if you ever hope to get elected for anything. Even Mark Begich, the progressive Democrat running against the indicted Senator and Alaskan institution Ted Stevens, is pro-drilling. That’s the sea we swim in up here. There are a few anti-drilling folks, but you have to look hard to find them, and work hard to have them admit it.

Will all this wash with voters in the ‘Lower 48′? Time will tell.

18 Million Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

It was obvious anyway, but became beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-two-by-four obvious when Palin referenced the ‘glass ceiling’ line, that this choice is a blatant pander to women. I would like to believe that women will actually feel insulted by this. Yes, it would have been historic if Hillary had gotten the nomination. It was historic that she made it as far as she did. Yes, it would be great to have a woman in the oval office, or in the VP slot if they are the right woman…a woman who got there with her own drive, grit, determination, intelligence, skill and merits. When you’re hand-picked by a man to win votes simply because you are a woman, that doesn’t count, and it doesn’t break any kind of ceiling. Would we have had a Stan Palin as our VP pick? No. So choosing a woman because you think her gender will get votes is insulting.

Governor “Squeakyclean”….or not.

Another focus of Palin’s introduction today was her reform image. Listen to John McCain and you’ll hear about a maverick reformer who took on big oil, took on corrupt Alaska politicians, and whose ethics are unquestioned.

Alaskans really want to like Sarah Palin. In a state where corruption is the rule, and the same faces keep recycling over and over and over again like a bad dream, a new face, with a promise of reform seemed like a breath of fresh air. Palin defeated incumbent governor Frank Murkowski (father of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski who he appointed to his own Senate seat when he was elected governor) because he was such an obnoxious, bloviating, downright BAD politician. This staunchly republican state voted with relief, not having to cross over and vote Democratic, but still able to get Murkowski the hell out of office. In the general election Palin swept into office running against a former Democratic governor, Tony Knowles, who was capable but came with baggage. And he represented to Alaskans more of the same, tired old-style politics, and special interests that we have come to loathe.

So, if McCain had made his selection six months ago, the squeaky-clean governor meme would have made a little more sense. But, Sarah Palin is currently under an ethics investigation by the Alaska state legislature. The details of this investigation read like a trashy novel, and I suspect that the players will soon have new found celebrity on the national stage. I’ll try to explain for all you non-Alaskans who suddenly have good reason to want to know more about Sarah Palin. For those of you not interested in trashy novels, feel free to skip ahead. Here it is…what we in Alaska call “TrooperGate”.

Sarah Palin’s sister Molly married a guy named Mike Wooten who is an Alaska State Trooper. Mike and Molly had a rocky marriage. When the marriage broke up, there was a bitter custody fight that is still ongoing. During the custody investigation, all sorts of things were brought up about Wooten including the fact that he had illegally shot a moose (yes folks this is Alaska), driven drunk, and used a taser (on the test setting, he reminds us) on his 11-year old stepson, who supposedly had asked to see what it felt like. While Wooten has turned out to be a less than stellar figure, the fact that Palin’s father accompanied him on the infamous moose hunt, and that many of the dozens of charges brought up by the Palin family happened long before they were ever reported smacked of desperate custody fight. Wooten’s story is that he was basically stalked by the family.

After all this, Wooten was investigated and disciplined on two counts and allowed to kept his position with the troopers. Enter Walt Monegan, Palin’s appointed new chief of the Department of Public Safety and head of the troopers. Monegan was beloved by the troopers, did a bang-up job with minimal funding and suddenly got axed. Palin was out of town and Monegan got “offered another job” (aka fired) with no explanation to Alaskans. Pressure was put on the governor to give details, because rumors started to swirl around the fact that the highly respected Monegan was fired because he refused to fire the aforementioned Mike Wooten. Palin vehemently denied ever talking to Monegan or pressuring Monegan in any way to fire Wooten, or that anyone on her staff did. Over the weeks it has come out that not only was pressure applied, there were literally dozens of conversations in which pressure was applied to fire him. Monegan has testified to this fact, spurring an ongoing investigation by the Alaska state legislature. But, beforethis investigation got underway, Palin sent the Alaska State Attorney General out to do some investigative work of his own so she could find out in advance what the real investigation was going to find. (No, I’m not making this up). The AG interviewed several people, unbeknownst to the actual appointed investigator or the Legislature! Palin’s investigation of herself uncovered a recorded phone call retained by the Alaska State Troopers from Frank Bailey, a Palin underling, putting pressure on a trooper about the Wooten non-firing. Todd Palin (governor’s husband) even talked to Monegan himself in Palin’s office while she was away. Bailey is now on paid administrative leave.

As if this weren’t enough, Monegan’s appointed replacement Chuck Kopp, turns out to have been the center of his own little scandal. He received a letter of reprimand and was reassigned after sexual harassment allegations by a former coworker who didn’t like all the unwanted kissing and hugging in the office. Was he vetted? Obviously not. When he was questioned about all this, his comment was that no one had asked him and he thought they all knew. Kopp, defiant, still claimed to have done nothing wrong and said to the press that there was no way he was stepping down from his new position. Twenty four hours later, he stepped down. Later it was uncovered that he received a $10,000 severance package for his two weeks on the job from Palin. Monegan got nothing.

After extensive news coverage about all this nasty behind-the-scenes scandal, which is definitely NOT squeaky clean, Palin’s approval ratings fell to 67%, still high, but a far cry from the 90% number that’s being thrown around so glibly by the Republicans today. Alaskans are quickly becoming disillusioned once again.

“Executive Experience”

Before her meteoric rise to political success as governor, just two short years ago Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla. I had a good chuckle at MSN.com’s claim that she had been the mayor of “Wasilla City”. It is not a city. Just Wasilla. Wasilla is the heart of the Alaska “Bible belt” and Sarah was raised amongst the tribe that believes creationism should be taught in our public schools, homosexuality is a sin, and life begins at conception. She’s a gun-toting, hang ‘em high conservative. Remember…this is where her approval ratings come from. There is no doubt that McCain again is making a strategic choice to appeal to a particular demographic - fundamentalist right-wing gun-owning Christians. And Republican bloggers are already gushing about how she has ‘more executive experience’ than Obama does! Above is a picture of lovely downtown Wasilla, for those of you unfamiliar with the area. Behind the Mug-Shot Saloon (the first bar I visited when I moved to Alaska long ago) is a little strip mall. There are street signs in Wasilla with bullet holes in them. Wasilla has a population of about 5500 people, and 1979 occupied housing units. This is where your potential Vice President was two short years ago. Can you imagine her negotiating a nuclear non-proliferation treaty? Discussing foreign policy? Understanding non-Alaskan issues? Frankly, I don’t even know if she’s ever been out of the country. She may ‘get’ Alaska, but there are only a half a million people here. Don’t get me wrong….I love Alaska with all my heart. I’m just saying.

I, and all Alaskans will be interested to see how this whole process unfolds. This is definitely a gamble for McCain, and in my humble opinion, a gift to Obama and to Joe Biden who just got thrown a big hunk of red meat for the vice presidential debate.

This is the wedge-issue, desperate ’Hail Sarah’ pass of the McCain campaign.

Now I’m off to get some Jiffy Pop.

Original here

Sarah Palin's mother-in-law uncertain about how she'll vote


WASILLA, Alaska - Sarah Palin's hometown rallied around her as mayor - now Republicans wonder if the rest of America will warm up to the surprise pick from cold country.

Though her mother-in-law has doubts.

Faye Palin admitted she enjoys hearing Barack Obama speak, and still hasn't decided which way she'll vote.

"We don't agree on everything. But I respect her passion," she said. "Being pro-life is who Sarah is."

Faye Palin said the governor never considered ending her recent pregnancy when genetic testing showed her son Trig, born in April, would have Down syndrome.

"There was no question," she said. "She was going to have that baby."

With a population of just 6,715, Wasilla is a fast-growing railroad town that got its start as a mail and supply hub linking the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to Alaska's interior mining camps along the Iditarod dog sled trail.

Scores of reporters descended Saturday on the A-frame wood hunting lodge where Sarah Palin's parents live amid hundreds of sets of trophy antlers and a taxidermy collection that includes a giant moose head and a full-grown mountain lion.

PHOTOS: SEE MORE OF SARAH PALIN

Faye Palin said the entire family was shocked by the news on Friday.

"I'm not sure what she brings to the ticket other than she's a woman and a conservative. Well, she's a better speaker than McCain," Faye Palin said with a laugh. "People will say she hasn't been on the national scene long enough. But I believe she's a quick study."

She said people doubted Sarah Palin when she ran for City Council, but that her daughter-in-law had a "singular focus."

"She was out there with [then-young son] Track, pulling him around from house to house in a wagon," she said.

Sarah Palin is well known as a former high school basketball star, cross-country runner, beauty queen, hockey mom, city council member and Wasilla's mayor from 1996 to 2007.

"I think it's great. She's a hometown girl from Smallville, USA," said Felix Bruno, 43, a masonry contractor who plowed her driveway. "She's not afraid to speak her mind. She really dropped the hammer on the politicians fleecing Alaska."

At the local Mat-Su Family Restaurant in downtown Wasilla, a Bible-study group that includes two ex-mayors from neighboring cities cheered her pick as McCain's running mate.

"She's an excellent social conservative, fiscal conservative and political conservative," said Tom Baird, 68, a Vietnam veteran who sat with his Gideon Bible opened to 1Corinthians. "If she can energize the conservative base, it won't matter if she gets the women's vote."

"This is a really nice person, and she's disarming in that way," said George Carte, 67, a retired geophysicist who was mayor of neighboring Palmer when Palin was mayor of Wasilla.

"I was very impressed with her as mayor," said Carte. "She did some housecleaning with her department heads. She had to learn about the sewers, the libraries, public safety."

But even with her impressive approval rating, Palin still has work to do even in her own hometown.

"I'm still leaning toward Obama. I think Sarah has been really good for our state, and it would be wonderful to see her in the White House, but she's on the ticket with McCain, and I can't vote for McCain," said Eileen Moe, 33, a second grade teacher at Iditarod Elementary, which Palin's kids attended.

"If it was her running for president, there'd be no question in my mind," Moe said. "The Republicans right now are about big business and big oil. I don't see Sarah as a staunch Republican in that way."

Not everyone is convinced her experience as mayor and governor are enough for a vice president who would be next in line to the presidency.

"I wouldn't say she's qualified," said Bill Gleason, 60, a contractor from nearby Big Lake. "I want someone with a little more experience. "

ndillon@nydailynews.com

Original here

Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis

[updated below (with video) - Update II - Update III - Update IV]

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. Posted below is the video of the scene, including various interviews, which convey a very clear sense of what is actually going on here.

In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as "Do you have Terminator ready?" as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. The 10 or so individuals in the house all said that though they found the experience very jarring, they still intended to protest against the GOP Convention, and several said that being subjected to raids of that sort made them more emboldened than ever to do so.

Several of those who were arrested are being represented by Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild. Nestor said that last night's raid involved a meeting of a group calling itself the "RNC Welcoming Committee", and that this morning's raids appeared to target members of "Food Not Bombs," which he described as an anti-war, anti-authoritarian protest group. There was not a single act of violence or illegality that has taken place, Nestor said. Instead, the raids were purely anticipatory in nature, and clearly designed to frighten people contemplating taking part in any unauthorized protests.

Nestor indicated that only 2 or 3 of the 50 individuals who were handcuffed this morning at the 2 houses were actually arrested and charged with a crime, and the crime they were charged with is "conspiracy to commit riot." Nestor, who has practiced law in Minnesota for many years, said that he had never before heard of that statute being used for anything, and that its parameters are so self-evidently vague, designed to allow pre-emeptive arrests of those who are peacefully protesting, that it is almost certainly unconstitutional, though because it had never been invoked (until now), its constitutionality had not been tested.

There is clearly an intent on the part of law enforcement authorities here to engage in extreme and highly intimidating raids against those who are planning to protest the Convention. The DNC in Denver was the site of several quite ugly incidents where law enforcement acted on behalf of Democratic Party officials and the corporate elite that funded the Convention to keep the media and protesters from doing anything remotely off-script. But the massive and plainly excessive preemptive police raids in Minnesota are of a different order altogether. Targeting people with automatic-weapons-carrying SWAT teams and mass raids in their homes, who are suspected of nothing more than planning dissident political protests at a political convention and who have engaged in no illegal activity whatsoever, is about as redolent of the worst tactics of a police state as can be imagined.

UPDATE: Here is the first of the videos, from the house that had just been raided:



Jane Hamsher has more here, and The Minnesota Independent has a report on another one of the raided houses, here.

UPDATE II: Here is the video we took from the second house as the raid was occurring. We were barred from entering but spoke with neighbors outside as well as with Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota Lawyer's Guild, regarding these raids:



Over at FDL, Lindsay Beyerstein spoke with the property owner whose house -- the fourth one we now know of -- was being raided while the raid was in progress, and Lindsay has details here ("About an hour and a half ago 20 to 30 heavily armed police officers surrounded the house. One of my roommates said 'I want to see a warrant' and she was immediately detained"). Meanwhile, Indy Media of Twin Cities -- an association of independent journalists in the area -- just told me that several of their journalists have been detained while trying to cover these raids. Their site, with ongoing updates, is here.

The Uptake also has several reports of the various raids, including video of the raid at the property whose owner Bernstein spoke with as the raid occurred. That video includes an interview with a lawyer from the National Lawyer's Guild who was detained and put in handcufffs, explaining that the surrounded house is one where various journalists are staying. Additionally, a photojournalist with Democracy Now was detained at that house as well. So, both journalists and lawyers -- in addition to protesters -- have been detained and arrested even though not a single violent or criminal act has occurred.

UPDATE III: FDL has the transcript of part of my discussion about these raids with the National Lawyer Guild's Minnesota President -- here.

The Uptake has this amazing video interview with the Democracy Now producer who was detained today. As the DN producer explains, she was present at a meeting of a group called "I-Witness" -- which videotaped police behavior at the 2004 GOP Convention in New York and helped get charges dismissed against hundreds of protesters who were arrested. The police surrounded the St. Paul house where they were meeting even though they had no warrant, told them that anyone who exited the house would be arrested, and then -- even though they finally, after several hours, obtained a warrant only for the house next door -- basically broke into the house, pointed weapons at everyone inside, handcuffed them, searched the house, and then left. Here is a blog post from one of the members of I-Witness asking for help during the time when they were forced to stay inside the house (see the second post -- it reads like a note from a hostage crying out for help). This is truly repugnant, extreme police behavior designed to intimidate protesters, police critics and others, and it ought to infuriate anyone and everyone who cares about basic liberties.

UPDATE IV: More here, including on the Federal Government's role in these raids.

Original here