Politics

McCain Panders to Christian Right in Choosing Sarah Palin as VP

Sen. John McCain’s newly minted vice presidential pick Sarah Palin nearly faced a recall election in 1997 while she served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a city that at the time had a population of about 5,000.

“Four months of turmoil have followed in which almost every move by Palin has been questioned, from firing the museum director to hiring a deputy administrator at a cost of $50,000 a year to a short-lived proposal to move the city’s historic buildings from downtown,” the Associated Press reported in a Feb. 11, 1997 dispatch. “Critics argue the decisions are politically motivated.”

Wasilla’s former police chief, Irl Stambaugh, sued Palin that year for alleged contract violation, wrongful termination and gender discrimination. The police chief claimed Palin fired him for being disloyal.

“Mayor Palin has stated on several occasions that the National Rifle Association encouraged her to fire Chief Stambaugh because of his stance against the concealed weapons legislation,” the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also claimed Palin fired Stambaugh in because he is a man whose size – 6 feet and 200 pounds – allegedly “intimidated” the mayor.

Palin also terminated the city’s librarian, a move that pit Palin against angry Wasilla residents who launched a campaign to oust her from office. The recall election, however, never got off the ground. And a federal judge rejected the lawsuit the police chief’s lawsuit.

But that’s small town politics. And though the 45 year-old mother of five served as chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and less than two years ago was elevated to Alaska’s top political office, Palin has never been confronted with hot-button political issues and her accomplishments in the legislative arena since her tenure as Alaska’s first female governor. 

Now Palin finds herself the subject of an investigation for allegedly retaliating against former Alaska public safety commissioner Walt Monegan who refused to fire a state trooper entangled in a divorce and custody battle with Palin’s sister. The probe will also examine whether Palin’s extended family tried to pressure Monegan to fire state trooper Mike Wooten due to the divorce.

Yet McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who has viciously attacked Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s as inexperienced to serve as commander-in-chief said Friday that Palin is ready to tackle matters of national security, the economy, and the war in Iraq, issues McCain has used to define his campaign as superior to that of Obama’s, if he was unable to serve.

It’s easy to criticize McCain for his blatant hypocrisy when it comes to the experience factor. But it’s clear McCain decision on a running mate had less to do with what’s best for the country and everything to do with appealing to so-called values voters, who have pressured the Arizona senator to choose a running mate who is against abortion, gay marriage, and a “true Christian.”

The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission initiated a non-partisan “True Christian Vice President” campaign this past spring. Obama and McCain were pressured by the group to choose a vice president who is “a born again Christian, who was pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.”
 
“John McCain is to be commended on his choice of Sarah Palin, a true Christian for Vice President,” said Dr. Gary Cass, Chairman and CEO of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. “Palin, an evangelical who is pro-life and pro-marriage, meets all the criterion that CADC set forth for a VP pick. Unfortunately, Obama chose Joe Biden, a liberal Catholic, who is not in compliance with Christian moral teaching on abortion or homosexuality.”

That’s just one of two-dozen press releases conservative Christian groups distributed Friday immediately following McCain’s announcement in Ohio that Palin, whose state has just three electoral votes, would be his running mate.

“The country now has a clear choice,” said Darla St. Martin, Co-Executive Director of the National Right to Life Committee, “between an avowed pro-abortion ticket that would continue to push for unrestricted abortion on demand, and a strongly pro-life ticket that will bring us closer to a society that embraces the value and dignity of human life.”

“By choosing the boldly pro-life Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has taken his stand as the one true, authentic pro-life ticket,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee helping pro-life women gain election to Congress.

To be sure, just a week ago, as rumors swirled that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was in the running to be McCain’s choice for vice president, Cass issued a statement that was echoed by conservative Christian organizations nationwide warning McCain that he would lose votes if he tapped Romney.

“Will [McCain] pick a pro-choice Republican or perhaps a moderate Mormon or a liberal Jew? I urge McCain to pick someone that conservative evangelicals and Catholics can support,” Cass said. “Unless McCain picks a true Christian for Vice President, real conservative Christians are being disenfranchised from this presidential election. Obama missed a great chance to reach out to Christians. Now we will see if McCain will let conservative Christians have someone we can vote for, not just vote against.”

Palin is staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage as well as granting benefits to same-sex partners. When a state court ruled last year that civil unions are to be permitted for same-sex couples, Palin balked, and called for the state constitution to be amended to in an attempt to upend the ruling saying the issue should be placed on the ballot and put before the voters.

While the Christian right celebrates McCain’s choice, Republicans are faced with questions that Palin is a novice.

Following her two terms as mayor of Wasilla, Palin made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination in the 2002 election. In January 2004, she resigned as chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after a public spat squabble with fellow commissioner Randy Ruedrich, who was also happens to chair of the Republican Party of Alaska. In 2003, Palin alerted Gov. Frank Murkowski’s administration that she suspected Ruedrich of an ethics breach, conducting work for the state GOP on government time.

Palin hacked into Ruedrich’s computer, an ethical lapse in its own right, to obtain evidence of her colleague’s malfeasance.

She stayed out of politics for more than two years, acquiring a business license in the interim for a marketing and consulting company named Rogue Cou, “a classy way of saying redneck,” Palin said in a June 2005 interview with the Anchorage Daily News.

Perhaps the toughest questions Palin has faced since her political career got off the ground in the mid-1990s came during questions about her own apparent ethical lapses while serving in city government, an event which underscores just how local Palin’s political career has been.

“We wondered how her using a city computer to run for lieutenant governor in 2002 was different than Republic Party chief Randy Ruedrich using Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission computers for party business, for which he was fined and resigned under pressure. She said it was different,” the Anchorage Daily News reported on July 14, 2006.

“In a release [Palin] fired off to everyone she could think of after the questions, she huffed about a “smear” campaign organized by her “enemies — powerful enemies.” Later, there were references on various radio talk shows to whispering campaigns and other craziness, but we wrote that off as the vapors and a touch of paranoia.

“She characterized as “innocuous” her political e-mails sent on a city computer to the Alaska Outdoor Council and another complaining about the Right to Life folks not choosing her as their candidate in the 2002 race. That was bad enough, indicating she just does not get it, but then she had this to say: We’ve had lots of people come forward with dirt on (gubernatorial candidate John) Binkley . . . as well as dirt of (Gov. Frank) Murkowski. We’ve told them to bury it. I’m not running that type of campaign.

“Apparently, that is exactly the kind of vicious campaign the former two-term Wasilla mayor is running. In our view, that kind of backdoor character assassination is the most scurrilous type of attack,” the Anchorage Daily News reported. “It is akin to running against Teddy Kennedy and promising not to discuss bridges, cars, swimming or Chappaquiddick. Oh, I have dirt, Palin says smugly, yes, indeedy; but I’ll not give the details because that would be wrong. She is right. It is very wrong. It is very much the hallmark of lightweight politicians in over their heads.”

Residents of Wasilla sounded off Friday on the news that McCain chose Palin as the his running mate. The response by residents in the community was mixed.

“I’m going to vote for a president, not a vice president,” Wasilla resident Kathy Gibson wrote on the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman newspaper’s message board. “I’m going to vote for someone who doesn’t endorse murdering innocent women and children to fulfill their own greed. Someone who thinks a woman has the right to decide for themselves whether or not to have a baby Someone who supports equal pay for women. Sarah Palin doesn’t support any of these views. She’s a republican [sic] who thinks what all republicans [sic] are told to think, says what all republicans are told to say, because they are afraid to think for themselves.”
 
“Finally an honest politician Alaska can be proud of rises to national level. I will give her all my support. Alaskans must unite to help Governor Palin with everything she needs in the comming [sic] months,” wrote Christy Pinkerton. “I for one am ready to man the phones, process mail, babysit, clean her house, anything she needs.”
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