Genii Weblog

Vetted? Really?

Tue 2 Sep 2008, 10:41 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
I want to start by saying that I agree 100% with Barack Obama about families being off-limits.  I simply will not repeat or countenance the various stories, confirmed or otherwise, about Governor Sarah Palin's family.

All that aside, I am almost eager to hear the justifications which are likely to be spouted by people who spent endless political cycles questioning Barack Obama's patriotism, but will now find the fact that Governor Sarah Palin used to belong to an overtly secessionist political party (see one account).  And yet, I am still not necessarily going to hold that against her, as people have a right to both free speech and to change their minds.  It does seem that we could hold candidates to a higher standard, but perhaps we won't.

The person who I would hold accountable is Senator John McCain.  He claims to have fully vetted his vice-presidential running mate, and that is getting increasingly hard to believe.  There seem to be two equally damning possibilities.  The first is that he did not carefully vet Governor Sarah Palin, which would then speak to his rashness and lack of judgment.  The second is that he did carefully vet Governor Sarah Palin, which would certainly include examining her publicly acknowledged part affiliations, and that he decided that a former member of an explicitly secessionist party was suitable, and that her membership was not worthy of public notice.  That would speak to his judgment as well, but would also raise serious questions about his honesty, both due to hiding a political bombshell from his own party and to his honesty in lambasting both Barack and Michelle Obama about their patriotism when it is clearly less of a big deal than he really believed.

I would have to bet on a completely inadequate job vetting Governor Palin.  It is easier to believe that in the rush to grab attention away from Senator Barack Obama's speech, watched by at least 40 million Americans, Senator McCain made a rash and impulsive "Hail Mary" move with a candidate who had not been seriously enough considered, than that he made a completely idiotic decision with the knowledge now out there.  He is certainly not known to be a stupid man, but he is known to be rash and impulsive, and this seems to be fairly clear evidence.

Update: It has been pointed out that the original person claiming that Sarah Palin was a member of AIP has now backed down from the claim.  Todd Palin, Governor Palin's husband, was a long time member, and she has had several contacts including giving speeches to the conventions, but I should clarify that there is no evidence she was actually a member.  This does not really change my conclusion about the vetting process, but at least it is less of a bombshell than it might have been, fortunately.

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What has been said:

708.1. Jerry Carter
(09/02/2008 08:30 AM)


I would view it as extremely patriotic to belong to a secessionists party. Patriotism is to that which defines your homeland. The U.S. was defined by freedom before it was defined by Union. The fact that a party of this strain exists point to the desperate need for her kind of political thought in Washington. Secessionists exist because there are grave problems with the system "as is". I happen to agree with that point of view - there are grave problems with our system. The one thing I find most palatable about Senator McCain and Governor Palin is their brash willingness to part with party politics. They don't always go the way I would, but the fact that they break ranks is very refreshing. I view this, as I suspect self-style maverick McCain would, as a huge plus for Palin.

708.2. Ben Langhinrichs
(09/02/2008 08:45 AM)

@Jerry - Out of curiosity, if you can imagine Barack Obama belonging to a party which wanted to secede frm the U.S., do you think you would view it as favorably? I'm not saying you wouldn't, but I am curious. I certainly never got the impression that when Senator McCain was slamming Senator Obama for his lack of patriotism, he would have been satisfied with patriotism to anybody or anyplace. I got the impression he was looking for patriotism to the United States of America.

708.3. Jerry Carter
(09/02/2008 09:08 AM)

@Ben - sure I would - if his motivations were the same as hers. Obviously I don't know Governor Palin's inner most motivations, but if I were to judge by her political style and record, my guess would be she's thinking 2nd Amendment when she was involved with that party. To that end, if Senator Obama was of like mind, that is secessionist in order to preserve the American way of life and save it from the tyranny of a bloated federalist system (what we presently have and, to the contrary, what he in fact proposes more of), he'd have my vote baring any more suitable candidate, which I think we have (of course) in McCain.

To break it down some, Sarah Palin's style and record speak of someone fed up with "politics as usual, someone who is interested in doing what is right rather than politically expedient, even if that means sacrifices at the expense of the political institution. The difference I discern between her and Barak Obama is he advocates the opposite - patriotism defined as allegiance to the system, no the way of life of freedom from a burdensome government.

What I think is worth noting at this point is there is much ado in the media, and on the blogs, comparing Obama - the democratic Presidential candidate, with Palin, the presumed republican VICE presidential candidate.

708.4. Jerry Carter
(09/02/2008 09:10 AM)

oops - too many CTRL+Z!!

The difference I discern between her and Barak Obama is he advocates the opposite - patriotism defined as allegiance to the system, no the way of life of freedom from a burdensome government.

should have read

The difference I discern between her and Barak Obama is he advocates the opposite - patriotism defined as allegiance to the system at the expense of the American people under a burdensome government.

708.5. rob axelrod
(09/02/2008 09:15 AM)

@Jerry: While I would agree that at one time McCain could rightly be called a "maverick", parting with his party on key issues, over the last two years since he began his latest quest for the presidency he has been in absolute lockstep with his party and most distressingly President Bush.

708.6. Jerry Carter
(09/02/2008 09:23 AM)

@Rob, unfortunately, I think that is an act on Senator McCains part. I think he is far more centrist, at heart, than his recent activities would suggest. My gut tells me he's been playing right to capture the nomination - just as I suspect Senator Obama is playing center to do the same. In reality, both candidates are much more to the left of their stated positions if you take their complete past record into account. Being the more right leaning person I am, I would actually prefer someone more conservative than McCain, just as I would have preferred someone more astute than Bush. Once again, I'll be voting against the lesser of two "evils"... third time in a row now.

708.7. Ben Langhinrichs
(09/02/2008 11:11 AM)

@Jerry - So, I'm a bit slow here, so I'll see if I can sum up:

Freedom to decide for yourself whether to carry a gun - Good!

Freedom to decide for yourself whether to wear a flag lapel pin - Bad!

Trying to secede from the U.S. because it isn't perfect - Good!

Saying in public that the U.S. isn't perfect - Bad!

Do I have that about right?

708.8. Steve
(09/05/2008 12:24 PM)

Stumbled on this discussion and thought a little fact checking is in order.

1. Sarah Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982. It was her husband Todd who is currently registered as an Independent, who the media is and/or should attribute the secessionist stories.

2. Whether you are for or against Sarah Palin because of this non-story, then you should be happy or sad to know that Obama voted for a bill in the US Senate (the Akaka Bill) that would give special rights to native Hawaiians, essentially giving them their own state, i.e., seceding from the U.S.

Whatever your view on politics, you should make sure your information is correct before making snap comments.

708.9. Ben Langhinrichs
(09/05/2008 12:41 PM)

@Steve - I imagine you are a drive by poster, but just to address this for anybody else who comes along:

a) the person who originally said that Sarah Palin had been a member has not retracted that statement, so it appears correct that only Todd Palin was a member. Thank you for bringing that up, and I will amend the original post now that the information has changed

b) there is no relationship between the native Hawaiian story and a secessionist group in Alaska. This is related to a longstanding practice of acknowledging special rughts for tribal lands to various Native American groups. If there were an Inuit or Eskimo tribal group claiming lands, that would be a fair comparison to the Hawaiian situation. The AIP is not.

Since you have simply "stumbled on this discussion", you might want to consider being a bit more respectful. My point about the vetting process was not a "snap judgment", even if an understanding of the exact level of involvement Sarah Palin has had with AIP has evolved. Nonetheless, I welcome your visit and appreciate the heads up about the information having changed.

- Ben Langhinrichs