Friday, October 10, 2008

Sarah Palin, the AIP, and the extremist fringe

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So McCain and Palin want to smear Obama with guilt by association over his non-relationship with Bill Ayers, eh?

Well, perhaps more attention ought to be paid to Palin's long and ongoing relationship with the extremist Alaska Independence Party (AIP) and its leaders. And perhaps Palin ought to be asked why she has associated -- and rather closely (she was a card-carrying member of the AIP) -- with extremists who not only support secession from the U.S. but who have "[forged] alliances with outright white supremacists and far-right theocrats," who are "[affiliated] with neo-Confederate organizations," and who are pro-gun, anti-government, militia-supporting nuts.

Specifically, as Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert show in a fantastic piece at Salon that is an absolute must-read, Palin's rise to prominence, both in Wasilla and Juneau, was facilitated in large part by two prominent right-wingers, Mark Chryson (a former AIP chairman) and Steve Stoll (a John Birth Society activist). "Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin's campaign [for mayor of Wasilla] financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory." And the support has been mutual, with Palin actively seeking to advance their agenda.

Read the entire piece. Here's a key passage:

"With Sarah as a mayor," said Chryson, "there were a number of times when I just showed up at City Hall and said, 'Hey, Sarah, we need help.' I think there was only one time when I wasn't able to talk to her and that was because she was in a meeting."

Chryson says the door remains open now that Palin is governor. (Palin's office did not respond to Salon's request for an interview.) While Palin has been more circumspect in her dealings with groups like the AIP as she has risen through the political ranks, she has stayed in touch.

When Palin ran for governor in 2006, marketing herself as a fresh-faced reformer determined to crush the GOP's ossified power structure, she made certain to appear at the AIP's state convention. To burnish her maverick image, she also tapped one-time AIP member and born-again Republican Walter Hickel as her campaign co-chair. Hickel barnstormed the state for Palin, hailing her support for an "all-Alaska" liquefied gas pipeline, a project first promoted in 2002 by an AIP gubernatorial candidate named Nels Anderson. When Palin delivered her victory speech on election night, Hickel stood beaming by her side. "I made her governor," he boasted afterward. Two years later, Hickel has endorsed Palin's bid for vice president.

Just months before Palin burst onto the national stage as McCain's vice-presidential nominee, she delivered a videotaped address to the AIP's annual convention. Her message was scrupulously free of secessionist rhetoric, but complementary nonetheless. "I share your party's vision of upholding the Constitution of our great state," Palin told the assembly of AIP delegates. "My administration remains focused on reining in government growth so individual liberty can expand. I know you agree with that... Keep up the good work and God bless you."

So... are the gloves really off? If McCain and Palin want to wallow in the gutter with Ayers-related smears, with outright lies meant to tarnish Obama's character, should we not then bring up, say, the Keating Five scandal and, well, much of what we've learned about Palin, including her very real association with the AIP?

Should we not counter their lies with the truth?

Because, as I have said many, many times:


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