When David Neiwert, an expert on extremist groups in the Northwest, and I concluded our exhaustive investigative report for Salon.com about Sarah Palin’s involvement with the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party, we emailed the McCain camp a detailed synopsis of our findings and requested a response. We were met with silence.
But when Neiwert appeared on Tuesday on Rick Sanchez’s CNN Newsroom, the McCain-Palin campaign went into full damage control mode, blasting out an indignant statement in the middle of the Neiwert’s segment. The statement, written by McCain deputy communications director Michael Goldfarb, a neoconservative former Weekly Standard editor, reads:
CNN is furthering a smear with this report, no different than if your network ran a piece questioning Senator Obama’s religion. No serious news organization has tried to make this connection, and it is unfortunate that CNN would be the first.
We are trying to arrange to have one of the Governor’s people come on air to respond in the event you do run this piece.
By referring to Obama’s “religion,” the McCain-Palin campaign, obviously attempted to provoke the most inflammatory charge leveled against Obama’s character: What religion is he? Is he a crypto-Muslim?The McCain campaign also asserted an equivalency between Obama’s religion and Palin’s political ties to a far right group. The McCain campaign suggests that Obama’s religion and Palin’s politics are both beyond the pale, as it were. But the rapid response raises another question: Is this a disciplined campaign messaging operation? Does the McCain campaign really mean what it suggests?
The McCain-Palin response to our report came as the already beleaguered vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, was suffering a damaging series of setbacks, including the resignation of Alaska’s rural affairs director, claiming as a reason the governor’s lack of commitment to racial diversity in her administration. That blow immediately followed my video report in The Daily Beast on Palin’s strained relations with Alaska’s African-American community.
Though McCain-Palin campaign condemned the report on her links to the AIP piece as a “smear,” the facts went unchallenged.
The campaign would not, and could not, discredit the revelation that Palin worked hand-in-glove with former AIP chairman Mark Chryson to undermine the character of her opponent in Wasilla’s 1996 mayoral election and sought to advance Chryson’s agenda once she was elected. As Chryson told us, Palin supported his lobbying to loosen local gun control laws, an effort he initiated to facilitate the formation of anti-government “Patriot” militias. Palin also invited him before Wasilla’s city council to denounce a local ordinance to ban guns from schools and bars.
The McCain-Palin campaign also offered no explanation for why Palin attempted to appoint Steve Stoll, a John Birch Society activist, to the city council seat she had vacated, overlooking Stoll’s reputation in Wasilla as “Black Helicopter Steve,” a conspiratorial figure rumored to have buried high-powered automatic weapons in his front yard in case the New World Order arrived. When a council member who considered him a “violent influence” blocked Stoll’s nomination, Palin considered consulting attorneys about a backdoor means of appointing him.
The strange saga that began during Palin’s early political career, when she cultivated close political ties with an anti-government extremist organization that helped her advance her ambitions, now has turned increasingly strange as the McCain handlers seek to suppress factual reporting of her past. These tactics, especially equating Palin’s politics with Obama’s religion, only underline the questions about Palin’s background, as well as about the McCain campaign’s ability to control its message in the critical three weeks before Election Day.