Here are a couple of questions for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: What do you think of the following statement: "I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America and her dammed institutions." Or how about this one: "The problem with you John Birchers is that you’re too dammed liberal!"
These might seem like odd questions to put to a governor, but more than a few things about Palin, currently the GOP’s presumptive vice presidential nominee, are very odd indeed.
For instance, several members of the Alaskan Independence Party, including its chairman, say Palin was a member of the AIP in 1994 and 1995, and attended the party’s 1994 biannual convention in Wasilla, where she was a city councilmember, and would soon become mayor. The McCain campaign says these claims are false, while as of this writing Palin herself hasn’t addressed the issue.
What’s not in dispute is that earlier this year she sent a videotaped welcome to the party’s convention. And Palin’s husband was a registered member of the party from 1995 until 2002.
The AIP was founded by one Joe Vogler, who is described on the party’s Web site as a "plain-spoken gold miner, non-practicing attorney, and charismatic icon of local politics." Another way of describing Vogler, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1993, is as a far right lunatic, who believed that Alaska’s admission to statehood was illegal, and that Alaskans should hold a referendum on whether to become a sovereign nation. (The quotes about American institutions and the John Birch society are Vogler’s).
This remains the official position of the AIP. The party wants to hold a statewide vote on whether to become a commonwealth, to remain (become?) one of the 50 states, or to become a wholly independent nation.
In other words, this is, to put it mildly, an extremist political group. And surely it’s appropriate for someone on a major presidential ticket to explain her precise relationship to a party whose platform calls for a vote regarding secession from the United States.
This is especially true, given that the unofficial motto of the McCain campaign’s political advertising has been "Country First." Ironically, the motto of the AIP is exactly the opposite: "Alaska First, Alaska Always."
All this may throw light on a mystery: Why did Palin decide to take a nine-hour flight from Dallas to Anchorage five months ago, after her water broke? (This means she was either about to go into the last stages of labor, or the birth of her fifth child would have to be induced within hours).
This, to all appearances, was a remarkably reckless act — it’s hard to believe any responsible doctor would approve of the decision, nor would any airline aware of the circumstances allow a passenger to fly, let alone from one end of North America to the other.
Indeed, it was such an inexplicable thing to do that news of her actions helped generate bizarre theories that she wasn’t really having a baby at all, and was instead covering up her daughter’s pregnancy.
The alternative theory would seem to involve a disturbingly cavalier attitude toward the health of a baby she knew was going to be born with Down Syndrome. All sorts of explanations leap to mind for why a woman in Palin’s position, who had just leapt from political obscurity to prominence, and who is deeply committed to outlawing abortion, might be ambivalent about the birth of a developmentally disabled child.
Now another explanation is available — one that reflects more generously on her potential psychological motivations, if not her overall mental state. If Palin is indeed a true believer in the views of the AIP, it may have been overwhelmingly important to her that her child was born in the right country.
And that country, in her mind, would be called Alaska.
(Paul Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado and can be reached at Paul.Campos(at)Colorado.edu.)