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Palin is the one pallin' with extremists

Is Palin a stealth candidate for right wing extremists?

"Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country," said Sarah Palin, referring to Obama's glancing association with William Ayers a reformed 1960s radical who served with Obama on a charity board. That hardly makes them pals. Ironically, Palin is the one who pals with people who think that America is imperfect enough that they feel compelled to stockpile arms, just in case they need to shoot it out with the United States government.

Just this week, disturbing new information has emerged about Sarah Palin's connection to the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), an extreme right wing group of Alaskan secessionists. "She doesn't have any room to accuse Barack Obama of dallying with terrorists," David Neiwert, an expert on the right wing militias who has been investigating Palin's connection to the AIP, told me. "The Republican ticket is working hard this week to make Barack Obama's tenuous connection to graying, 60's revolutionary Bill Ayers a major campaign issue. But the Palins' connection to anti-American extremism is much more central to their political biographies," wrote David Talbot in Salon.

The AIP was founded in the 1970's by gold miner Joe Vogler, who said: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government...I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions." Vogler was prepared for armed struggle with the U.S., should that prove necessary: "My government is my worst enemy. I'm going to fight them with any means at hand," he said "When the [federal] bureaucrats come after me, I suggest they wear red coats. They make better targets. In the federal government are the biggest liars in the United States, and I hate them with a passion. They think they own [Alaska]. There comes a time when people will choose to die with honor rather than live with dishonor...I hope we don't have to take human life, but if they go on tramping on our property rights, look out, we're ready to die." It's worth noting that Vogler isn't just some figure from ancient history. He is still hailed on AIP's website. He also said, "the problem with those John Birchers is that they're too damn liberal."

According to Neiwert, the AIP has been a core part of Palin's political base throughout her career. In Salon, he and Max Blumenthal wrote about the close political alliance between Palin and Mark Chryson, head of the AIP, going back to her beginning in politics. Sarah's husband, Todd Palin, was a card carrying member of the AIP until 2002. Sarah attended their conventions in 1994 and 2006. According to Neiwert, she put party members in key state leadership positions. The AIP is fiercely hostile to taxes, environmental regulation and gun control, all seen as unwanted government interference. Palin worked with them to successfully amend the state's constitution outlawing all forms of gun control. "It took over 10 years to get that language written in," Chryson said. "But Sarah [Palin] was there supporting it." So for example, ordinances forbidding bringing guns into schools, much like one Palin helped defeat when she was mayor of Wasilla, are now unconstitutional statewide. She has also been in alignment with the AIP in her fierce fight against environmental regulation, from denying the human role in global warming to suing the federal government to have polar bears kept of the endangered species list. Chryson has stated that Pallin has always had an open door policy with him. Party leaders campaigned actively for her gubernatorial bid in 2006.

The AIP is one part of what has been called the "patriot" movement. These loosely affiliated, right wing groups can be heavily armed. "I never met one of them that didn't have a lot of guns." Many share a paranoid idea, that a coming "world order" aligned with the federal government will take over the world, and when the time comes they must be prepared to resist it by lethal force. These are ‘the black helicopter people," Neiwert told me. That doesn't make them terrorists, but on the other hand one hopes that they're on a watch list somewhere at Homeland Security since they are preparing for a possible war with America. Timothy McVeigh was heavily influenced by similar groups, and it McVeigh's belief system that motivated him to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 men women and children and injuring 450, the most horrific act of domestic terrorism in American history.

While some AIP members are building bomb shelters in their basements laden with supplies and ammo, others are going on the offense seeking to invade the federal government with God's agents of righteousness. The AIP has close ties to the Constitutionalist Party, a far right group that preaches Dominionism: the belief that America was founded by Christians and must be restored to a theocracy. They are like an American Taliban, seeking to establish a Christian version of Sharia as the law of the land. "This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations," reads their mission statement. The AIP has been listed as the Constitution Party's state affiliate since the late 1990s, and it has endorsed the Constitution Party's presidential candidates (Michael Peroutka and Chuck Baldwin) in the past two elections.

A tenet of this philosophy is that God's soldiers need to penetrate the centers of power in society, often by stealth. AIP Vice Chairman, Dexter Carter, has urged AIP members to infiltrate the two major parties. Could Sarah Palin be a "stealth dominionist candidate" as some bloggers have started to ask? What does Palin believe?

Several people in Alaska who I talked to think Palin is simply an opportunist who has used the AIP for her own political advancement. While that idea is disturbing, the alternative, that she sincerely believes these things, is beyond alarming.

Palin is no dummy. To openly advocate the AIP's more extreme views would make her unacceptable as a national candidate. Former Wasilla mayor, John Stein who was defeated by Palin, in no small measure because of the support she got from the AIP, said "She got support from these guys," Stein remarked. "I think smart politicians never utter those kinds of radical things, but they let other people do it for them. I never recall Sarah saying she supported the militia or taking a public stand like that. But these guys were definitely behind Sarah."

Palin, who "lies with ease about her record" according to Frank Rich, is either lying to the extremists about her sympathy for their cause, or lying to America about how radical she is. I think there is reason to believe the latter. In a recent interview with Katie Couric, Palin disowned some of her more extreme positions to avoid being too far right of the electorate. You really can't be elected in national politics today denying global warming. On December 4, 2007 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner quoted Palin saying, "I'm not an Al Gore, doom-and-gloom environmentalist blaming the changes in our climate on human activity." As recently as August 29th, Palin said in an interview, "I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made." But when Couric asked if human activity was the cause of global warming Palin gave this confused answer "There are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues we're facing now, but I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate....It kind of doesn't matter at this point, as we debate what caused it." Well, it kind of would matter what caused it if we were going try to solve it. And it also matters that Palin is lying: In an interview with ABC News's Charlie Gibson, Palin flatly denied that she had ever said climate change isn't caused by human activity.

A final reason to believe that Palin may be as extreme as she seems is her religious history. For example, though Palin is now back pedaling, she has been an ardent creationist. When Couric asked her recently about whether evolution should be taught in schools as a accepted scientific principle, Palin replied "I believe it should be taught as an accepted principle, but I won't deny that I see the hand of God in this beautiful creation that is earth." Phil Munger is a Wasilla school teacher who has known Sarah Palin for 18 years. He's had several personal conversations with her over the years about creationism. He told me that Palin told him that she believes that the earth is no more than six or seven thousand years old, and that humans shared the earth with dinosaurs. In 1994, when she was still a member of the town council before becoming mayor, she worked vigorously to appoint people to the school board who would add creationism to the curriculum. As recently as October 2006 in her debate against her gubernatorial opponent she stated that "both views should be taught." Munger told me that he never heard her describe evolution as anything close to an accepted principle.

Is Palin a stealth Dominionist candidate? The final piece of evidence to consider his this: the Wasilla Assembly of God where Palin was raised is a stronghold of Dominionist teaching, as are the other two churches she has frequently attended in Alaska as an adult.

Recently, videotape emerged on YouTube of Sarah Palin being blessed by Pastor Thomas Muthee at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church before her 2006 election to the governorship. The press focused on the fact that Muthee, who has repeatedly claimed to have driven a witch out of Kenya, made reference to witchcraft in the blessing. But there is something much more nefarious in this blessing, only slightly hidden beneath the surface: a Dominionist agenda to take over the government for God.

"In a moment we will pray for Sarah, and I'll tell you the reason why. When we talk about transformation of our community we are talking about God invading our society...We see God's kingdom infiltrate and influence seven areas of our society...Believers need to take over government," Adding, without irony, "If believers had not done something in this country we would not have the president we have now." How much does Palin believe what Muthee was preaching? After Palin won the governorship, she explicitly stated that she believed that she won because of this prayer by Muthee. In other words, she was elected as part of God's master plan to invade, infiltrate and influence of our government.

At least in Wasilla they have some pretty messianic ideas abut Sarah. Radio journalist Shannyn Moore told me that at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church they have a nickname for Palin, "Queen Esther," a ruler of Israel from Biblical times known for battling corruption and ungodliness. "Theses are the kind of people who line up newspaper headlines with revelations, said Moore. And they believe that Sarah is the one Revelations prophesized about when it said, ‘and a great power shall come from the north.' Well, you can't get much more north than Alaska. They think she's chosen to play a role in the end of the world." They also believe that Alaska will be a final refuge for the godly in the end times.

Would president Palin also line up the headlines with Revelations when deciding whether, for example, to bomb Iran? Would apocalyptic thinking shape her policies toward Israel? Reverend Tim McGraw, a pastor at Wasilla Assembly of God, said that believers are always searching for signs of end times and added that: "The idea that Sarah would take this huge influence of the worldview that really only the Bible and the relationship with Jesus opens up ... and suddenly marginalize it and put it over on the shelf somewhere and live apart from it-that would be entirely inconsistent." In an earlier post I suggested that Palin is more like Bush than Bush himself. In 1994, the Bush White House was described by one of his own advisors as "faith-based," in opposition to the the "reality-based community." Bush's mistaken sense of spiritually inspired messianic purpose led us into Iraq. Palin would most likely also be a member of the faith-based school of foreign policy. She called the Iraq war "a task from God," when she spoke before the Wasilla Assembly of God Church this June.

Is Sarah Palin just a conservative, or is she on the lunatic fringe of the right wing? Just as George Bush ran as a compassionate conservative and then proved to be a divisive ideologue, Palin may be hiding her true colors from all but the elect who can read the secret hand signals and buzz words.

This year Palin sent a videotaped greeting to the to the AIP convention, telling them to "keep up the good work." "I share your parties' vision for upholding the constitution of our great state. My Administration remains focused on reigning in the growth of government so individual liberty and opportunity can expand...Good luck on a successful, inspiring convention...God Bless you." Palin later said she sent the message to "encourage political competition," but Neiwert pointed out that she sent no comparable message to the Alaskan Democratic Party. John Stein believes that the message was a "wink, wink, nod, nod" to the AIP to let them know she is one of them. As one AIP senior official put it, "she sounds just like Joe Vogler."

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