John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Politics of Distraction

Published on Political Affairs.net, by Joel Wendland, Sept. 5, 2008.

As moderate elements of the Republican Party melt away from supporting the Bush legacy and John McCain, more and more of the hardcore and extremist forces and voices in the Republican Party have eagerly stepped forward. Sarah Palin is one of those, and her nomination is a signal by McCain that he needs the extremists in his party to even have a chance on November 4th.

Since tapping Palin as his running mate, the McCain campaign has managed to avoid dealing with real issues, the point at which he tends to lose voters eager for change. Thus, the McCain camp has used mainly on a smear campaign against Barack Obama, relying on gossip and innuendo and a pliant media to get the word out.

So seeing where Sarah Palin stands on real issues, then, is worth some detailed attention. We know, based on her speech at the Republican National Convention in which she slammed community activism and civic-minded people, that Sarah Palin doesn’t much like ordinary people anyway. Doing work with your local PTA? Palin thinks you’re a joke …

… She appears to share George W. Bush’s propensity for cronyism. Recently, a state employee filed an ethics complaint against her for violating Alaska state law by trying to get a state job for one of her supporters.

The biggest ethics story out of Juneau, however, is that the state legislature just recently appointed a special prosecutor to examine the circumstances around her attempting to pressure another state official to fire a state policemen had just recently divorced her sister. So far, Palin has refused to release e-mails pertaining to the case to the police union, citing, not unlike the Bush administration, “executive privilege,” according to Alaska media sources.

Her positions on civil rights are standard right-wing fare: opposition to marriage equality for LGBT people and she even told one LGBT newspaper that she opposes federal hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation as a protected category.

On health care, she, like Bush and McCain, is a free market fundamentalist who denies that current prices and insurance premiums are a serious problem. If anything the private health care industry suffers from too much interference. In Alaska, she blocked legislative efforts to restrain rising costs, and signed a weak S-CHIP bill that excluded thousands of Alaska’s low-income working families from the health insurance rolls.

Her record on taxes, as thin as it is, is inconsistent. While Alaska governor, she supported a tax increase on big oil, but also left her Wasilla Mayor job with the city of a mere 7,000 people at least $2 million in debt. Presumably, on the campaign trail, she will remain consistently inconsistent: supporting John McCain’s new health care tax on employee benefits as well as his new tax breaks for Big Oil and the wealthiest corporate executives. (full text).

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