Palin On Diversity And Civil Rights: Nada, Nothing, No

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

Palin Has No Record on Diversity or Civil Rights
Posted September 4, 2008
New America Media
Commentary by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There’s no record that Alaska Governor and Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin uttered anything more than the obligatory complimentary congratulations to the woman that beat her out for the Miss Alaska title in 1984. The winner was Maryline Blackburn, an African-American. A ritual congratulatory wish from Palin would have been about the only public acknowledgement to date from her in an instance, in this case a beauty contest, where Palin was confronted with the issue of diversity in the person of a competitor.

Since then, Palin’s record on race and diversity has been the blankest of blank sheets. The probes into Palin’s record on diversity and civil rights have almost exclusively focused on her views on gay rights, gay marriage and equal pay. These are crucial civil rights issues. But so are racial diversity and civil rights. The Web site OntheIssues.org gives a comprehensive look at the positions of elected officials on the major issues based on their statements, speeches, campaign materials and policy position papers. Palin has taken no position on immigration, affirmative action, job and housing discrimination, school re-segregation, police-minority community relations, and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

The site did list two terse positions Palin took on hate crimes legislation and cultural diversity. Both give a tiny window into the would-be vice president’s thinking on diversity and civil rights. During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, she told the Eagle Forum that she opposed expanded hate crime legislation. She branded all heinous crimes as hate crimes. This view of what constitutes a hate crime goes squarely against the wide body of law and public policy that defines a hate crime as a willful act or threat based solely on racial, gender or religious animus. By lumping common crimes, no matter how repulsive, into the hate crime category, Palin would effectively gut enforcement of federal hate crime laws.

In her gubernatorial campaign booklet in 2006, Palin gave her equally terse view of discrimination. She simply said that she and her gubernatorial running mate value cultural diversity and would provide opportunities for all Alaskans. She made no mention of affirmative action, job discrimination, and the enforcement of civil rights laws.

Palin made no mention of Alaska’s affirmative action plan. It’s been in place since 1998 and mandates that the state make special efforts to ensure that veterans, especially disabled veterans, have equal access to state jobs. Presumably, Palin backs the plan. Yet, she makes no mention on her Web site or any other place what her office has done to enforce the state’s tightly constricted affirmative action plan.

Knowing Palin’s views on race and civil rights, whatever they are, is more than just a matter political one-upmanship. If elected, her views will carry much weight when it comes to making and enforcing legal and public policies that affect minorities and women.

That’s certainly been true in her home state. Alaska’s Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts make up more than 15 percent of the state’s population. Indian activist groups there have protested discrimination and disparities in health and education, and also over their hunting and fishing rights. There is no record that Palin has spoken out on their plight.

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, his VP running mate Joe Biden, and Palin’s Republican running mate John McCain come from states that have diverse populations. In the Senate they have spoken out on, taken positions on, and haggled over legislation on immigration, hate crimes, affirmative action, job discrimination and education disparities. They are keenly sensitive to the importance of civil rights and diversity issues.

The same has been true even with Bush. Before his election in 2000, he promised to make cultural diversity the watchword in the GOP. That year, and in his reelection bid in 2004, he courted black conservatives and independents. He promised to boost minority business, HIV/AIDS funding, and programs for failing inner city public schools; praised the Voting Rights Act; and on occasion spoke out against racially motivated violence.

McCain and Palin, if elected, will likely have to do the same. They will also face sharp challenges on affirmative action, police misconduct, job discrimination, racial disparities in drug laws, and school funding. They will also be called on to make administrative and court appointments that reflect diversity.

Democrats, much of the media, and a big segment of the public have pounded Palin for her non-existent experience and public pronouncements on foreign policy and national security matters. But she has been absolutely expansive on these issues in comparison to her past and present mute silence about diversity and civil rights.

During her tenure as Alaska governor, Palin didn’t have to say or do much about civil rights. She does now. And we shouldn’t have to wait for her to get to the White House before she does. That’s too great a risk for the country.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is How the GOP Can Keep the White House, How the Democrats Can Take it Back (Middle Passage Press, August 2008).

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‘Barbies for War!’

September 17, 2008
New York Times
Op-Ed Columnist
By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON

Carly Fiorina, the woman John McCain sent out to defend Sarah Palin and rip anyone who calls her a tabula rasa on foreign policy and the economy, admitted Tuesday that Palin was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

That’s pretty damning coming from Fiorina, who also was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

Carly helpfully added that McCain (not to mention Obama and Biden) couldn’t run a major corporation. He couldn’t get his immigration bill passed either, but now he’s promising to eliminate centuries of greed on Wall Street.

The Wall Street Journal reported that McCain was thinking about taking Palin to the U.N. General Assembly next week so she can shake hands with some heads of state. You can’t contract foreign policy experience like a rhinovirus. To paraphrase the sniffly Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” a poy-son could develop a cold war.

The latest news from Alaska is that the governor keeps a tanning bed in the Juneau mansion. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out, when Palin declared May 2007 Skin Cancer Awareness Month in Alaska, the press release explained that skin cancer was caused by “the sun and from tanning beds.”

I sautéed myself in Sarahville last week.

I wandered through the Wal-Mart, which seemed almost as large as Wasilla, a town that is a soulless strip mall without sidewalks set beside a soulful mountain and lake.

Wal-Mart has all the doodads that Sarah must need in her career as a sportsman — Remingtons and “torture tested” riflescopes, game bags for caribou, machines that imitate rabbits and young deer and coyotes to draw your quarry in so you can shoot it, and machines to squish cows into beef jerky.

I talked to a Wal-Mart mom, Betty Necas, 39, wearing sweatpants and tattoos on her wrists.

She said she’s never voted, and was a teenage mom “like Bristol.” She likes Sarah because she’s “down home” but said Obama “gives me the creeps. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s black. He just seems snotty, and he looks weaselly.”

Ten Obama supporters in Wasilla braved taunts and drizzle to stand on a corner between McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. They complained that Sarah runs government like a vengeful fiefdom and held up signs. A guy with a bullhorn yelled out of a passing red car: “Go back to the city, you liberal Communists!”

At gatherings in The Last Frontier, pastors pray for reporters, drilling evokes cheers and Todd Palin is hailed as a guy who likes to burn fossil fuels.

I had many “Sarahs,” as her favorite skinny white mocha is now called, at the Mocha Moose. “I’ve seen her at 4 a.m. with no makeup,” said manager Karena Forster, “and she’s just as beautiful.”

I stopped by Sarah’s old Pentecostal church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, and perused some books: “The Bait of Satan,” “Deliverance from PMS,” and “Kissed the Girls and Made them Cry: Why Women Lose When They Give In.” (Author Lisa Bevere advises: “Run to the arms of your prince and enter your dream.”)

In Anchorage Saturday, I went by a conference conducted by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and supported by Sarah’s current church, the Wasilla Bible Church, about how to help gays and lesbians “journey out” of same-sex attraction.

(As The Times reported recently, in 1995, Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues she had seen “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelf of the library and did not approve. The Wasilla Assembly of God tried to ban “Pastor, I Am Gay” by Howard Bess, a liberal Christian preacher in nearby Palmer.)

Anne Heche’s mother, Nancy, talked about her distress when her daughter told her she was involved with Ellen. Jeff Johnston told me he had “a struggle” with homosexuality “for a season,” but is now “happily married with three boys.” (Books for sale there included “Mommy, Why Are They Holding Hands?” and “You Don’t Have to Be Gay.”)

I covered a boisterous women against Palin rally in Anchorage, where women toted placards such as “Fess up about troopergate,” “Keep your vows off my body,” “Barbies for war!” “Sarah, please don’t put me on your enemies list,” and “McCain and Palin = McPain.”

A local conservative radio personality, Eddie Burke, who had lambasted the organizers as “a bunch of socialist, baby-killing maggots,” was on hand with a sign reading “Alaska is not Frisco.”

“We are one Supreme Court justice away from overturning Roe v. Wade,” he excitedly told me.

R. D. Levno, a retired school principal, flew in from Fairbanks. “She’s a child, inexperienced and simplistic,” she said of Sarah. “It’s taking us back to junior high school. She’s one of the popular girls, but one of the mean girls. She is seductive, but she is invented.”

Who Is Todd Palin? … Power Behind The Throne?

Sarah Palin with her husband, Todd Palin AP photo

Sarah Palin with her husband, Todd Palin

Who is Todd Palin? Who is the “First Dude,” as Sarah Palin refers to her husband? We know little about him (and that’s a fact) even though his head pops up on the stage whenever Sarah speaks. He figures prominently in the Walter Monegan affair in which he is alleged to have complained to the head of the Alaska state troopers that his and Sarah’s ex-brother in law should be fired. Todd has been subpoenaed to testify in the inquiry into the Monegan firing that Sarah carried out. 

Todd Palin is a high school graduate  with, we are told, some college credits.  He’s also the “Mr. Mom” part of the time, getting his children ready for school, cooking, etc.  But the bigger role he plays is sitting in on his wife’s most sensitive staff meetings, and   meetings with legislators and others.  Did he play a role in vetoing line items in the state budget?    One blogger said it’s common practice around the Alaska capitol to ask “What does Todd think?” 

The last thing America needs is an unelected but influential spouse lurching in the background making decisions that will have an impact on American citizens, for which he is not held accountable.  Straight Talk Express Watch will begin to shed light on Mr. Palin.  Readers have a right to know who is this man with a high school diploma who might be the heartbeat of the person who is but one heartbeat away from the presidency.