Sarah Palin is a hot topic for someone hosting a women's issues show. And I'm learning a lot.
First, I read the email written by a woman Palin supposedly 'hates' for standing in the way of the then-mayor's attempt to fire the local librarian. Ann Kilkenny's getting a lot of attention for a letter she says she never intended to be public. She says she was just answering questions posed by friends outside of Alaska. I don't doubt it. The first thing I did when Palin was tapped for VP was to write a note to my friend in Anchorage asking what she knew.
You can read Kilkenny's letter here:
Gloria Steinem has come out swinging as some try to label Palin the feminists' alternative to Hillary Clinton. "The only thing Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have in common is a chromosome," she wrote.
I interviewed a woman today who's been covering Palin for years. Shannyn Moore is a progressive journalist, so it's a safe bet that she's not going to be a cheerleader.
"What are your issues with her?" I asked her.
"She's far more like George Bush than John McCain," she told me. "She's secretive, she surrounds herself with people who will not disagree with her, and she's a fundamentalist Christian. But I think she's a far more authentic fundamentalist than Bush is. She's hard core. And that's actually scarier to me."
I asked her what she knew about the librarian fracas from Palin's mayoral days. Moore said that, as far as she knows, Palin never specifically named books she wanted banned...but she felt out the librarian on the possibility of banning books. When the librarian said absolutely not, Palin tried to fire her. She only withdrew the termination when opponents made enough noise that it became politically prudent to do so.
Moore points out that Palin's city is the crystal meth capital of Alaska. "If she wanted to put books on how to make crystal meth on a special shelf behind the desk and make people register to take them out, I wouldn't have had a problem with that. But as far as I know, that wasn't what she was thinking about."
Moore points to Palin's delivery of her youngest child. She says Palin finished a speech in Texas, got on a plane, transferred flights and continued flying home although labor had begun. She says continuing to travel while in labor with what she knew was a high risk pregnancy is a sign of poor judgement. It's not about whose baby is whose...it's about placing herself and her own desires before her child's, her family's and her fellow passengers on those flights.
Moore says Palin has a very public record of sacrificing the environment in favor of oil and gas drilling and building. Polar bears and beluga whales? Don't be silly.
"Why," I asked her, "hasn't Palin been speaking to the press since her nomination?"
"Because they're still telling her what she thinks," was her simple answer. "She'll say whatever they want."
And as for the bright and shiny opportunity to get a woman within spitting distance of the Oval Office? Moore says she may be a woman, but she's no feminist. She's against abortion, even in the event of incest or rape. Moore said her favorite anecdote just happened recently. She and a friend were sitting in a tavern discussing Palin. The friend asked if Palin could be considered a feminist.
"Down by the bar, a big, burly guy in a flannel shirt, Carharts and boots was sitting nursing a beer. He looked across his beer at us, wiped the foam off his beard and said, 'I'm more of a feminist than Sarah Palin is.' And he was right!"
Palin's views may not be extreme in Alaska, but they're sure extreme in the rest of the country. She wants creationism taught in schools. She offered to cooperate with an investigation into the attempt to fire her ex-brother-in-law...but once evidence began to indicate there may be wrongdoing, her staff has clammed up. She is suing the government to keep polar bears from being listed as endangered. She is taking credit for accomplishments that further examination is showing were not hers.
Moore's getting phone calls from news organizations around the world. But they're not asking about Palin's positions on the issues.
"All they want to know about is Bristol's baby."