Just when you thought you had him figured out, McCain threw another curveball -- picking rookie Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whom he barely knows, as his running mate.
Uh-huh. Some might call it reckless for a 72-year-old to offer the vice presidency of the United States to someone with as little national experience as Palin. The McCain campaign calls it showing independence.
Still, don't be too hard on Palin. Like McCain, she's independence-minded -- very, very independence-minded. And, it turns out, there's much more to her than you might at first have thought.
Granted, a week ago Palin -- ex-mayor of Wasilla and a runner-up for Miss Alaska -- probably couldn't have explained the difference between a G-string and the G-8, or between a demolition derby and a diplomatic demarche. But who among us can? Policy, my friends, is boring.
The Democrats will tell you to pay attention to party platforms and their endless fiscal policy and intelligence reform plans. Don't you believe those hectoring elitists! You just stick to thinking how sweet it is that Sarah totally stands behind daughter Bristol's "decision" to get pregnant, marry and have a baby at 17. Don't trouble yourself with attending to tedious details, such as Sarah's record of slashing funds for programs to support teen mothers -- or her opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.
It's untrue that Palin has no foreign policy experience, anyway. In fact, she appears to have seriously flirted with the idea of trying to turn Alaska into a foreign country. How many vice presidential candidates can put that on their resumes?
Over the years, Palin has actively courted the Alaska Independence Party, or AIP, an organization that supports Alaskan secession from the U.S. To be clear, we're not necessarily talking about friendly secession either: As the AIP's founder, Joe Vogler, told an interviewer in 1991: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. ... And I won't be buried under their damn flag."
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. could learn from this man.
Share Vogler's sentiment? You can purchase a "Joe was right!" T-shirt on the AIP's website for $25. The AIP's website also provides helpful links to other secessionist groups, including the Southern Independence Party of Tennessee (which boasts of going after "these Politically Correct Liberal Communist[s]"), Ulster nationalists and Chechen separatists.
The McCain campaign denies that Palin ever joined the AIP. But while it is in dispute whether she attended its 1994 convention, she did visit the 2000 one and addressed AIP conventions in 2006 and 2008. Her husband, Todd, was a registered AIP member from 1995 to 2002, and the AIP leadership certainly considers her one of their own.
Video footage shows AIP Vice Chairman Dexter Clark describing Palin at the 2007 North American Secessionist Convention as an "AIP member before she got the job as a mayor of a small town -- that was a nonpartisan job. But you get along to go along. She eventually joined the Republican Party, where she had all kinds of problems with their ethics, and well, I won't go into that." (No need to. The Alaska Legislature's ethics investigators are on the case.) Apparently with Palin in mind, Clark then went on to urge AIP members to "infiltrate" the major parties.
So what does Palin currently think of the AIP? Hard to know -- she's been keeping mum -- but this year she told AIP members: "I'm delighted to welcome you to the 2008 Alaska Independence Party Convention. ... Keep up the good work!"
Does it make you uneasy to have a possible secessionist sympathizer aiming for the White House? Do you worry that Palin shares AIP founder Vogler's burning "hatred for the American government"?
Relax! If so, it will enable her, as vice president, to more effectively bond with foreign leaders she'll meet, many of whom also nurture a hatred for the American government. In diplomatic demarches, finding common ground is always helpful.
McCain has always promised that his ticket would show "independence." We just didn't realize it was going to be this kind.