Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
September 18, 2008

Early Signs Of Sarah Palin’s Radical Agenda?

Palin Con-Con

(click for full size)

Here is a biographical and personality insight one would only turn up through a more careful examination of political pictures.

Last week, the NYT published a widely-read story about the way Sarah Palin treated her friends and foes as the Wasilla mayor.  The photo leading the article, supplied by the Heath family, shows Palin flanked by the council in 1998, two years into her mayoral tenure.  If you scroll down, however, the article offers a second photo, also supplied by the family, of Palin when she was still a Wasilla councilwoman.  (Although undated, she was a city council member from '92 – '96.)  The photo is one of those easy-to-pass-by, standard sitting-at-your-desk shots in front of your name plate.

The picture, however, is also one of those published by The Times you are invited to click to enlarge.

Doing so, what you can suddenly make out quite clearly is what Palin chose to be photographed attending to, which is a newsletter with a photo of a guy in a suit, the page headlined with the title: "Con-Con Call."  A "con-con" call, if (like me) you're not versed in government-speak, is a call for a constitutional convention, intended to either revise or completely rewrite the constitution of a state or the federal government.

The point is, and what the photo telegraphs is that, even at this early stage of her local career, Palin is revealing herself as an activist officeholder with not just ambitious, but much larger and radical notions.

Update: 8:55 pm PST — Thanks to a BNN reader for identifying the article by Don Fotheringham ("Saving the Constitution: unbeknownst to most people, ten years ago the United States nearly had its Constitution rewritten under the guise of bringing the federal government to heel") published in the September 19, 2005 issue of American Opinion MagazineAmerican Opinion was the official publication of the John Birch Society.

The article outlines the effort by the Birch Society to oppose constitutional conventions where, as Fotheringham writes, "demagogues, internationalists, and think-tank reformers could get their hands on it."  Totheringham explains how this and previous articles on the subject had been published or copied and distributed widely by the Birch Society to state government officials across the country to expose:

… the groups bent on a federal convention, which was now being promoted under almost any wishful pretext, such as term limits, the right to life, school prayer, anti-flag burning, and lately, same-sex "marriage."

In the article, Fotheringham identifies himself as the author of the article Palin is holding, published in March 1995 in The New American, also a John Birch publication and the bi-weekly replacement of American Opinion.  The magazine features Utah's Governor Leavitt on the cover, as Leavitt was spearheading a legislative attempt in Utah to approve an constitutional convention in favor of a federal balanced budget amendment.  (Fotheringham describes how 32 of the necessary 34 states had already signed on.)

With a sense of urgency, 100,000 reprints of the article were made and distributed even before the actual magazine was printed.  Fotheringham goes on to explain how the efforts of the Birch society were instrumental in successfully blocking the effort to convene a constitutional convention to approve a balanced budget amendment, or anything else.

In light of this additional information and research, it is important for me to state that possession of this article doesn't, in itself, suggest Sarah Palin was an advocate for any particular agenda.  Certainly, her posing with it could just as simply mean she was one of the thousands of state elected officials who were in receipt of this reprint distributed by the John Birch Society.

On the other hand, David Neiwert over at FDL examines the photo from the standpoint of the Palins attendance at Alaskan Independence Party gatherings; the couple's befriending of AIP leadership; and Todd's membership in the organization.  Given the John Birch Society's sympathy for militias and Todd's overlapping notion of the government as "illegitimate," Neiwert sees ample possibility the Palins had more than a casual interest in the Birch society and its political philosophy.  Jed Report raises similar questions.

Update 2: 9/19. 9:41 am PST:  Of course, it doesn't help the argument that the visual association here is a completely innocent one after Palin anonymously quoted the right wing reactionary Westbrook Pegler in her RNC acceptance speech.  Pegler was primarily known with his attacks on government power, and his specific hatred for Roosevelt who he characterized as a dictator.  Pegler himself was a writer for the JBS publication, American Opinion, before being kicked out of the society in 1964 for his anti-semitic views.

Update 3: 9/19/ 1:28 pm PST:  A commenter at Huffington raises an interesting point.  Although the John Birch Society went out of its way to distribute this article to state elected officials with voting authority in the case of a constitutional convention vote, it is much less likely Palin would have been on such a distribution list as a member of a local city council.

Update 4: 10/4/08: David Neiwert has been interviewing people in Wasilla about Palin's past.  Her connection with the far-right fringe makes him even more convinced the publication didn't just cross her desk by accident. 


(image: Heath family via AP nyt.com)

  • http://roschellenelson.blogspot.com Roschelle

    Donald Trump just stuck his foot in his mouth during a live interview with Wolf Blitzer.

  • http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/ emptywheel

    Are you sure that’s not related to the Alaska Independence Party?
    From the AIP platform, from the period she was in the COuncil:

    - To call and convene a State Constitutional Convention.

  • Pookie

    In March 1995, THE NEW AMERICAN published my article, “Con-Con Call.
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JZS/is_19_21/ai_n25115713/pg_3
    Birch Society Magazine. Oops

  • Allen

    That would tie right in with this:
    Palin’s links to the Alaskan Independence Party
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/9/3/777/63784/400/584369

  • Dave

    Interesting catch but generally state constitutional conventions are not as big a deal as nation constitutional conventions. In Massachusetts they have one every few years and according to Wikipedia, in Alaska conventions can be called to pass amendments- not total rewrites. It would be interesting to know if Palin supported a convention for a specific amendment.

  • bolt

    Wow! That’s quite a catch! This could catch fire but you need to find out more about this magazine and possible reasons why she might have it. Was it really widely circulated? Or would only wingnuts have it?
    What would my jewish grandfather in Florida think of the John Birch society, if he wasn’t for Obama already?
    Irony.. here we were thinking the black man from Hawaii with a foreign name was the manchurian candidate and it turns out the white woman from Alaska with a Fargo accent might well be the Manchurian candidate for the Alaskan Independence Party, the John Birch Society, some crazy evangelical sects etc etc..

  • johnt

    You are mistaken about the intent of the article. The article argues against constitutional conventions. So it is arguing against the actions of organizations like AIP.
    Text of the article is at the bottom: http://www.angelfire.com/pa/truthonline/statealter.html

  • JLawson

    Decades ago I had a subscription to Soldier of Fortune magazine.
    Guess that should mean I’m a gung-ho mercenary type, looking to slaughter people wholesale, eh?
    Also had a subscription to Mother Jones – so I’m a sprout-eating, Birkenstock wearing progressive type, right?
    You folks read way too much into trivia like this.

  • Wildmonk

    Over at Politico they are saying that the binder is one prepared by the people of Wasilla – filled with articles that they want their council to read. So (a) it argues *against* the radical position and (b) there is a very reasonable assumption that someone in Wasilla wanted the council to read it rather than it being, specifically, something that Palin was looking seeking out.
    I think Palin deserves at least the benefit of the doubt that you would give Obama – especially since his affiliation with the Weather Underground’s Ayers certainly goes way beyond just reading an article.

  • pettyfog

    Bolt:
    I’ve learned to never underestimate the ability of a ‘Progressive’ to misread a post as contrary to its intent.
    The same can be applied to the AIP. Some people seem to believe that Alaska is ‘just another state’ whereas if people actually READ that site they MIGHT come to the conclusion that Alaska is more a territorial holding of the Federal Government and a state in name only. Look at the commerce clauses in what they are NOT allowed, that all other states are allowed.
    Not allowed to build oil refineries. Not allowed shipment through Canada.
    If I were an Alaska resident, I’d be pissed off, too!

  • http://www.doves2day.blogspot.com g

    Well, it’s true that simply reading the magazine doesn’t necessarily mean Palin agrees with the JBS.
    But this photo isn’t a snapshot – it’s a posed photo of her in her position as an elected official. Wouldn’t you take some care about what appeared in your official photo?
    She’s clearly posing – she’s got the pencil poised there. She chose to pose with her binder in front of her, newsletters and papers and hand-written notepaper carefully arranged to show her hard at work.
    Perhaps a newsletter from the John Birch Society was such a commonplace item in Wasilla that no one gave it a second thought.

  • http://www.doves2day.blogspot.com g

    Oh, hell, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Another possibility is she had NO CLUE what she was posing with – being incurious and inexperienced.

  • James

    “Given the John Birch Society’s sympathy for militias ..”
    It’s odd that Obama’s close connections with actual terrorists (Ayers) are completely ignored while people twist themselves into knots trying to establish some connection, however speculative and tenuous, between Palin and “militias”, that fanciful bogyman of the left.

  • http://www.doves2day.blogspot.com g

    Remind me, James, how many people did Ayers kill again? How does that stack up against the score of the “fanciful bogeyman” Timothy McVey?

  • inmypajamas

    It’s “McVeigh”, genius, and they’re both violent criminals (except that one is “Guilty as sin, free as a bird.”). Is McVeigh connected to Palin like Ayers is connected to Obama? Trying to painfully pretzel Palin into being an active supporter of a conservative political group that has never practiced or promoted violence based on an old photo while ignoring the well-documented, long-standing, close relationship Obama has with radical unrepentant domestic terrorist Ayers is really unserious.
    Can it be true that we are dangerously close to being governed by this Milli Vanilli candidate Obama and his idiot fellow travelers?

  • http://ernie1241.googlepages.com/home ernie1241

    First, American Opinion magazine CEASED publication in 1985 (a decade before the September 2005 issue date claimed in this article. It was replaced by The New American. TNA was created to be a less ideological and more general-interest conservative magazine. In other words, it published generally accepted conservative viewpoints instead of JBS dogma.
    Second, the JBS OPPOSED the so-called “con-con call”. So associating Palin with the idea as though she supported the “radical” notion of re-writing a state or federal constitution is completely dishonest and deliberately calculated to defame her.
    Third, there is no reason to believe that Palin knew anything whatsoever about Westbrook Pegler’s background—particularly after he changed his views from being pro-FDR to anti. Furthermore, anybody can quote an excerpt from some commentary written by an author who has expressed noxious views at some point in his life….so what?
    Lastly, this entire argument is comparable to the extreme right’s obsession with associating liberals with Communists and Communist sympathizers simply because something appearing in a liberal publication or a liberal politician’s speech was converted into “proof” of their alleged sympathy with Communist ideas and values. Shame on everyone who buys into this garbage!
    [email protected]
    For a FACTUAL report on the Birch Society based, primarily, upon first-time-released FBI files and documents, see:
    http://ernie1241.googlepages.com/jbs-1

  • DennyK

    I have also heard that she eats GERMAN potato salad, and on more than one occasion has uttered the word “nein” when she meant to say no. Is there any more proof needed???!!!!!
    You guys have all lost your minds.

  • jean

    No, we haven’t lost our minds. We are working our way to the TRUTH of the matter.

  • Andy Vance

    Second, the JBS OPPOSED the so-called “con-con call”
    Yes, they opposed it because they believed Michael Leavitt was organizing a back-door attempt to abolish the Constitution and surrender the country to the New World Order.
    Axiom No. 1 when discussing the Right: Never assume sanity.

  • Seventy2002

    Wildmonk wrote: “Over at Politico they are saying that the binder is one prepared by the people of Wasilla – filled with articles that they want their council to read. So (a) it argues *against* the radical position and (b) there is a very reasonable assumption that someone in Wasilla wanted the council to read it rather than it being, specifically, something that Palin was looking seeking out.
    I think Palin deserves at least the benefit of the doubt …”
    The article is on the binder, not in it. Look closely; it helps to rotate the image 180 degrees.

  • grumpy

    You folks should find out for sure what that publication is. Then you can call for it to be banned and for anybody who has read it to be banned from public office for having a “radical agenda.” (I mean we can’t have them reading stuff that isn’t Kos approved, can we?)
    “Over at Politico they are saying ….” My God. Does this mean that the nitwits at Politico are actually looking at this fanciful tripe?
    I’m a lot more interested in the collapse of Fannie and Freddie, the $126,000 they contributed to Obama and what his p*ck*r-touching buddies, Raines and Johnson, expected for the money. Aren’t you? Oh, never mind. I forgot who I was talkin’ to.

  • http://www.cowhen.net Rev. Al

    Palin was on the city counsel from 1992 to 1996; I thought I might narrow down the exact date of this picture by comparing those dates to her date of marriage, as Ms. Palin appears to not be wearing a ring in this photo. However, Palin was married on August 29, 1988, years before this photo was taken.
    I’m somewhat uncomfortable delving into the area, but what if anything does it say that Ms. Palin is not wearing a wedding band (or, I note, an American flag lapel pin) in her portrait?
    As to the choice of John Birch Society reading material — I suppose she’d need to keep up with the interests of her constituents, but it is interesting that she’d choose that particular periodical to appear in her portrait. The photo also brings to mind the Bircher connection with the Alaskan Independence Party – with Joseph Vogler, founder of the AIP, calling the John Birch Society “too liberal:
    “The problem with you John Birchers’ is that you are too damn liberal!”
    Palin was “the one we were hoping would get elected” governor, according to current AIP Vice Chairman, Dexter Clark. Clark also says that Palin “was an AIP member before she got the job as mayor [of Wasilla].. . .”
    (For sources of above quotes, video of comments, see http://www.cowhen.net/2008/09/what-does-mccains-pick-of-governor.html – an article I wrote on 9/2/08.)
    Any connection between Palin and the Alaska Independence Party and/or John Birch society is thus of great interest, particularly since we really know so very little about her, other than what the marketers would have us buy.
    -Alan

  • http://www.cowhen.net Rev. Al

    Oops – “city council”, not “counsel.” Sorry.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/idave/ idave

    What is this harping on Bill Ayers? A little googling shows a tenuous connection at best. By the time Obama may or may not have met Ayers, the latter had become a pillar of his community. Dig a little: Obama was a child when Ayers reputedly was active with the Weathermen (doesn’t everyone already know this?!?).

  • Probono

    JohnT, SOF and MJ at the same time? A kindred spirit!–well, sort of, I’m a Harper’s/Combat Handguns kinda guy.

  • Nancy Irving

    Ironic that the Birchers were opposing “con-cons” designed to introduce constitutional amendments being pushed by the radical right.

  • Richard Phillips

    I applaud Sarah Palin if she was reading the John Birch Society material. I was a member of the society when this federal con con almost passed. I am thankful that the John Birch Society woke up America as to the harm it could have caused in re-writing our beloved Constitution. I and other John Birchers went to our capital in Hartford and met with the legislature and explained to them the harm having a con con could have. Thank God they listened and defeated it with only a few more states and it would have happened. Many of them said they were unaware of what the federal con con’s effect could be. God bless all the Birchers that helped spread the word on this back then. If Sarah Palin has been influenced by the John Birch Society then this is a good sign. Check out the John Birch Society on line as they have a wonderful website.

  • Don Fotheringham

    Very alert of someone at BAGnews to notice my 1995 article on Sarah Palin’s desk. But the alertness ends there. Governor Leavitt’s con-con call had nothing to do with a balanced budget amendment, it was not a Utah issue, neither did it culminate in 32 state resolutions. You’ve scrambled the whole con-con issue into Leavitt’s affair with the Conference of the States. I’m easy to access, and a five-minute call might have saved your credibility.

  • Paul Beyer

    So whats the problem, there doesn’t seem to be much problem when we hear our so called congressmen, senators and president speaking of a global government, which is no where in the constitution. With Nafta and other extremist trade agreements that sell our soverignity down the shoot why wouldn’t or shouldn’t our governors look into protecting the rights of its citizens. I believe you will see more and more of this type of action and rightly so, if they are true Americans.

  • http://digital-boudoir-photography.blogspot.com boudoir photography

    John Birch Society woke up America as to the harm it could have caused in re-writing our beloved Constitution.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0115704f3a5f970b Ray

    O.K. but now who will wake us up to the terrible distruction of the Constitution being done by the current Administration with the quiet (just trying to be loved) objection of some Republicans??

  • http://games.brg8.com العاب

    nice

  • http://games.brg8.com العاب

    nice RTICLE

  • http://games.brg8.com العاب

    NICE nd cool

  • http://PalinsDirtyLittleSecret.blogspot.com/ SarahPacRefunds

    I love reading all the government comments from “5 years ago” here, too bad they never mention that DISQUS didn’t even exist then.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes