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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Anticipating eruptions: Volcano and Palin prompt redoubt

Posted by James McPherson on January 29, 2009

One definition of the word “redoubt” is “to stand in dread of; to regard with fear; to dread.” That definition might apply to two events facing Alaska: the possible eruption of a volcano named Mount Redoubt, and an increasingly likely presidential run by Gov. Sarah Palin. We keep seeing more meanings  for her phrase, “I’ll get back to ya.”

In fact, Mount Redoubt has erupted a number of times. Despite being located about a hundred miles from Alaska’s largest city, it probably will never cause Alaskans the grief that those of us in the Pacific Northwest experienced with the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

A more ominous event for Alaskans and the rest of us may be the establishment of Palin’s political action committee, SarahPAC.com, leading to a new eruption of speculation about her viability as a presidential candidate. Incidentally, what is it with leading political women–Hillary Clinton, this includes you–that they can’t get enough support by using their last names, as male candidates do?

The images used for the SarahPAC website are fascinating from a media literacy standpoint. The dominant image is of Palin, pictured from below so as to make her look more powerful, looking slightly upward while holding her hands in what could be a praying position. Behind and beside her is a scenic Alaskan vista–despite the fact that SarahPAC is based in Arlington, Va., a seat of power that hosts numerous other political organizations (including the Leadership Institute, which calls itself “the premier training ground for tomorrow’s conservative leaders,” though it is not above using dishonest means of self-promotion–more on that below.)

Finally on the SarahPAC website, next to letters spelling out “SARAHPAC,” is an image of the continental United States with Alaska superimposed over it. The image lets us see the immense size of the state that Palin governs, yet also manages to place her state literally in the heartland of America (apparently obliterating Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska, along with parts of a few other states). The Democratic bastion of Hawaii is nowhere to be seen–perhaps Republicans wish we’d stopped adding states after Alaska became the 49th.

SarahPAC should not be confused with another another PAC, PalinPAC.org based in Washington state, with a website that boasts a photo of cross-shaped sunlight shining through an American flag and prominent links to “Sarah Palin’s Page” and “Todd Palin’s Page.” But both SarahPAC.org and PalinPAC.org also demonstrate the games that politicians play (and perhaps must play, under the current campaign finance system). Despite the names of the organizations, the home pages of both include a line that disingenuously reads, “Not authorized by any candidate or any candidate’s committee.”

Palin says she may not run for president, of course, and says that the establishment of a PAC simply provides “an available source of funds so that we’re not coming close to any ethical line to be crossed in terms of travel or participation in events that will help Alaska, but could be seen perhaps as not worthy of state funding.” I wonder how big the clothing allowance is for “participation in events.”

And despite her protestations, a presidential bid is likely unless significant unexpected problems arise. We’ll see: As Robert Schlesinger writes for U.S. News & World Report, “A sure sign that Palin is gearing up specifically for a presidential run will be SarahPAC making contributions to New Hampshire and Iowa state-level candidates and parties.”

Following up his piece of yesterday, Schlesinger wrote today (in a piece titled, “Yes, Sarah Palin is Running for President, Or Getting Ready to Anyway”): “But politicians—especially rising star pols like Palin—don’t raise money and make national appearances out of the goodness of their hearts; they don’t do it because of unselfish dedication to party; and they don’t do it because they want to raise their state’s profile. She may not be running for president yet (though the FEC seems to think she is), but she’s positioning herself to run in a couple of years.”

Incidentally, other definitions of redoubt are “an entrenched stronghold or refuge” or “a small, often temporary defensive fortification.” In the case of Palin, despite my one-time support of her choice as John McCain’s running mate, I hope her political presence is more temporary than entrenched.

Oh, and as for the dishonesty of the Leadership Institute: As I’ve written elsewhere, a couple of years ago I checked out the membership of its “Bi-Partisan Congressional Advisory Board” and found that the board was comprised of “102 Republicans, all living, and one long-dead Democrat–ultraconservative Georgian Larry McDonald, who … was so conservative that at the time of he death he served as the second-ever national chairman of the John Birch Society, which had long since been rejected even by most conservatives as an extremist organization.”

McDonald died on a Korean airliner that was shot down by the Soviet Union after it apparently accidentally flew into Soviet airspace, prompting Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell to bizarrely state, “There is real question in my mind that the Soviets may have actually murdered 269 passengers and crew on the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 to kill Larry McDonald.”

You may also remember that one of the pithier complaints that popped up about Palin during the 2008 campaign was that she was “Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.” Palin and Falwell also apparently shared a debate coach.

Next day update: The volcano hasn’t blown yet, but remains on CNN’s front page.

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7 Responses to “Anticipating eruptions: Volcano and Palin prompt redoubt”

  1. Gabrielle said

    ohmygodohmygodohmygod.

    DEEP BREATHS.

    I would not be so panicked about this had America not proven its stellar political instincts by electing Dubya…..twice. And he’s not even an ex beauty pageant contestant.

  2. Andy said

    Redoubt erupting is more of a pain in the butt for us than a serious threat. The ash causes no end of havoc.

    Besides the obvious health problems of breathing fine glass particles into your lungs, it has the potential to collapse roofs under it’s weight, made worse by the snow.

    Roads are even more treacherous than normal if this occurs during winter, heating systems, utilities, electronics, cars, ventilation, water supplies all affected and possibly shut down. Just having your heating go out in a state where temperatures often hit 0 and below from November thru April is bad enough.

    It’s hardly a Katrina level disaster though, and with the right preparation and hard work easy to cope with.

    Sarah Palin as President on the other hand would make Katrina seem like rain showers with a bit of gusty wind. If there’s one thing we ought to have taken home after 4 years of Bush, it’s that putting a corrupt retard in charge of the country is not a great idea.

    Oh and I am Alaskan, lived here for 10 years and part of the Anchorage population you can thank for sending a democrat senator to Congress instead of the pork barrel felon.

  3. Pat said

    OK If you are going to “claim” to be an expert smarter than everybody else journalists please get your info right. You have sarahpac.org but it is sarahpac.com. When you make little mistakes like this then one has to wonder how many other mistakes you made in your research?
    As far as how she would do as President, the current one is wanting to fleece my Grandchildren for trillions of dollars. How is Palin doing in Alaska? Last I checked they still have cash in reserve despite a big drop in their main revenues. Mainly due to the fact that Sarah kept spending under control when things were going well to offset low revenues. Hmm interesting concept. Control spending. Guess what the recession is not going to hit Alaska until later. Can the same be said for the Blago/Obama State of Illinois? Trust me after 4 years of Jimmy Carter (Obama), we will be begging for a true conservative like Ronald Reagan (Palin)

  4. James McPherson said

    Thanks, Pat, for the proofreading, and all for the comments. I’ve fixed the error in the text. It was indeed a careless mistake, made in haste perhaps because I had also just read PalinPAC.org. And as far as other mistakes, feel free to point them out when/if you find them. When I make errors, I want to admit and fix them.

    Speaking of errors, though, I have never claimed to be “an expert smarter than everybody else.” Even if I happened to think it, I would see no particular need to say or write it. And of course “true conservative” Ronald Reagan brought us the most bloated federal government up to that time, along with a then-record deficit–a deficit erased under Clinton but then far surpassed under George W. Bush. Gotta love that “true conservatism.”

  5. Gabrielle said

    Not to mention Aidsgate, as it has been so christened.

    Besides, Reagan may have been a lot of things, but he wasn’t a MORON. Can’t say the same for darlin’ Sarah.

    Oh, and “”I’m the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can’t.'” –Sarah Palin, as quoted by former City Council Member Nick Carney, after he raised objections about the $50,000 she spent renovating the mayor’s office without approval of the city council. (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/09/17/palin_mayor/)

  6. […] the likelihood of a wedding will correspond with the likelihood of her mother becoming a credible presidential candidate for 2012. I could be wrong, but if Sarah Palin’s campaign looks like a nonstarter I’d […]

  7. […] a morning entertainment program or a reality show. Of course, expectations were higher then for presidential candidates, […]

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