This campaign gets stranger and stranger -- and more and more frightening. Brian Williams asked Sarah Palin a fairly straightforward question, based on her repeated use of the phrase "domestic terrorist" to characterize Bill Ayers. Williams asked: "Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist under this definition, Governor?"
Palin tried several evasive maneuvers before alighting on this answer:
"I would put in that category of Bill Ayers anyone else who would seek to campaign, to destroy our United States capital and our Pentagon and would seek to destroy innocent Americans."
Forget the tortured syntax for a moment. What is truly and deeply frightening in this exchange is the lengths to which Palin will go to avoid disparaging abortion bombers. She is so desperate not to characterize the Eric Rudolphs of this world as terrorists that she forges a severely narrow definition of the act: You have to target the Capitol or the Pentagon to qualify.
That even lets Mohamed Atta off the hook, since he attacked the World Trade Center. Like the doctor's offices and medical clinics struck by abortion terrorists, it's a civilian target. We know that Sarah Palin doesn't believe that Islamic militants who kill civilians aren't terrorists. That leaves only one way to interpret these words: She either supports the bombing of abortion clinics or she wants the political support of those who do (and then there's that reference to "innocent Americans," which seems to suggest that clinic staff or patients are not innocent).
Can anybody think of another explanation?
Either interpretation would seem to reinforce what I call the black-helicopter theory -- that this campaign is deliberately stoking extremism. As for the idea she might have sympathy or at least tolerance toward these attacks -- well, let's hope not. But she had already said these words as she writhed in the unforgiving claws of what should've been a straighforward question:
"Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that it would be unacceptable to -- I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there, but it's unacceptable, and it would not be condoned, of course, on our watch."
So the strongest things she's willing to say about bomb attacks on abortion clinics (which have caused deaths as well as destruction) is that they're "unacceptable" and wouldn't be "condoned."
I guess that's something.
So, here we have a Vice Presidential candidate and potential President who has close ties to a separatist party founded by a man with violent hostility toward the U.S. government. She accepts blessing from a "witch-fighting" pastor, when "expelling witches" is its own form of terrorism (witch-hunting may sound quaint to American ears, but it's a living and hideous practice that claims hundreds if not thousands of women and children each year).
Let's face it: The $150,000 in clothing, the highly paid make-up artists, the potentially illegal use of Alaskan state funds to fly her family on junkets ... all that's trivial next to the extreme views suggested by these comments. This is not a game of "gotcha" based on a poor choice of words or associations. This is a pattern -- the pattern of a deeply disturbing individual, one who is not only unqualified to be President but who also holds some profoundly un-American opinions.
And John McCain chose her -- or, more precisely, must take responsibility for her selection. It's his name on the campaign bus. His acceptance of Palin betrayed stunning indifference to the responsibilities of leadership. That is all we need to know about him.
It's no wonder the young woman who claimed to have been attacked and mutilated by a large black Obama supporter turns out to have performed the act on herself (which the mirrored "B" on her face should have made obvious). But before the truth was revealed, we're told she got a phone call from Sarah Palin. This is a campaign that will try turning any lie to its advantage.
Self-mugging: The perfect metaphor for John McCain's campaign.
Sure, there's a strange fascination in listening to Sarah Palin speak. Every sentence seems to pass through an surrealistic archway, as if its grammatical rules had been designed by M. C. Escher. Will it turn into a flock of birds, a school of fish, become its own wall or ceiling or stairway? But underneath this tangled skein of language, a picture is beginning to emerge. It's a frightening picture and an ugly one.
It's a picture that the most expensive makeup artist in the world can't hide.
(PERSONAL NOTE: I'll be appearing at the Kernville Freedom Festival in Kernville, CA tomorrow, along with Marc Sussman, Richard Greene, Scott Ritter -- who was right about Iraq -- and several others. I'll be speaking and will play two short music sets. It's a great place to camp out if you're coming from the Coast.
RJ Eskow blogs when he can at: