Report: Secretive Right-Wing Group Vetted McCain’s VP Candidate Sarah Palin
[originally broadcast September 2, 2008]
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about, Max, the Council for National Policy, the story that you broke
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, this is the larger issue, which is, you know, what role Sarah Palin would play in a potential McCain administration? And last week in Minneapolis at the Radisson Hotel, without any media present, the most powerful power brokers of the Christian right met and essentially vetted Sarah Palin. They were there to watch her speech accepting her selection as the vice-presidential candidate. And they were delighted.
The only way I found out about this meeting is through a web video posted by the Christian right organization Focus on the Family, in which they discussed attending the meeting. One of James Dobson’s spokesmen discussed attending the meeting and being electrified by the selection of Sarah Palin. The Christian right absolutely loves this woman. And so—and what I wrote in my article is that the Council for National Policy is sort of the hidden hand behind the selection.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who is in this council.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. And it’s hard to know who is in this Council for National Policy. What it is is an umbrella group of the most powerful figures in the Christian right; the biggest donors of the right wing; the activists, like Grover Norquist, anti-tax activist; people like Erik Prince from Blackwater and his family; people—
AMY GOODMAN: He’s a part of the council.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yes. Paul Weyrich, the Catholic right organizer; Tim LaHaye, author of the best—“Left Behind” series; James Dobson and his entire family are in this. You know—
AMY GOODMAN: James Dobson, who said pray for rain during the Democratic convention.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Exactly, exactly, and who thinks SpongeBob is gay, and who I consider the most powerful figure in the Christian right, by the way. And—but remember—
AMY GOODMAN: So they all met, as the Democrats were in Denver, in Minneapolis.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. They all met—exactly. And the point of meeting while the media was focusing on the Democrats was so that the media wouldn’t, you know, detect this meeting, because they want to make—they want to plan for the long term without any—you know, outside of the spotlight. Their membership rolls are completely secret.
And so, that’s part of the reason why the selection of Sarah Palin caught people off guard, because John McCain had always been seen as a maverick who defied right-wing orthodoxy, and it was hard for the media to imagine that he would make such a radical selection for vice president, someone who would actually be the liaison to the Christian right in his administration. She wouldn’t play a role like Dick Cheney, where she, you know, has any influence over foreign policy. She would control the agencies like Health and Human Services and block condom distribution to Africa, block sex education in public schools, things like that.
AMY GOODMAN: So, are you saying that this whole questioning of, oh, is this really being done to attract Hillary delegates, is way off base, that this is about shoring up the evangelical base?
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, this never would have happened if Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton as his vice president, that’s for sure. He would have selected Romney or Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor. And if McCain is elected president, you’re going to have another radical administration, in part because Barack Obama was afraid of being overshadowed by the Clintons.
But this has nothing to do with attracting Hillary supporters. And the Hillary supporters I’ve spoken to are actually offended by this pick, because most of them are feminists who are pro-choice.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you learn of this secret gathering?
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. I saw a web video posted on Focus on the Family, where they mentioned in—where the spokesman for James Dobson, Tom Minnery, mentioned in passing that he had attended this gathering the week prior and that all of these power brokers—I don’t know who was there, because they kept it secret—had watched—you know, had met to watch Sarah Palin and discuss her and that they were electrified by her selection. And they feel now that they can support a McCain administration.
So James Dobson, the most powerful figure in the Christian right, who had said—who had earlier vowed that he could never vote for John McCain, I expect to endorse John McCain and to play an enormous role in this campaign. He has 3.5 million members. He has thirty-six policy councils in the States. His organization has a $150 million budget.
So, McCain is doing this in part to get the—to channel the grassroots muscle of the Christian right into an electoral victory over Barack Obama. And I think, you know, anyone who dismisses Sarah Palin’s lack of experience or her seeming shallowness on policy, you know, should not underestimate her, because this is—there’s a larger story here, and it’s about, you know, winning this election by pandering to the Christian right.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the Alaska delegation in the context of—in the political spectrum in comparison with all the Republican delegations that are here this week?
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. Well, I mean, you can clearly see how radical most of the members of this delegation are through my video. Those three people I spoke to were indicative of, you know, the—you know, all of the interviews I did. Many of them are Ron Paul supporters—excuse me—Buchananites, people who identify with the far fringes of the radical right.
And Sarah Palin, herself, is a member of a party called the Alaska Independence Party, which has endorsed seceding from the union and may have ties to other neosecessionist groups, like the Vermont—excuse me—Independence Party, which themselves have ties to neo-Confederate groups. So you’re talking about, you know, a state far off in the hinterlands, where people deeply mistrust government, where they—you know, where they have a, you know, very radical ideology on social policy. And we’ve never had a candidate from that state elevated to this position. So I think this is unique, and at the same time it’s typical, because the Republican Party, through John McCain, is intent on continuing the social policies of George W. Bush, which have been disastrous.
AMY GOODMAN: And now, James Dobson said he would never support John McCain—
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —has reversed his position.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, he said he may support him. And now I expect him to actually support him and throw the full weight of his organization behind John McCain.
AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Of course, people can watch that video on our website, and we’ll link to yours. Max Blumenthal of The Nation magazine.