According to Ben Smith, Team McCain has an explanation for that copy of the John Birch Society organ, The New American, that Sarah Palin was displaying in the 1995 photo of her that appeared in the New York Times:
"This photo from the early to mid 90s shows the Governor having her photo taken in front of a three ring binder of information from local citizens presented regularly to Wasilla council members by the town clerk," said Palin spokesman Michael Goldfarb. "These binders featured material given by members of the public to all council members."
As you can see from reading it, it’s largely a long-winded exercise in needless paranoia: The author seemed to believe that a relatively benign gathering of governors to hash over states rights was part of a covert conspiracy to remake the Constitution.
Why exactly would this article be part of "material given to the council by members of the public"? It has nothing to do with Wasilla, or even city governance. Nor, for that matter, is the piece bound in with the rest of the material in the binder; Palin has set it out separately.
Smith notes that the then-editor of New American at the time reported (quite accurately) that the publication distributed copies of the piece widely with the intent of flooding state and local civic offices. And indeed, this piece looks not quite like the original (the piece on Palin’s desk has printed material below the second black bar), suggesting that what we’re looking at is one of those reprints.
So it’s a perfectly reasonable explanation that some citizen, at a bare minimum, dropped it by for distribution to the council and that just happened to be the page that Palin had opened to when time to pose for her photo.
However, that doesn’t explain everything.
Rather than being randomly selected, it appears that Palin has chosen this piece carefully — it appears to be, after all, an official City Hall portrait (at least, it’s not just a snapshot). The Birch flier has been pulled out and neatly arranged. Nor is it hole-punched for the three-ring binder; rather, it seems to have been placed on top of the briefing materials separately.
Why choose as an illustration of one’s work on the Wasilla City Council an article dealing with an international conspiracy to destroy the Constitution under the guise of a states’ convention? Phil Munger has some ideas.
So do we. We’ll report back on this when we know more.
In the meantime, it’s worth getting some context for this. As we explained, the Birch Society in the 1990s was also heavily involved with promoting the idea of "citizen militias." Here’s a copy of the cover of The New American two issues before the "Con Con Call" edition — specifically, from Feb. 6, 1995.
Here’s the text of the cover story from that edition. As you can see, this was an entirely sympathetic piece about the militias (one that actually devoted most of its space to attacking the SPLC and the ADL), which concluded:
While the legal standing of many of the militia organizations may be uncertain, there should be no uncertainty about this: Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, Louis Freeh, and their federal minions can be counted on to fully exploit any and all incidents involving militias, and to be monitoring the actions and rhetoric of militia members. Together with the media, they will attempt to construct the spectre of a terrible armed threat amongst us. Unfortunately, there appear to be many in the ranks of the militia movement who will play right into their hands. And if that doesn’t happen on its own, the militias provide the perfect medium for federal agents provocateurs to instigate outrageous offenses that can be used to justify even more draconian gun control laws and police-state repression.
This was published two months before militiaman Tim McVeigh blew up 168 people in Oklahoma City. Sure enough, the JBS shortly afterward began flogging the theory that McVeigh was actually working for the FBI — and still does.
One has wonder whether this reading material crossed Councilwoman Palin’s desk approvingly as well.