14 September 2008

Further Update on “What if...I asked you to remove some books?”

Yet more information has come to light about Sarah Palin's interaction with the Wasilla, Alaska, public library while she was an elected official in that town. This comes in part from the recollection of Palin's campaign manager during her first run for mayor, Laura Chase. It appears in the New York Times's long article on Palin's governing style:

For years, social conservatives [in Wasilla, Alaska] had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.

“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.” . . .

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”
So to recap all we know so far: As a City Council member Palin told colleagues that a particular children's book didn't belong on the shelves, though she hadn't read it. Then she won the race for mayor on a platform of social conservatism (e.g., abortion rights raised as an issue in a municipal race). Before taking office, Palin began asking how the librarian would respond to a mayoral request to remove books. After the librarian said she would object, Palin sent the librarian a termination letter.

There was then a public protest, and Palin rescinded the librarian's termination. Palin also took no further actions toward officially removing or restricting Daddy's Roommate; Pastor, I Am Gay; or any other potentially controversial book in the public library. Nonetheless, it seems clear that with enough power she would have. Has she changed her views on constitutional rights since 1997?

Incidentally, this passage from the same article was historically interesting and helped me understand the Wasilla more:
Ms. Palin grew up in Wasilla, an old fur trader’s outpost and now a fast-growing exurb of Anchorage. The town sits in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, edged by jagged mountains and birch forests. In the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration took farmers from the Dust Bowl area and resettled them here; their Democratic allegiances defined the valley for half a century.

In the past three decades, socially conservative Oklahomans and Texans have flocked north to the oil fields of Alaska. They filled evangelical churches around Wasilla and revived the Republican Party. Many of these working-class residents formed the electoral backbone for Ms. Palin, who ran for mayor on a platform of gun rights, opposition to abortion and the ouster of the “complacent” old guard.

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