This article quoted Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin as telling a brigade of Iraq-bound soldiers that they would "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans." The report linked Palin's comments with the idea that Saddam Hussein was connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said Palin was referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq, a terror group that formed after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and claims to be allied with the global al-Qaeda organization.
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Palin Links Iraq to Sept. 11 In Talk to Troops in Alaska
As she has been since McCain plucked her from relative obscurity two weeks ago, Palin continues to be surrounded by senior McCain advisers even here; the senator's top strategist, Steve Schmidt, and several others accompanied her to Alaska. The group is guiding Palin through a crash course on policy issues and is revising the campaign's original plan to send her on fundraising missions separately from McCain.
Instead, seeking to seize on the outpouring of enthusiasm for Palin, McCain advisers are "seriously considering" having McCain and Palin campaign together on the road. It would be an unusual arrangement -- running mates traditionally split up to cover as much ground as possible -- but aides believe it would help brand McCain and Palin as a single unit. It would also prevent Palin from having to contend with her own dedicated press contingent as she works to become more comfortable with an array of national and international issues. The campaign is also cognizant of the fact that McCain has consistently drawn bigger crowds since adding Palin to the ticket.
"It is under serious consideration that they will spend more time together than not, and more time together than is traditional," said a senior McCain adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "They are a great duo together, from the perspective of delivering a message." The adviser added: "Sometimes these vice presidential selections, the pairings work in a magical way; they click."
Other campaign formalities have also been taken care of in recent days. Aides confirmed that Palin and her husband, Todd, have been assigned Secret Service names: hers is Denali, after the Alaska national park and wildlife preserve that includes Mount McKinley; his is Driller, a nod to his work as an oilman on the state's North Slope.
On the Army post outside Fairbanks early Thursday afternoon, thousands of soldiers stood in formation as a low sun beamed on the chilly tarmac. One officer who said he had come to know Track Palin said that the ceremony would have taken place in the same way had the governor not been tapped to run for higher office, and that her son was determined to remain as anonymous as possible.
Pvt. 1st Class Palin is being sent to Iraq with the Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division. Palin, 19, will be deployed to northern Iraq and will be primarily tasked with protecting and helping transport the deputy commander of his unit, Lt. Col. Michael W. Smith. His position is one of dismounted infantryman.
"He wants to pave his own route in life. He wants to do his own thing," Maj. Chris Hyde said. "He doesn't want to just be known as Governor Palin's son."
Hyde said Col. Burt Thompson had arranged the deployment ceremony to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary as a symbol of the importance of the military. "That was intentional," Hyde said, describing the effort as a "theatrical" one but adding quickly that it had nothing to do with the Palins. "I talked to Track Palin last week, and he's still just an all-American kid," Hyde said.
The governor did not address her son by name in her remarks but spoke broadly on behalf of the troops' families. "Don't mind us -- your parents, your friends, your family -- if we allow for a few tears or if we hold you just a little closer once more before you're gone," she said. "We're going to miss you. We can't help it, we're going to miss you."
She continued: "You may not need our protection anymore. In fact, you're the ones who will now be protecting us, protecting America."