Fort Bragg puts limits on Palin visit

There will be no speech, no posing, no personal notes in books. The base, concerned about politics, initially barred reporters.

Staff WriterNovember 20, 2009 

  • Sarah Palin will be at the North Post Exchange from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday signing her new book, "Going Rogue." The public will be allowed on base with proper identification, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. Only those with military identification will be allowed to buy the book at the exchange. It is available in bookstores off post.

    The public is asked to enter through the Randolph Street gate off Bragg Boulevard/N.C. 87 no earlier than 9:30 a.m.

    Signs will direct drivers to the North Post Exchange. The food court at the exchange will be open to the public.

Sarah Palin kicked off her book tour in Michigan this week, and thousands gathered outside a Barnes & Noble chanting her name, giving the event the feel of a political pep rally. The Army wants Palin's appearance at Fort Bragg on Monday to be much quieter.

The base has asked Palin not to make a speech at a public book-signing at the base exchange; she also will not write personal notes, pose for photographs or sign anything besides her new memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life."

Fort Bragg also wanted to bar reporters from the event. Garrison Commander Col. Stephen J. Sicinski determined that by keeping out the media, the base would prevent Palin, a Republican and possible candidate in 2012, from having a platform from which to attack President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

"Fort Bragg, nor any other Army installation, cannot be used or appear to be used as endorsing criticism of the commander in chief," said base spokesman Thomas D. McCollum. "Because this book signing is turning into a political platform with the addition of media coverage, we are restricting the media coverage."

But late Thursday, after news outlets complained to the Pentagon, the base changed course, saying a limited number of reporters could cover the event if they shared their material with those kept out.

No limit was set on the number of people from the public who could attend the two-hour session at the base exchange. Lines are expected to be long.

Media lawyer Hugh Stevens, who has represented The News & Observer, said it will be a political event whether the media are there or not, and he questioned the wisdom of allowing it to happen on a military base when there are bookstores and other venues in nearby Fayetteville that would be more appropriate settings.

"This is innately, inherently and inevitably political," Stevens said. "If you're going to allow a politician and public figure who goes around clothed in this much controversy and notoriety to use your base as a platform, then you've got to let in the people they're not letting in to see what goes on there."

The Army has allowed other promotions to be held at the base exchange, where Palin is scheduled to appear. Most recently, actor Dan Aykroyd stopped there to hawk a brand of vodka.

Palin launched her book tour this week with appearances in Michigan, a state Republican presidential nominee John McCain ceded during the campaign when Palin, his running mate, thought it was still winnable. The title of the book refers to a remark made by an anonymous McCain staffer who felt Palin was not staying in line with the direction given by the campaign.

Going political?

In news accounts of her book-signing events, Palin doesn't appear to be advancing a political agenda, but she did tell ABC News that Obama should send more troops to Afghanistan.

"It frustrates me and frightens me -- and many Americans -- that President Obama is dithering around with the decision in Afghanistan," she said.

Palin, who resigned as governor of Alaska in July, is widely seen as a possible Republican presidential candidate, though her 400-plus-page book leaves the question unanswered. Hundreds of fans have lined up at her book tour events, and the memoir landed on best-seller lists long before its Tuesday release.

Subject to scrutiny

Early in the campaign, Palin says in the book, she was not allowed to talk with the press, even about her own family. Later, when she did talk with reporters, she was criticized for misstatements of fact. No longer a political candidate, she is still subject to scrutiny; The Associated Press assigned reporters to fact-check various sections of "Going Rogue."

On her Facebook page, Palin said she found it amazing that the AP would dedicate reporters to such a task, "instead of using the time and resources to 'fact check' what's going on with [Khalid] Sheik Mohammed's trial, [Nancy] Pelosi's health care takeover costs, [Army Maj. Nidal Malik] Hasan's associations, etc."

Palin was traveling Thursday. A spokeswoman at her publisher, HarperCollins, did not return a call seeking comment.

Monday's event is Palin's only scheduled stop in North Carolina. The book tour includes one other visit to a military base, the Army's Fort Hood in Texas on Dec. 4. It's not clear whether the restrictions imposed on Palin at Fort Bragg will apply there as well.

martha.quillin@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8989

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