Alaska, America’s 49th state where the current Republican vice presidential nominee hails from, and Armenia, a country the Obama-Biden ticket is vibrantly supportive of, have something in common – they are both a heartbeat away from Russia.

As Armenian-Americans overwhelmingly support Obama in this presidential race, the McCain-Palin ticket is trying hard to reach even a few Americans of Armenian heritage.

The Republican ticket’s not-so-profound support for Armenian causes aside, one wonders about even the awareness of such issues in the ticket. Senator McCain, who has been to Armenia, is definetly aware of issues that concern Armenian-Americans. But what about Governor Palin? Does she even know if such a country exists?

According to The National, Sarah Palin does know at least one Armenian-American. Here is the latter’s story:


Andrée McLeod is shouting into the phone from a desk set up in her bedroom as I wait for her at a kitchen table annexed by stacks of paper. “She’s only powerful if you think she is! This right here, if it turns out to be true, is a bunch of bull****!”

It is because of McLeod, a lovably obstreperous woman of Armenian descent somewhere in her fifties, that the world knows of Governor Palin’s preference for Yahoo over .gov – one of the little details from Alaska that suggest uncomfortable parallels between the modus operandi of the Palin State House and the Bush White House, which also liked to transact government business on private e-mail accounts.

The stacks covering the table are the fruits of McLeod’s request for e-mails and phone calls between Palin and two aides, whom McLeod suspected of working in concert to oust the Alaska Republican Party chair, Randy Ruedrich – a violation of the state executive ethics code, which forbids conducting party business on state time. It might seem a venial sin – but it was also precisely the accusation Palin had earlier wielded to eject Ruedrich from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission– with the help of Andree McLeod herself.

McLeod emigrated from Beirut with her family in 1963, and moved to Alaska from Long Island thirty years ago. She was apolitical until 1995, when she spied an opportunity to earn money for grad school by operating a falafel cart in Anchorage. The town fathers squashed her plans, declaring fried chickpeas “potentially hazardous.” She took the fight to city hall, wound up running for mayor, and her local state house seat twice, losing the last time in a tight race that required a recount.

McLeod told me that she’d met Palin shortly after her own failed state house bid in 2002. They’d stuck up an unlikely friendship, the home-grown beauty queen and the cerebral but scrappy and energetic import. Palin complained to McLeod about Ruedrich’s penchant for doing party work from his office at the AOGCC, where Palin also served – appointed by Murkowski after her losing bid for Lt. Governor marked her as a “comer” in the state party. McLeod got tired of Sarah’s ceaseless complaints and told her to do something about it already.

“She didn’t know how to go about it,” McLeod says. “I would guide. So that reporters would ask her, but there was a role I played in the background, making sure all the information was correct. But she did the exact same thing she accused Randy of doing. Had I known that I wouldn’t have given her the time of day.”

The takedown of Randy Ruedrich was Palin’s first public scalping (of a fellow Republican, no less) and it helped cast her as a dogged reformer.

“It’s true, Andrée’s almost responsible for creating Sarah Palin,” Rick Rydell, an Anchorage talk radio host and 2004 Alaska Republican Man of the Year, tells me over sushi a few days later. Rydell has just finished his show, which airs weekdays from six to nine in the morning. His Harley is parked out front and we’re sampling some hijiki and gyoza, talking about the Palinistas – his disparaging moniker for those still “drinking the kool-aid.”