Palin and “the transcendant issue our time”

John McCain has repeatedly defined “the battle and struggle against radical Islamic extremism” as “the transcendent issue of our time.” If he’s correct, of course, one would expect his chosen running-mate to have said something publishable about the issue since she entered public life. But I just did a Nexis search for anything Sarah Palin may have said or written about that issue — I searched her name with “Muslim” and “Islam” or any variant of those words — and didn’t find a single citation. Of course, there probably aren’t many Muslims in Alaska and she doesn’t profess any foreign policy expertise. But if this is indeed “the transcendent issue of our time” on which just about every national political figure has said something in the last couple of years, …well, I leave you to reach a conclusion. (She hasn’t said anything noted by Nexis about Israel in the last two years either.)

Just a couple of other thoughts about the Palin selection beyond what I wrote in my news article about Palin’s selection today for IPS: (1) I think it bolsters the Democratic case that McCain is reckless in the sense that he picked a possible successor who has absolutely no experience — or previous manifestations of interest — in foreign policy whatsoever; and (2) I think her choice is going to substantially damage McCain’s efforts to woo all but the most right-wing Jewish voters and donors. Where before he may have had an opportunity to approach the 39 percent of Jewish votes scored by Reagan in 1980, I think Palin’s past embrace of Pat Buchanan, as well as her positions on social issues, will make it very difficult for McCain to get even 25 percent. Her presence on the ticket may even dampen Joe Lieberman’s enthusiasm.

Update: She has said something about foreign policy. Matt Iglesias has a recording of her wisdom on Iraq here.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Well, it seems clear that the Palin selection was an attempt to kill two birds with one stone – to peel off some of Hillary’s female supporters while shoring up McCain’s position with social conservatives. It probably helps with the latter, but I don’t see any gain for McCain with the former. Palin’s strongly anti-abortion; I don’t see too many “Sixties women” overlooking that and voting Republican just because there’s a woman at the bottom of the ticket.

    I think Jim underestimates the percentage of the Jewish vote McCain will get. I don’t know about 39 per cent, but 25 per cent looks quite achievable to me. Right-wing Jewish voters, and some moderates too, will listen to those who are warning that Obama is “too risky.”

    That, however, is not going to win McCain the election. The choice of Palin does look irresponsible in the extreme. She’s unlikely to generate any extra votes beyond those of a few social conservatives who might otherwise have stayed home. These will do nothing for McCain except increase his majorities in states he would have won anyway.

    I bet on Obama as the next president the day after Iowa, predicted it publicly on a blog in early March, and have a short piece appearing in a month that says he gets between 275 and 302 electoral votes. The Palin selection could increase Obama’s margin of victory. So could a blown fuse by McCain in the debates. Of course, it’s not over. Lots of time left; something could happen to change the dynamic. But it looks more and more like Obama is the next president.

    An Obama victory will obviously not be welcomed by the neocons, but in a perverse way it can serve their purposes. They will try as far as possible to pressure him to continue a hard line on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian question. If they fail in this, they will be positioned to condemn him as the author of failure if either situation worsens.

  2. Not only all that, but Ms Palin has had virtually no contact with Jewish people in America. In fact, most Alaskans still use the term “to jew someone down” as part of their every day vocabulary when speaking about bargaining at the store….so I guess Ms Palin has a huge storehouse of inherited antiSemitic fixations based not on hatred but on ignornace. Ask her what she thinks of Jewish people someone? I am sure he only knows about 3.

    Posted by: allen bean | August 30, 2008 1:11 AM

  3. Palin may not have much to say about the phony islamo-fascism transcendant issue, but she has a lot to say about the real oil transcendant issue: “please, oh please let us drill more here in Alaska. There is so much oil here!”

    It looks like McCain may be prepared to go to the mat over oil. Not the real issue, which is stagnation of proven reserves combined with excessive American consumption, but Big Oil’s favorite issue, which is “drill more, here, now with government subsidies.”

    And sadly, American voters, not used to paying $4/gallon, may take the bait.

  4. I suspect that Jon Harrison may be underestimating the impact of Palin on McCain’s prospects. To say,

    “She√Ę??s unlikely to generate any extra votes beyond those of a few social conservatives who might otherwise have stayed home. These will do nothing for McCain except increase his majorities in states he would have won anyway.”

    particularly after placing a bet on the Obama candidacy, sounds to me suspiciously like one’s whistling past the graveyard. :-)

    The effect of the Palin selection, most importantly, is to energize what until then seemed to be a moribund cause for Evangelicals. A Catholic unable to support McCain because of his views on stem-cell research, and his persistent warmongering, I note the current excitement of James Dobson about McCain/Palin, McCain being someone Dobson had declared himself unable to support “for any reason” as recently as a few months ago. Always certain to place ideology before the faith, Dobson, content to swallow whole every insult the Bush Administration tendered him on stem-cell research in the past, now gushes hosannahs about McCain. And this effusiveness will be no small thing among Dobson’s very considerable radio audience.

    Palin may be vacuous but her selection just might win the election for John McCain. I may want some of that election cash, Jon. :-)

  5. I wouldn’t mind laying a bet on the election with Mr. Lowell, though in general I’m not a betting man. I put 20 dollars down with one of my editors after Iowa — the loser pays to a charity selected by the winner. I see the Palin choice hurting McCain; I feel more certain that Obama will win than I did before her selection.

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