By way of a follow up on Marsha’s post, I thought I’d expand on some tidbits of coverage as former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin teeters between Tea Bagger and neocon patsy — and what it might mean for the newly-invigorated Republican Party’s foreign policy.
The article on Palin in Saturday’s New York Times caught my eye. The main gist of the story is raising questions about what’s next for Palin, who has, according to the report, carved out a comfortable niche for herself. She’s got the pulpit and the money without having to bother with elections or governing.
But buried deep in the story, we got a quick glimpse of some neoconservative rifts developing over Palin.
During the race two years ago, one of Palin’s foreign policy advisers was Randy Scheunemann. Scheunemann was on loan from the broader McCain campaign, where, like in John McCain’s first presidential run in 2000, he held a senior foreign policy post. As the campaign staff fractured — and Palin went “rogue” — Scheunemann was the Palin aide who fired back publicly against disparaging leaks about Palin from McCain headquarters.
In Saturday’s Times article, we learn that Scheunemann is among a small staff that delivers daily briefings to Palin on matters of domestic and foreign policy (Scheunemann almost certainly handles the latter). The advisers surely keep Palin abreast of circumstances in order to prepare her for lucrative speaking tours and her appearances on Fox News (for which Fox constructed a mini-studio in Palin’s Wasilla, AK, home).
It seems Mr. Scheunemann is still firmly in Palin’s camp.
However, in the same article, another one of Palin’s biggest neoconservative boosters, Bill Kristol, went public with a criticism of her:
“I’m disappointed by her endorsement of [Rand] Paul,” said William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the conservatives credited with “discovering” Ms. Palin in 2007. “But they always disappoint you.”
It’s out of character for Kristol, who constructs political messages with scrupulous care, to publicly bash one of his horses — in the pages of his former employer (and evil liberal elitist media), no less. Kristol was right there with George W. Bush until that position became totally untenable.
And Kristol is credited with discovering Palin and pushing for her slot on the McCain ticket, and has since been a staunch supporter. Why this break?
For Kristol, the appeal of someone like Palin, and Bush before her, is their malleability on foreign policy. With Sarah Palin’s propensity for “going rogue,” one has to wonder if Kristol is not concerned about her doing the same to the neocons. To wit: That’s exactly what happened with her endorsement of Rand Paul.
Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the isolationist par-excellence of the libertarian right who has his own problems with the neocons, has taken a page from his father’s foreign policy book in the race for a Senate seat in Kentucky. Check out Paul the younger’s foreign policy campaign website (well, labeled as “National Defense,” anyway, because it seems Paul’s foreign policy is limited to trashing and defunding the U.N. and Bretton Woods institutions). There you’ll find a video where Paul says he would not have supported the war on Iraq. Now, that’s no way to make friends with Bill Kristol and his lot!
The story is one of the continuing rifts that are tearing apart the Republican Party — at least in, but not limited to, foreign policy. The Tea Baggers (cum quasi-isolationists) on one side and the neoconservatives on the other. It’s a debate that already played out in the 1980s — most notably with John McCain. In 2000, before Bush and Karl Rove’s reprehensible South Carolina push-polls sunk McCain’s candidacy, he was the top choice of neo-conservatives. McCain had, by that time, largely drifted from his post-Vietnam isolationism of the 1980s and early ’90s into an aggressive interventionist posturing — neocon territory, in other words.
Now it looks like the battle is playing out again. And the darling of the neocons, Palin, is caught in the middle. With her new comfort, however, she might not be running for office again. And if she spends her time endorsing the likes of Rand Paul, I’d say the Billy Kristols of the world will certainly be disappointed.