Tag Archives: foreign policy

Sarah Palin: Neocon Pawn?

The same old hawks recruit Palin to pressure Obama on Afghanistan, while ignoring their own past.

Sarah Palin during a press conference on November 13, 2008.

Sarah Palin during a press conference on November 13, 2008.

Here come the neocons again—and this time with Sarah Palin.

A group of conservative foreign policy advocates—including a bevy of neoconservatives—this week sent President Barack Obama a letter urging him to stand firm in Afghanistan and vowing their support for him (on Afghanistan) if he did so. The letter was organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative, a think tank put together by leading neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, and signers included the pair and such neocon stalwarts as David Frum, Max Boot, Robert Kagan, John Podhoretz, Clifford May, Danielle Pletka, Randy Scheunemann, Dan Senor, and Gary Schmitt. But two high-profile right-wingers also added their names: Sarah Palin and Karl Rove.

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Math-Challenged Mommy: Palin Should do Her Best to Wave that Special-Needs Flag

Associate editor/poetry editor of the Wasatch Journal magazine Melissa Bond wrote a poignant op-ed on motherhood with a beautiful special needs baby while sharing her concerns on the readiness of Governor Sarah Palin for the vice presidency of the United States. 

As the mother of a four-month-old boy with Down syndrome, I can relate to Sarah Palin. I mean, really, when she held Trig up after her speech at the Republican National Committee last month, offering him to the television cameras like a piece of prime elk and saying that she understood and that she’d be my boy’s advocate in the White House, I wanted to melt. Look at that kid in his striped jammies, I thought. I wanted to believe her. And honestly, I think that she’d do her best to wave that special-needs flag. I can see her jogging giddily through the White House halls, can even imagine a cheer or two complete with high-kicks, while she and President John McCain jump on the couches in the Oval Office. Go, Trig, go!

The problem isn’t that I think Palin is insincere. It isn’t that I have questions about who’s caring for Trig and giving him the extensive therapy that’s recommended for Down syndrome kids while she’s out playing Gidget Goes to the White House. It isn’t even that this wolf -killing, Miss Alaska runner-up confuses her facts about Obama and her own running mate-Obama has authored several major ethics reforms and McCain is not the prince of regulation. It’s simply that I have a serious question about the governor’s math skills. With the current eye-popping national deficit of more than $9 trillion, with a systemic financial crisis that’s costing taxpayers more than $700 billion (and that’s just for starters), and with a foreign policy that keeps notching its belt with unsupported wars, where does Palin think the money will come from? Medicaid is being pummeled. Social services of all kinds are being pummeled. Rome is burning, and while the Republicans have hedged their bets that this country will eat the American pie narrative about the average-Alaska-supermom-who-makes-it-big, I’m not buying it.

Despite her home-cooked persona, Palin just doesn’t have a good head for numbers. That jet that she claims she sold on eBay? Oops! Good story, but it was sold to an airline broker at nearly a $600,000 loss to taxpayers. And that $15 million hockey arena that was her signature accomplishment as Wasilla’s mayor? Oops again! She broke ground without finalizing the city’s purchase of the land. Taxpayers had to suck up an additional $1.3 million dollars to pay for the fiasco. Bummer. Sorry, guys. And that’s just as mayor of a small town. The thought of Palin as vice prez, drooling over every earmark like a pit bull in the ring, simply terrifies. And even if Palin is a quick study, I just don’t feel great about letting her learn on the job.

I haven’t even mentioned anything about foreign policy. But then again, neither has Palin. Except for Russia, of course. She and Vladimir Putin must blow kisses from across the divide. They’re that close.

Even if Palin boned up on her math skills, there still would be the problem with her rhetorical strategies. She’s almost winning in her repetitive enthusiasm for untruths, but the facts of Troopergate (Alaska’s bipartisan investigative committee on the issue gave her a big thumbs- down for ethics violations) and her terrorist accusations (Obama may be black, but honey, he’s no Arab) will not go away. She’s like the little engine that could, painted lips smiling at the cameras and saying maverick, maverick, maverick while members of the press fold up their note pads and grow tired of asking her to answer straight-up for once. Please. We of the Joe Six-Pack variety can’t follow her barrage of words. We just need her to speak clearly for once, and, for heavens sake, stop long enough on the way to the next campaign stop to answer the questions.

If McCain and Palin actually beat the growing odds against them and make it to the White House, I’ve no doubt Palin will continue to espouse her hockey-mom ministries. And Trig will be the face that will eclipse all doubt. He will draw us to her like maternal moths to the flame. We’ll forget that while she talks tough on the campaign trail about takin’ on the big oil companies, she took nearly half of her contributions while running for governor of Alaska in 2006 from oil and gas company lobbyists ($13,000 of the more than $24,000 from registered lobbyists, according to campaign records). We’ll forget about that stuffy ol’ notion that separates church from state, and we’ll have prayer groups dictate policy.

We’ll put the knowledge that she’s-so-in-over-her-head-it’s-scary away somewhere, and focus on the fact that she wants to keep our gasping consumer paradise alive at any cost. Drill, drill, drill. And, as for my boy? I’m sure she’ll keep him in mind. Maybe she’ll send him a card. Or, save the stamp-they’re getting expensive!- and send an e-mail.

Math-Challenged Mommy: Palin Should do Her Best to Wave that Special-Needs Flag

Sarah Palin Endorses Hamas?!?!

Author and national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg, writing for The Atlantic, points out another major Sarah Palin gaffe in her interview last week with Katie Couric, a mistake which seems to have received no press coverage whatsoever.  Once again Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin illustrated her complete lack of foreign policy knowledge by answering one of Couric’s questions on democracy and the Hamas election victory as though Hamas were allies of the United States, whom we should protect!

How can it be that some people still pretend that Sarah Palin is suited for high office? This country has never seen someone so comprehensively unprepared for the vice presidency; Dan Quayle was Metternich by comparison. I’ve watched Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric three times, and my astonishment does not diminish. Her nonsensical answer about Russia has deservedly been highlighted, but let me focus on another question, this one concerning the export of democracy. Couric asked, “What happens if the goal of democracy doesn’t produce the desired outcome? In Gaza, the U.S. pushed hard for elections and Hamas won.”
Palin’s answer, in full, was this: “Yeah, well especially in that region, though, we have to protect those who do seek democracy and support those who seek protections for the people who live there. What we’re seeing in the last couple of days here in New York is a President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, who would come on our soil and express such disdain for one of our closest allies and friends, Israel … and we’re hearing the evil that he speaks and if hearing him doesn’t allow Americans to commit more solidly to protecting the friends and allies that we need, especially there in the Mideast, then nothing will.”

The issue here is not that Palin didn’t know the answer. There are many possible answers to this question, some of which are right and some of which are wrong. The issue here is that she didn’t know the question. Because she was apparently ignorant of the subject, she endorsed Hamas’ victory, and, in essence, called for the U.S. to “protect” Islamists who seek to use democratic elections to lever themselves into power. And, of course, Ahmadinejad came to power in a more-or-less democratic election. Palin’s answer was truly remarkable. A person who could be President of the United States has shown herself to be completely ignorant of one of the most vexing and important foreign policy questions of the day. Freshman congressmen know how to answer this question. Here’s one possible Republican response:

“Yes, Katie, it’s true that if you push for democracy, sometimes you get an outcome that you don’t want. This happened in Gaza with Hamas, and I think the Bush Administration was as surprised as everyone else. So the lesson here is that you have be careful when you try to export democracy. But I still believe that, over the long-term, democracy is the best antidote to terrorism that we have. What we have to do, though, is know when to push, and know when not to push. And every day, we have to do the hard work of advocating for press freedom, and the rule of law, and for all those things that build a civil society.”

See? Not that hard. Unless you don’t:

a)    Know what happened in Gaza;
b)    Know where Gaza is;
c)    Know who rules Gaza today;
d)    Care.

 I want to wait and see Palin on Thursday night in her debate with Joe Biden; perhaps her performance in the Couric interview was abnormally bad. But I have a terrible feeling that John McCain has placed this country – and, of lesser importance, his campaign – in an untenable position.

Sarah Palin Endorses Hamas

Alaska National Guard General Changes Story; Palin Promotes

On the website, VetVoice, the “online home for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans” comprised of Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard members, along with veterans, veterans families and supporters, there is an excellent investigative piece by Brandon Friedman, published on September 9, 2008.  The article examines the entire sequence of events surrounding the “foreign policy” experience of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as “commander” of the Alaska National Guard, and how the story presented to the public has changed dramatically over the past week.

When John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, the campaign immediately began touting her experience–both foreign and domestic–as “commander-in-chief” of the Alaska National Guard.  But the reality of the situation–that Palin actually had little to do with the National Guard quickly became apparent.  In fact, the idea was undercut severely by comments made by the actual commander of the Alaska National Guard–its Adjutant General, Major General Craig Campbell.   When that happened, it eventually turned into somewhat of a national joke, culminating in the humiliation of McCain/Palin campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds on CNN when he tried to promote Palin’s “foreign policy” experience during the Republican National Convention.

It was getting bad for the McCain campaign because they couldn’t afford to lose the “experience” argument to the Obama campaign.

But suddenly–and strangely–the commander of the Alaska National Guard, Major General Campbell, changed his story.  By the end of the convention, he was praising Palin’s experience, talking on TV about how she had taken control of Alaska’s National Guard operations and how she was  a “great” leader.

Interestingly enough, Palin promoted him with his third star–to the rank of Lieutenant General–only three days later.  

Essentially, Campbell had been unhelpful to the campaign at the very least.  But all of a sudden he became one of Palin’s biggest supporters.  And he was then promoted to be one of the two highest-ranking state National Guard officials in the country.  See if this timeline is as eyebrow-raising to you as it is to me:

Sunday 31 August 2008: Major General Craig Campbell, Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard, tells the AP that:

he and Palin play no role in national defense activities, even when they involve the Alaska National Guard. The entire operation is under federal control, and the governor is not briefed on situations.

The quote is used against Palin throughout the media for several days

Wednesday 3 September 2008: Major General Craig Campbell does significantly more damage to Palin’s credibility in this piece in the Boston Globe:

And while the Alaska National Guard operates a launch site for a US anti-missile system at Fort Greely, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks, the Alaskan governor is not in the site’s chain of command and has no authority over its operations, according to Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard who commands the roughly 3,800 state militia members.

“Our National Guard is basically just like any National Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard who commands the roughly 3,800 state militia members. Campbell, a native of Springfield, Mass., said by telephone. “You could call [Adjutant General] Joe Carter in Massachusetts and he would say he is organized the same way.”

Nor are the recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan by the Alaska National Guard under Palin’s purview, despite assertions this week by McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds to that effect. “She is head of the National Guard that has been deployed overseas,” Bounds said. “That’s foreign policy experience.”

Campbell also said that Palin has authority over the National Guard’s domestic missions — such as fighting wildfires and rescuing stranded residents, but that she has a limited role in determining how the forces are trained or equipped.

About 75 percent of the Guard’s budget, he said, is the purview of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, which is responsible for ensuring the Guard is prepared to be called up by the president in a time of war. Her primary role, he said, is in recruiting National Guard volunteers.

Campbell said he has met with Palin about once a month, but communicates with her by phone and email more frequently. Earlier this week, he noted, she ordered the Air National Guard to fly a planeload of supplies to hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast.

“She is very much engaged in what we are doing and she asks a lot of questions,” Campbell said. “Maybe not the most engaged, but definitely engaged.

She is very much involved in ensuring that I am recruiting enough people.”

Friday 5 September 2008: Only two days later, Campbell’s story has completely flip-flopped.  Now he’s suddenly praising Palin, appearing on Fox News to gush about what a superb commander-in-chief she is:

“I’ll tell you, in the last few days, I’ve been watching the press, and I’ve not been very pleased with what I’ve been seeing about the chastising of the National Guard by having it diminished by the insinuation that a commander-in-chief of the National Guard doesn’t really control the military. The National Guard has 500,000 people in it around this great country, serving in states and overseas. National Guards are state military forces run by governors, and Sarah Palin does it great.”

Here’s the video:

Monday 8 September: After the weekend–and after his complimentary remarks–Major General Campbell is promoted within the Alaska National Guard to the rank of Lieutenant General.  The promotion is not recognized outside the state of Alaska, but he is promoted with his third star, nonetheless.  Here is the release:

Major General Craig E. Campbell Promotion Press Release

Major General Craig E. Campbell Promotion Press Release





For Immediate Release

7 September 2008

No. 08-153

Alaska National Guard Adjutant General Promoted

September 8, 2008, Camp Denali , Alaska – Before a formation of Alaska Air and Army National Guard members, the Alaska National Guard’s top leader was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General yesterday in front of the Guard’s headquarters building on Fort Richardson .  

Lt. Gen. ( Alaska ) Craig E. Campbell, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner of the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, received his third star, signifying Governor Sarah Palin’s support of the Guard and her commitment to reinforcing the cooperation between federal and state military assets.

Palin took the opportunity to promote Campbell ahead of any pending emergency that may occur with the upcoming fall storm season.  This allows Alaska to have more of a say in times of state disasters.

“This is about Alaskans serving Alaskans.  The promotion is a statement that the Alaska National Guard is the state military force responsible for responding to state issues, at the direction of the Governor,” Governor Palin said.  “The decision to promote the Adjutant General to Lieutenant General is based on a fundamental states’-rights stance, for which Alaska has a strong historical position.”

This issue gained momentum with governors following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the Department of Defense pushed a change in federal law that authorized the President of the United States to mobilize National Guard members to federal service in response to emergencies, without the consent of the governor.

The National Governors Association and the Adjutants General Association of the United States were unanimously opposed to this change, and the following year Congress reversed the law.  Concurrently, Alaska Statutes were changed to permit the governor to promote the Adjutant General to the state rank of Lieutenant General specifically for state service.  

Campbell was pinned with his third star by his daughter Amanda Rauckhorst and wife, Anne Marie Campbell.  Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell was also in attendance and spoke on behalf of Gov. Palin about the importance of the Alaska National Guard in securing the state.

“The action of promoting the Adjutant General to Lieutenant General ( Alaska ) in one way serves to strengthen the concept that the federal and state forces are co-equal partners in providing support to the state of Alaska ,” Campbell said.  “It is also a positive statement by Governor Palin that the Adjutant General, as a senior state official and cabinet member of a state entity, correctly relates to the senior appointed federal officials in Alaska , when supporting the citizens of this great state.”

Campbell will only wear the rank of Lieutenant General when he is in service to the state.  His federal rank will remain Major General.  This state promotion carries no financial benefit to Campbell .  When serving in state status, the Adjutant General receives commissioner pay and benefits.  When serving in active-duty status (federal), the Adjutant General is paid under the federally recognized rank of Major General.

Campbell now joins the rank of the adjutant general from the Texas National Guard, which currently has a lieutenant general as its top officer.   Georgia and Maryland have also had adjutants general as lieutenants general in the past.

If nothing else, this series of events raises serious questions about what’s going on.  And the media would be wise to probe this further.

Alaska National Guard General Changes Story; Palin Promotes

Major General Craig E. Campbell

Major General Craig E. Campbell

Sarah Palin as Alaska National Guard commander

On September 6, 2008, Los Angeles Times staff writer Julian E. Barnes examines the role of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as commander of the Alaska National Guard in terms of her “foreign policy” credentials.

Seeking to buttress the foreign policy credentials of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Republicans have repeatedly cited the vice presidential nominee’s experience as commander of the Alaska National Guard.

As governor, Palin oversees military units whose duties include serving overseas, search-and-rescue missions across the state’s vast landscape and manning key elements of the U.S. missile defense system at Ft. Greely.

But foreign deployments of Guard units and the operation of national defense assets like the Ft. Greely missile interceptors are not the responsibility of state governors. Those functions come under the regular U.S. military chain of command.

The Alaska National Guard is unusual in that its jobs include manning part of the U.S. missile defense system. The 49th Missile Defense Battalion works on interceptor missiles designed to shoot down intercontinental missiles.

Members of the Alaska National Guard also were deployed to Iraq, and Palin visited their unit in July 2007. The McCain campaign has pointed to that experience as an example of Palin’s foreign policy background.

Since governors have no role in overseeing Guard members federalized for service in Iraq, military experts said that should not count as foreign policy experience.

Sarah Palin as Alaska National Guard commander

Alaska Army National Guard members and their wives exchange honorary pins during a July ceremony in Barrow Alaska marking the Guards duty in Iraq.

BACK FROM ABROAD: Alaska Army National Guard members and their wives exchange honorary pins during a July ceremony in Barrow, Alaska marking the Guard's duty in Iraq.