In her first interview with ABC News last week, Sarah Palin made several bellicose statements — openly musing about war with Russia and refusing to “second guess” Israel if it were to attack Iran. She has ditched her previous talk of an “exit plan” for Iraq, and now supports John McCain’s endless war. At a troop deployment ceremony last week, Palin even linked Iraq to 9/11.
Palin’s hawkish turn is likely due to the influence of neoconservatives who have made Palin their new pet project. A former Republican White House official, who now works at the American Enterprise Institute, proudly declared Palin to be “a blank page. She’s going places and it’s worth going there with her.” Asked if he sees her as a “project”, the former official said: “Your word, not mine, but I wouldn’t disagree with the sentiment.”
The London Telegraph reports that neoconservatives long been trying to make Palin a messenger for their cause:
Sources in the McCain camp, the Republican Party and Washington think tanks say Mrs Palin was identified as a potential future leader of the neoconservative cause in June 2007. That was when the annual summer cruise organised by the right-of-centre Weekly Standard magazine docked in Juneau, the Alaskan state capital, and the pundits on board took tea with Governor Palin. […]
A former Republican White House official, who now works at the American Enterprise Institute, a bastion of Washington neoconservatism, admitted: “She’s bright and she’s a blank page. She’s going places and it’s worth going there with her.” Asked if he sees her as a “project”, the former official said: “Your word, not mine, but I wouldn’t disagree with the sentiment.”
Said Pat Buchanan: “Palin has become, overnight, the most priceless political asset the movement has. Look for the neocons to move with all deliberate speed to take her into their camp…and steering her into the AEI-Weekly Standard-War Party orbit.”
As the Wonk Room has documented, neoconservatives like Randy Scheunemann run the McCain’s foreign policy team. Scheunemann briefed Palin on international affairs prior to the ABC interview; the Telegraph reported that he “quickly made Steve Biegun, a former number three on the National Security Council, her chief foreign policy adviser.” Steve Clemons said Biegun “will turn her into an advocate of Cheneyism and Cheney’s view of national-security issues.”
Indeed, it should come as no surprise that prominent neoconservative Bill Kristol was the earliest advocate of Palin for VP. “In 1988, Mr. Kristol became a leading adviser of another inexperienced Republican vice presidential pick, Dan Quayle, tutoring him in foreign affairs,” the Telegraph observes.
Matt Duss calls it the “Project For The Neoconservative Palin.” He writes:
In a way, neoconservatism is a perfect fit for someone like Palin. It’s an ideology is built upon a reflexive skepticism toward scholarly expertise, tending toward more emotionally satisfying — not to mention politically profitable — policy answers than the boring, reality-based stuff offered by analysts who have spent their entire careers studying these questions.
,Joe Cirincione notes that Palin’s stance on Russia is strikingly similar to that of Fred Kagan.