McCain And Palin Off Message In Response To North Korea Diplomacy

Yesterday, the Bush administration announced that the United States was removing North Korea from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. The decision was made after North Korea “agreed to resume disabling a plutonium plant and to allow some inspections to verify that it had halted its nuclear program.”

The administration’s move quickly split the McCain-Palin ticket. John McCain issued a preemptive statement on Friday expressing his displeasure with the agreement:

I have previously said that I would not support the easing of sanctions North Korea unless the United States is able to fully verify the nuclear declaration Pyongyang submitted on June 26. […] I expect the administration to explain exactly how this new verification agreement advances American interests and those of our allies before I will be able to support any decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

When asked about the deal on Saturday, McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin — trying desperately to demonstrate her own foreign policy competence — offered a contradictory response:

Condoleezza Rice, of course, having worked on this strategy for quite some time, I have faith in her that they’re making this wise decision and North Korea, of course, better live up to its end of the bargain there, in speaking with the other countries whom they’ve been working with, in promising the verification. That end of the bargain has got to be lived up to.

Watch it:

As CNN’s Don Lemon noted, McCain and Palin were also off-message last month when Palin suggested that the U.S. should go after Taliban and Al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan — a position McCain opposes. The candidates tried to dismiss the disagreement as “gotcha journalism.”

This most recent chasm appears to show that Palin is unaware of McCain’s radical views on U.S. policy toward North Korea. In 1994, McCain talked of “the threat of extinction” in dealing with its nuclear program. Just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, McCain offered similar rhetoric. He urged President Bush not to “appease” North Korea, lamented his decision to take the use of force off the table, and called for “isolating” the communist country. He also used the issue as justification for military action against Iraq:

North Korea and Iraq present different faces of the same danger. Today, North Korea poses a greater danger than Iraq, and confronting it presents a more difficult challenge. That is all the more reason to take whatever action necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from becoming a threat of equal magnitude and just as difficult to confront.