The Soviet Union Was a Real Empire, And Really Bad Too

Warsaw Pact invasion of Prague, 1968

Warsaw Pact invasion of Prague, 1968

I’ve been trying to stay out of the Sarah Palin blogging. But though there’s a lot to be said about her, the really important thing is that for a prospective national leader she has terrifyingly little grasp of public policy issues. For example, take this curious remark from a softball interview with National Review:

The term I used to describe the panel making these decisions should not be taken literally,” says Palin. The phrase is “a lot like when President Reagan used to refer to the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire.’ He got his point across. He got people thinking and researching what he was talking about. It was quite effective. Same thing with the ‘death panels.’ I would characterize them like that again, in a heartbeat.”

This is a reminder that faced with anything other than a bending-over-backwards-to-not-embarrass-her interview, Palin can’t get through the easiest questions without humiliating herself. Dave Weigel suggests the obvious followup: “Which part of ‘evil empire’ was not literal?”

The Soviet Union was an honest-to-god literal empire and Reagan was calling it evil. Not metaphorically evil. Evil. That was the point. To show that he wasn’t going to let the practicalities of détente stop him from calling it like it is. And this isn’t just a random point of history, it’s relevant to an ongoing political and policy controversy about the merits of putting “moral clarity” at the center of your approach to dealing with autocratic regimes.