Sarah Palin, Neocon Pod Person

I have to laugh at the brouhaha Sarah Palin’s ascension to national prominence has stirred, especially the consternation in the Obama camp and the media (or do I repeat myself?). One can only imagine the spittle-flecked computer monitors of the anti-Palinistas – especially Andrew Sullivan, whose hatred of the caribou-shooting gal from up north has even surpassed his once-infamous hatred of the peace movement, which he habitually smeared as a “fifth column” secretly working on behalf of Osama bin Laden. I get to laugh, because, being a right-wing antiwar type, I don’t have a dog in this fight.

Her views on matters of domestic policy and morality, considered by those limousine liberals over at the Huffington Post to be anathema, don’t faze me in the least. Everyone’s entitled to their own religious views, and, in spite of Sullivan’s hysterical attacks on her as some sort of “Christianist,” I see no evidence she wants to establish a state religion or even push her views on anyone, nor do I share Sullivan’s enthusiasm for gay marriage (I consider it a plot to reduce the number of gay people by making homosexuality seem boring).

I also have to laugh – guffaw, really – at how easily conservatives have been taken in by the Palin choice. Why, it was only yesterday that the Right was breathing fire out of its nostrils and threatening to sit on its scaly wings come Election Day, what with the “maverick” (i.e., RINO) McCain at the top of the Republican ticket. Now even Rush Limbaugh – who was the loudest anti-McCainiac, if not the most articulate – is purring like the big tabby-cat he really is, sidling up to Palin and exhorting the party faithful to rally ’round the banner of Palinism.

But what is Palinism, anyway?

Well, we don’t know much, as she’s being kept as incommunicado as, say, Mordechai Vanunu – the Israeli nuclear technician who was placed in solitary confinement for 17 years and is still forbidden from speaking to the media. Gee, I wish Charlie Gibson had asked her about Vanunu. He would’ve gotten a blank stare, but you can be sure her neoconservative handlers would have briefed her afterward and given her the Correct Line, which would doubtless be the same answer she gave Gibson when he asked her about giving the green light to Israel to strike Iran.

“I don’t think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation. “

She said that no less than three times, repeating the same formulaic answer almost word-for-word, as if she’d had it drilled into her head by AIPAC lobbyists and the sinister Bill Kristol for hours, even weeks, beforehand – which, it turns out, she had. The London Telegraph reports:

“Comments by the governor of Alaska in her first television interview, in which she said NATO may have to go to war with Russia and took a tough line on Iran’s nuclear program, were the result of two weeks of briefings by neoconservatives.”

Oh, I can picture the scene as if it were happening before my eyes: Strapped to a chair and forced to read a year’s worth of Weekly Standards out loud while having the audio version of the complete works of Norman Podhoretz piped into her ears, poor pistol-packin’ Sarah was no match for her neocon interrogators, who ironed all those right-wing populist quirks out of her malleable mindset. Now, Sarah, repeat after me: jury nullification is nuts, forget about Alaskan independence, and always, always remember, you hate Ron Paul!

And of course Bill Kristol is right there in the middle of the action, as the Telegraph informs us:

“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 organized by the right-of-center Weekly Standard magazine docked in Juneau, the Alaskan state capital, and the pundits on board took tea with Governor Palin.”

I just knew there was a reason why the Standard crew was headed for the un-alluring waters of Alaska! These maritime excursions are a tradition with ideological journals: National Review is always going to some place other than continental Europe, while the Nation assiduously avoids Cuban waters by imitating the Standard and making for the North Pole (I wonder who’s entertaining the Nation-istas with piano renditions of “The Internationale” now that Christopher Hitchens has gone neocon).

In any case, many liberal commentators are so flummoxed by the choice of Palin as McCain’s wing-woman that they are reduced to sputtering outrage and sheer malevolence, even going after her family in a way that ought to be off limits in American politics. This is precisely what the neocons anticipated, and the backlash against the media was played to the hilt at the GOP convention, to great effect. Just look at the poll numbers.

What Palin’s critics on the Left have failed to understand is that the choice of Palin wasn’t about winning the election with some sort of brilliant maneuver, or even reaching out to the Clinton supporters, who in reality would be far more attracted by Joe Lieberman on the ticket. The Palin choice is all about unifying the GOP and reining in the rambunctious Republican Right, which was showing signs of serious disaffection. By that standard, the operation proved to be a tremendous success.

Even Pat Buchanan, an avowed enemy of the neocons, laughed with approval as he exclaimed “She’s one of us!” Well, perhaps, but that was before the neocons got to her, just as they got to George W. Bush and Dan Quayle (another pupil of Kristol’s). Palin’s transformation from a rank-and-file right-wing populist into a neocon pod-person was put on display for all the world to see in her recent interview with ABC News, the first part of which was entirely given over to foreign policy.

It is a fascinating exchange, one in which Palin hits all the right neocon notes. War with Russia, in her view, is entirely possible: we must side with Georgia, because they are “free,” like Ukraine, and both should be admitted to NATO. Like both McCain and Obama, Palin believes the Russians started it:

“First off, we’re going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain’s running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. And we’ve got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we have to keep…

“GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.

“PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there. I think it was unfortunate. That manifestation that we saw with that invasion of Georgia shows us some steps backwards that Russia has recently taken away from the race toward a more democratic nation with democratic ideals. That’s why we have to keep an eye on Russia.”

The myth of Russian “aggression” in the Caucasus is contrary to all evidence – and the testimony of a former Georgian defense minister, who says Saakashvili had been planning an invasion of South Ossetia for years. However, what’s really interesting about her comments is that she admits communicating with a foreign head of state. So when Gibson asked her previously if she had ever talked to a foreign head of state, and she, after much hemming and hawing, said she hadn’t, why didn’t she mention Saakashvili? Was it because she’s slow, or because she knew, on some level, that her contact with a foreign leader pledging U.S. support in a volatile region of the world was highly improper?

What I find really striking, however, is how easily and lightly Palin takes the possibility of war with Russia, a state armed with as many nuclear weapons as the U.S. Asked if she would go to war with Russia in a bid to defend our fellow NATO members, she admitted to the possibility and seemed not at all horrified by it, though she quickly backed down with reassurances that of course we would work with our allies to impose sanctions. From the interview:

“Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO. Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but…

“GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn’t we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

“PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help.”

NATO is no longer a defensive alliance against a threat that evaporated in 1989; it is a League of Democracies, as McCain and his fellow neocons would put it, and membership in the club is a reward for democratic virtue. Of course, after Saakashvili closed down the opposition’s television station and called out his thugs to beat up demonstrators in the streets of Tbilisi, the definition of “democratic” had to be stretched to the breaking point to mean having a “pro-American” foreign policy rather than an internal structure that allows meaningful and vigorous dissent. But that’s a minor detail, one that Sarah can safely leave to her neocon handlers, as they whisper talking points into her earpiece.

The apprenticeship of Sarah Palin is an object lesson in how the neocons took over the American Right and saddled the GOP with their agenda of “big government conservatism” and perpetual war. Her brainwashing limns the experience and fate of the larger conservative movement, which has been reduced, these days, to a militaristic cult that remembers nothing of its origins – a movement of neocon pod-people.

You have to hand it to the neocons, however: Sarah Palin will far outdo Dan Quayle in her service to her handlers. And, who knows, what with McCain already well advanced in years, she may prove just as useful to them as was George W. Bush. From the neocons’ perspective, she is indeed ready to become president, should the need should arise, her very inexperience being her chief qualification for the job. Here again, individual experience limns the larger picture: just as her neocon handlers delight in writing on such a blank slate as Sarah appears to be, so they imprinted their ideological prescriptions on an intellectually bankrupt conservative movement, which had long since lost touch with its traditional moorings.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].