02 October 2008

Forget any "Palin Doctrine"; Keep an eye on McCain and his advisors

In a post about tonight's debate and the importance of understanding what a "Palin Doctrine" might look like, Jeffrey Stacey raises an interesting point. Palin's worldview trends to the right even of McCain's. Stacey then goes on to parse how that translates.

Palin advocates violating Pakistan's sovereignty whenever necessary, squeezing Iran still harder, admitting Georgia to NATO despite Russia's strident opposition, and giving a blank check to Israel (right after the White House recently blocked Israel's plan to attack Iran on its own). How is Palin's public divergence from McCain possible, and might he forgo his own principles in favor of hers?
To answer the question "How is her divergence from McCain possible?", I'd simply point out that a more hawkish VP is very much in keeping with the status quo, see Dick Cheney. The difference between the McCain campaign and the White House, as of this moment, is that McCain still runs the campaign. Except for keeping Palin more or less under wraps, they McCain-Palin ticket hasn't remotely approached the level of secrecy enjoyed between Bush and Cheney.

Stacey makes another noteworthy point, however, that contradicts the argument that Palin is significantly more hawkish than John McCain. If we can all agree that the candidate is only as smart/progressive/strategic/responsible etc. as the people he surrounds himself with, then surely it must speak to a possible McCain Doctrine that Randy Scheunemann, neocon lobbyist and prominent architect of the Iraq war, heads up foreign policy for the McCain camp. Scheunemann of course is responsible for helping to channel the now discredited reports of WMD in Iraq via Ahmed Chalabi, whom Scheunemann also helped appoint president of the interim Iraqi Governing Council when the Coalition Provisional Authority asserted control over Iraq in 2003 after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Scheunemann is one of the guys who's been directly involved in the Iraq debacle since even before 9/11. Read this for background on how Scheunemann effectively lobbied for funds to invade Iraq back in 1998.

It's hard for me to accept McCain as the moderate here when he surrounds himself with guys like Scheunemann. To paint Palin as the heavy, then, becomes laughable. Unlike Dick Cheney, it's pretty obvious that Palin's depth in behind-the-scenes politicking is as shallow as her interview answers with Katie Couric. Beyond Alaska, Palin is almost virtually unknown. Cheney, meanwhile, had cultivated relationships with lobbyists and lawmakers over decades of work in and out of the public sector. Palin talks from the gut and says what she thinks, and what she thinks the base wants to hear, but this is largely meaningless. Dick Cheney is known for keeping mum, but bringing guys like Scheunemann to the table when it's time to go to war. If I gotta pick between the top of the ticket and the undercard in the McCain-Palin camp, then I'm going with McCain and his cozy retinue of largely discredited foreign policy hacks--er, I mean advisers--as the ones to watch when it comes to shaking the stick.