It’s is not just McCain who believes we’re dumb – it’s a crowd

Summry:  A prominent neocon continues the campaign to convince us that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives Gov Palin foreign policy experience.  This post, third in a series, discusses why this is important, and that regarding it as funny might turn out to be gallows humor.

Sidebar message:  Whatever your views, please make them heard in this election.  Vote.  Donate time and/or money.  Write and talk about the issues.

After McCain selected Palin, I asked McCain believes we are stupid. Is he correct? — and what this tells us about McCain.  McCain’s team immediately began working to convince us that Palin is qualified.  We examined the first salvos in the 2nd post, Alaska is near Russia, and Gov Palin’s other foreign policy experience.  One of those on the firing line was Mrs. McCain.

Some readers have suggested that using Cindy McCain’s views “to slam Sarah Palin is a new low” (source) — as if her remarks about Gov Palin’s foreign policy experience were of minor importance — casual, even personal thoughts.  Not so.  Mrs. McCain’s remarks have been repeated by many prominent conservatives, suggesting a deliberate campaign.   Examples:

This campaign continues, with other “names” working the same message.  In skilled hands the truth of a proposition has little effect on its value as propaganda, as we may discover in November.

Our subject for today:  “Sarah Palin’s experience“, by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., Center for Security Policy, 2 September 2008 — Excerpt:

… Napoleon is said to have declared that “Geography is destiny.” That certainly is true of Gov. Palin.

Her state is adjacent to Russia, a nation that has in recent years demonstrated a rising aggressiveness towards its neighbors. The targets are not just the relatively weak and formerly enslaved countries on its littoral like Georgia – the scene of a bloody invasion last month aimed at toppling the elected government there. Moscow has also conducted simulated strategic bombing runs with Soviet-era long-range, nuclear-capable aircraft. These offensive missions are designed to penetrate U.S. northern air defenses in a manner reminiscent of the most provocative of Kremlin behavior during the Cold War.

As it happens, the best of those defenses – including a squadron of America’s state-of-the-art interceptors, the F-22 Raptor – are stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage. Governor Palin would not only be intimately familiar with that facilities’ vital role in protecting U.S. territory. She would also appreciate its importance in the projection of American power in Asia and beyond as much of the nation’s long-range transport aircraft supplying our military operations around the world transit through Elmendorf. Every Commander-in-Chief should have such insights.

Speaking of geography, Alaskan territory is also along the trajectory of ballistic missiles launched eastward out of Stalinist North Korea. For that reason, among others, Alaska’s Fort Greely was selected as the site for the principal U.S. ground-based defense against such missiles.

As that state’s governor, Sarah Palin would know more by osmosis – if nothing else – about the necessity for U.S. anti-missile systems than either Messrs. Obama or Biden.

… At present, one can only infer Sarah Palin’s grasp of the danger posed by today’s principal enemy: adherents to the brutally repressive and seditious program the Islamists call Shariah …

Just ignore the whole subject; have a laugh and a drink

Laughter is a common reaction by those not buying this story.  Like Robert Dreyfuss in “Sarah Palin, Foreign Policy Expert“, The Nation, 2 September 2008.  If you find Gaffney’s analysis believable, please read Dreyfuss’ essay.  While justified IMO, Dreyfuss misses the point of the exercise.  It is desirable for subjects not affected by the message to disregard it, rather than it motivate them to act.  Laughter is the opiate of the “chattering classes.”  Let them laugh, so that they then have four years to cry.

Why this is important

The Republican Party’s message here (narrowly defined) is delusional nonsense.  The very act of selling it makes us weaker, promulgating negative information — memes that cloud our minds, sowing confusion.  Instead of debating the many serious issues facing us, working them through to a consensus, America must collectively sort though the two story lines about the qualifications of a potential President.

Whatever Obama’s qualifications, they were discussed and tested during the past 8 months — with millions of voters rendering judgment.  Now, in the last two months — when we should be playing our role in setting national policy for the next 4 years — we discuss the executive experience gained by a part-time mayor of a tiny village plus 20+ months as governor.

To gauge the seriousness of this media campaign, consider the author, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

Per Wikipedia, he is the founder and president of the think tank Center for Security Policy, as well as a contributor, contributing editor, and columnist for a number of publications, including the Washington Times, National Review Online, WorldNetDaily, and Jewish World Review. He is a leading neoconservative. … Gaffney is the lead author of War Footing (Naval Institute Press, 2005), a a founding member of the Set America Free Coalition (dedicated to reducing dependence on foreign oil), and member of the current iteration of the Committee on the Present Danger.

Look at his organization, the Center for Security Policy (CSP).  Here is the Wikipedia page.  The CSP received $ 6,237,624 in grants from 1988 – 2006 (inclusive) from the 39 conservative philanthropies in Media Transparency‘s database.

From the CSP’s “about us” page.

The Center for Security Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan national security organization that specializes in identifying policies, actions, and resource needs that are vital to American security and then ensures that such issues are the subject of both focused, principled examination and effective action by recognized policy experts, appropriate officials, opinion leaders, and the general public.

The Center was founded in 1988 and has worked to great effect since then in the establishment of successful national security policies through the use of all elements of national power – diplomatic, informational, military, and economic strength.  The philosophy of “Peace through Strength” is not a slogan for military might but a belief that America’s national power must be preserved and properly used for it holds a unique global role in maintaining peace and stability.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more analysis of McCain’s choice of VP

  1. Zenpundit — who has collected many links on the topic!
  2. Also drop by Sic Semper Tyrannis, the blog of Patrick Lang (Colonel, US Army, retired) — esp note the comments, which typically run from good to excellent.
  3. What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective.“, by AKMuckraker, posted at Mudflats, 29 August 2008 – A seemingly fair look at Palin.
  4. Most esp, see National Review Online’s The Corner — a stream of wildly enthusiastic posts.
  5. Palin the irresponsible choice?” David Frum, National Post, 29 August 2008 — A conservative dissents from the enthusiasm about Palin.
  6. Palin touts stance on ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ doesn’t note flip-flop, Anchorage Daily News, 31 August 2008 — IMO a fair review of her record as Gov.
  7. No Experience Necessary“, Michael Kinsley, Slate, 31 August 2008 — “How Sarah Palin made the GOP change its mind about presidential qualifications.”  Best article so far, IMO!

Skimming #4, the NRO site, is fascinating.  Pure identity politics:  she’s one of us, we love her.  They like her for who she is, not what she can do.  Almost zero discussion of her training, experience, or ability to function as President.  Strange, very strange for conservatives.  And it shows the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party.

Not about Palin, but useful analysis:   “Foreign Policy and the President’s Irrelevance” by George Friedman on Stratfor, 5 Feb 2008

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

My Posts about the Candidates

1. How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other (7 February 2008) — Now we have McCain, the leading Republican Presidential candidate, talking of an open-ended commitment to victory in Iraq.

2. What do blogs do for America? (26 February 2008) — As our problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern.

3. A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012 (1 March 2008) — What is next in Iraq?  None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future.  McCain intends to fight so long as (or until) we suffer few casualties, then stay for a long time (perhaps a hundred years, as McCain said here and here) ).  On the other hand, Obama has been quite explicit…

4. Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay (3 March 2008) — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them.

5. How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents? (21 March 2008) — The Presidential campaign rolls on in the seventhyear since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being in which nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Barack Obama.

6. American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties (18 May 2008) – Importance of the November 2008 political landslide.

7. President Obama, an Muslim apostate? (2 June 2008) — Nope.

8. Is Obama running for the office of Chief Shaman? (6 June 2008) — Weirdness from our next President.

9. Does America need a charismatic President? (15 july 2008)

10. More about charisma, by Don Vandergriff…(#2 in the “getting ready for Obama” series) (16 July 2008) — About charisma:  know it before you buy it!

11. Obama might be the shaman that America needs (17 July 2008) — At what point does criticism of Obama’s charisma and rhetoric become criticism of leadership itself — and blind faith in technocratic solutions so loved by policy nerds?  Michael Knox Beran crosses that line in “Obama, Shaman“, City Journal, Summer 2008.

12. Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008 — Obama’s statement about America may be the simple truth; this may be why so many find it disturbing.

13. A powerful perspective on the candidates for President of the US, 28 August 2008 — John Derbyshire expresses what I have said about the candidates dreams of saving the world.

14. McCain believes we are stupid. Is he correct?, 30 August 2008

15. Alaska is near Russia, and Gov Palin’s other foreign policy experience, 1 September 2008

For interesting articles about the candidates from other sources, see About the candidates for President of the United States.

17 thoughts on “It’s is not just McCain who believes we’re dumb – it’s a crowd”

  1. So. Gaffney know “osmosis” only applies to water, right? At least that’s what I recall from chemistry. I believe Gaffney was talking either about absorption or diffusion, depending on what, exactly, he meant by “osmosis.”

    Or I could be full of it. Can we at least charge him with metaphor abuse?
    Fabius Maximus replies: You have provided even more proof that Gaffney is correct, as the human brain is 80% water (or something more or less like that). {note: I believe osmosis requires liquids, perhaps of specific characteristics, but not necessarily water. Anyone here know for sure?}

  2. Good post. You may also find journalism professor Jay Rosen’s new piece, “The Palin Convention and the Culture Wars“, of interest, as it hits many of the same themes from a different angle:

    John McCain’s convention gambit is a culture war strategy. It depends for its execution on conflict with journalists, and with bloggers (the “angry left,” Bush called them) along with confusion between and among the press, the blogosphere, and the Democratic party. It revives cultural memory: the resentment narrative after Chicago ‘68 but with the angry left more distributed. It dispenses with issues and seeks a trial of personalities…

    The basic strategy is: don’t fight the “crisis” narrative. Rather, do things that bring it on; and in that crisis re-divide the electorate hoping to grab the bigger half…

    Admit no ground, pile on the praise for her performance in Alaska, pump up her governor’s experience to death-defying extremes, hope for theatrical confrontation with characters in the mainstream media who can star as the cosmopolitan elites in the sudden politics of resentment the convention has been driven to.

    Confound and collapse all distinctions between closed systems (like the newsroom of the New York Times), open systems (like the blogging community and political systems, like the Democratic party and its activist wing. Whenever possible mix these up. Conflate constantly. Attack them all. Jump from one to the other without warning or thread. Sow confusion among streams and let that confusion mix with the resentment in a culture war atmosphere.

  3. Unlike other posters on this thread, I am inspired by Gaffney’s analysis.

    I just so happens that I live somewhat in the vicinity of Jerusalem and of Berlin – Ohio. Through osmosis, I doubtlessly have learned much as a result. Wright Patterson Air force base also is in Ohio.

    As a result I now view myself as a foreign policy expert.

    I would provide insights to flesh out this claim, but I now am charging fees for my wisdom. Feel free to contact me for my services; you will find my prices to be remarkably reasonable.

    But wait! There’s more! I also provide a free ginzu. And will pay $600.00 for your scrap gold. So hurry! This offer won’t last.

    Void where prohibited.

  4. “Whatever Obama’s qualifications, they were discussed and tested during the past 8 months — with millions of voters rendering judgment.”

    You’re going to use Obama’s experience managing his campaign running for president as experience for him to be president? That’s ridiculous.

    He’s been in the Senate 4 years, missed or voted present on 40% of his votes, and never reaches across the aisle for compromise. Governors can’t vote present. He is going to be president, Sarah is running for VP here…
    Fabius Maximus replies: We call the system of doing this “democracy.” While the verdict of the Democratic Party’s voters might be defective, this is how we choose our leaders. The results are sometimes ridiculous (esp in hindsight, ref President Carter), but that’s our way.

    The subject of this series of posts is McCain’s judgement. A different thing entirely.

  5. The way Gaffney, the McCain campaign, and the RNC are behaving is ludicrous, and would as FM notes be laughable except for the possibility they will end up ‘governing.’ Any credibility any of these entities have in terms of conservatism, caring about the Republic, or mere rationality is gone. May they lose, and lose big.

  6. On the question, do they think we are stupid. A couple of good quotes by
    Thomas Jefferson come to mind.

    “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”

    “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion. ”

    The political class really believes that the citizens are nothing more than ignorant noble savages who must be guided by them. They are our angels or annointed ones. This crosses party concepts and descriptions. And what really is scary is that many of the citizens have also been convinced that they are part of the annointed few while at the same time feeling entitled.

    The rest of us try to inform, such as this blog, but it is a very big challenge.

  7. I will comment again with a similar comment to my comment in “Alaska is near russia…”

    We live in a democracy. The relative value to society good or bad of any politicians actions can be measured by a simple metric: how many voters did they represent when they took their actions? How many voters have passed judgement on their political life? How many voters have scrutinized the the persons political contribution?

    Number of votes received in all career contests for comparison:

    McCain: Probably tens of millions
    Obama: Tens of millions
    Biden: more than a million (old records are hard to find he may have a lot more)
    H. Clinton: tens of millions
    Sara Palin: about 188,000(I refined this since my lst comment)
    Almost all the other major party Presidential candidates and almost all the other short listed vice-presidential cancidates: more than a million
    For relative comparison number of votes received by NC Gov. Mike Easley in the 2004 general election in Mecklenburg Co. NC: about 186,000. Thats 1 of 100 counties in 1 election.

    This person (Palin) has hardly been tested in the most important way a Democracy tests its politicians. Until we begin as a country to start our deliberations with such simple metrics and finish with considerations of how close Russia is to Alaska instead of using Russia to distract from the basic facts of a candidate (or letting our selves be distracted) we will continue to make bad choices as a nation.

    By the way if having important military bases in ones state had anything to do with Presidential qualifications Mike Easley would be the Democratic vice presidential nominee as counter terrorism actions have been conducted out of NC military bases for 30+ years.

  8. Agree with your analysis of the Gaffney piece although I think you do overreact a bit; i.e. c’mon, it’s politics.

    However I disagree with your comment re: Obama. You state, “Whatever Obama’s qualifications, they were discussed and tested during the past 8 months — with millions of voters rendering judgment.”

    I must have missed the discussion of his qualifications (and yes it would be a short conversation). As you know, one of the complaints of conservatives is the utter failure of the MSM to do it’s job concerning Obama. I don’t think it is correct to suggest that the voters were able to make any judgement on this point; i.e. judgement was rendered on his style/looks/fresh face, etc. Further, one can argue that Palin is just as or more qualified than Obama to be President. She was elected as Governor and hence has executive experience. Obama does not.
    Fabius Maximus replies: You raise several points here.

    “c’mon, it’s politics.”

    That may be the weakest defense I have seen, an absurd way of avoiding evaluation of a candidate’s campaign points. They spend millions of dollars to communicate this stuff, and we’re suppose to treat it as a joke?

    “I don’t think it is correct to suggest that the voters were able to make any judgement on this point;”

    On what basis do you say this?

    “i.e. judgement was rendered on his style/looks/fresh face, etc.”

    And you know this how?

    “Further, one can argue that Palin is just as or more qualified than Obama to be President.”

    While of course correct, that is not the question which I was answering. Obama was chosen by the voters of the Democratic Party; under our system that is the final court. Palin was chosen by McCain, and we were discussing his judgement in making that choice.

  9. One comment on executive experience as qualification. By this, you mean “Succesfully managing a complex institution”. As much as I worry about Barak “Hope and 5 bucks gets you a Latte at Starbucks” Obama, I don’t worry about his lack of experience in executive roles.

    Given the difficulty of both community organizing and managing a succesfull presidential campaign, its hard to say that Obama DOESN’T have significant executive experience. Both of these are very difficult management problems, and he’s performed masterfully in both areas.

    This is, in fact, why I opposed H Clinton: How her campaign publically self destructed into some circular firing squad showed that she was NOT capable of being a good manager.

    Running a good campaign does not mean that someone can be a good president. But running a bad campaign demonstrates that a candidate is NOT fit for the office.

    This is also why I believe the choice of Palin reflects poorly on McCain. Not that Palin is any worse or better than any other possible pick: she’s actually a very typical evangelical-republican (Social conservative, but fiscally reckless. [1]), and McCain was going to pick a typical evangelical-republican, but that she was obviously not well vetted and it wasn’t a decision taken with care.

    McCain had three months to find a VP candidate. Three months.

    Yet he selects one who he only met with once and talked on the phone once, and with such haste at the last minute that the first reaction is “who the F#@*# is Sarah Palin” and the opposition party seems to have done more backround work on her in 24 hours than the McCain campaign did with three months to work in.

    At least Caligula knew Incitatus before attempting to promote him to Consul.

    [1] I’m a strong fiscal conservative, social liberal, so Palin would never appeal to me as her views and practice are the exact opposite of mine both on the social front and the fiscal front, an $20M in debt for a small town is not fiscally conservative. But then again, as a fiscal conservative, the only fiscally conservative president in the past 3 decades was named William Jefferson Clinton. Pitty, that.

  10. McCain is using a “bait and switch” tactic, inviting us to vote for the loveable Mrs. Palin, but forgetting that it’s McCain who really exercises power.

    From the tenor of the script used by the Republicans so far, I think we are watching a remake of Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” – starring Sarah Palin. The 1939 classic portrayed a loveable plain speaking man (Jimmy Stewart) who by chance is nominated as a Senator and goes to Washington where he has to confront and overcome a bevy of corrupt politicians. The movie received eleven academy award nominations.

    Should this be the case, I would expect at the appropriate time during the campaign, the Republicans will turn their heaviest guns onto Senator Biden portraying him in exactly the same light as Frank Capra portrayed the Washington insiders in that film, and contrasting him with Sarah Palin’s plain speaking and honest small town values.

    I would also expect that to deflect criticism about the Vice Presidents lack of powers in an Administration, that McCain will at some point publicly propose granting Mrs. Palin authority in certain fields calculated to maximise his vote.

  11. People like Frank are making a mockery out of the whole process and the US, a true demagogue. Stuff like this should be punishable.

  12. There was another Hollywood film about a convention “tied” in votes for hours, and then they proposed a Mr. Hicks, a small town mayor, and elected him unanimously, Ge was taught to answer reporters questions by putting his hand close to his mouth and saying, “Well, ah yes.” Then, moments later the same thing, with “Ah, well, no.” If Sarah Palin is Mr. Smith, then can we not compare Obama to Hicks?

    Such as Obama’s answers, like his paln to fight terrorism, a secret for now. Or his roll-call answers, “Present.” l30 times, “Present.” It brings up those brainless signs, WHAT IF THEY GAVE A WAR AND NO ONE CAME. He might answer once more, PRESENT, when it is time to come up with some real answers.

  13. Doggone. Ge – for he. And, paln instead of plan. I guess it is those 8 decades on the battlements.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Morseburg is referring to his earlier spelling mistakes. Not a problem. This is not a spelling bee. There are no spell checkers on Wordsmith, nor does it matter. I dash these off without worrying about spelling.

  14. I don’t have the link, sorry, but McCain did not make the Palin choice. There was a committee meeting of the RNC leadership that determined this. Another story I read – also no link – intimates that she has been groomed for higher office by Party Poo-bahs since her first run for Mayor.

    Both stories unsubstantiated but I suspect grain of truth there as well.
    Fabius Maximus replies: McCain is in charge. Whatever the process that sent the name to him, he made the decision. He is the boss.

  15. If Obama’s voter support demonstrates his competence, then ipso facto if McCain-Palin win that will demonstrate both his and her competence.

    You say: “Whatever Obama’s qualifications, they were discussed and tested during the past 8 months”.

    They were slightly discussed, but a ‘test’ of a politician, for me, are actions and decisions in office.
    What are the votes obama actually cast, what are his programs and their results?
    Obama voted in favor of late-term abortion. All pro-life folks are going to be reminded of this certainty.

    Obama voted in favor of FISA — which is responsible of him, but contradicts his promises for the last 14 months. Folks will know he promises one thing, then votes another way when politically convenient.

    I think he voted against funding for the surge (why aren’t I sure? Maybe I don’t read enough red-meat Rep blogs; for me, too much agreement is boring).

    He reads a speech in a great manner. He’s getting votes for this great talent.

    You say: “when we should be playing our role in setting national policy for the next 4 years”
    You mean, like supporting Jerusalem as an undivided city, or putting its final status dependent on negotiation? Of course, Obama was for undivided before he was for negotiation — in both cases to get more applause or support.

    Niether Kerry nor Bush, in 2004, nor any Dems or Reps I know of, in 2006, ran based on a policy about Fannie May — yet that has been the biggest domestic economic issue since the last election. So really, isn’t character more important wonk-promises that are often broken within days of being spoken?

    (Of course, arguing about what the wonk positions should be is a fun participation blog sport, here.)
    Fabius Maximus replies: Prior to the Presidency, Bush had extensive business experience and was Governor of Texas for 6 years (17 January 1995 – 21 December 2000). Palin has has been Mayor of a tiny village, had some role in her family businesses (unknown so far), and 2 years as Governor.

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