Tim Shipman, writing in the London Telegraph, reports on the intense foreign policy briefings being given to Sarah Palin. The crowd assigned to brief her consists exclusively of neoconservatives – as was evident in the answers she gave in the Charlie Gibson interview on Russia, Israel, and national security. Most especially was her thrice-repeated formulation about Israel’s defense: “We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.”
She is being groomed to be a female George W. Bush – but even Bush has realist foreign policy voices around him – from Condoleeza Rice to Colin Powell.
As one former White House official working at the American Enterprise Institute put it: “She’s a blank page.”
Think of that – “A blank page.”
They see her as the vessel which will give them influence and will keep them in power. They see her as the best agent to sell their ideas, to accomplish their goals.
“She’s a blank page.”
Lest it be called sexism, let’s remember that George W. Bush was a blank page as well – one that neoconservatives filled with their ideas as well.
And let’s remember that even the Bush administration has turned away from the neoconservative project in the past few years, embracing a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy. And understanding that Sarah Palin has become a political figure in her own right, in many ways, more influential than John McCain, and certainly someone who is seen as the Future of the Republican party. This is an individual who, when asked about the surge explained that she wasn’t really paying attention to such things. She was thrust into the spotlight having formed few opinions of the world, having thought about foreign policy very little, and being ill-informed. Those who directed our disasterous foreign policy see her as a fresh face who can sell their ideas – and as someone who has not studied the matters herself needs a tutor: “She’s a blank page.”
For a writer, there is great possibility in a blank page. As we all look to Sarah Palin – with her combative but warm personality; her shameless ability to sell her lines, to make them her own (like an actress or a car salesman); her unique cultural blend of femininity and feminism – we project onto her our dreams and fears, and it takes quite a lot to dislodge these dreams or fears once they have settled in. This is the essence of politics. It is the core of McCain strength. It is the core of the sense of possibility around Palin. It was what led voters to choose Clinton over Dole, Bush over Gore, and Bush over Kerry. Each side sought to shape the projection of the other, but the essential decision as to who would win was made in a blink. Stubborn facts only gradually affect our projections – as we can see in Bush’s gradual decline in popularity.
But William Kristol, Randy Scheunemann, and other neoconservatives have the opportunity to fill in this blank page with their own dreams and fears – to make their projections reality. “She’s a blank page,” they say, which must terrify the rest of us.