Following her keynote address to the national Tea Party Convention yesterday, Sarah Palin added fuel to the the flames of speculation about her possible bid for the presidency in 2012. During an interview with her now-employer Fox News, Palin was asked her opinion about President Obama’s chances for reelection:
If the election were today, “I do not think Obama would be re-elected,” she said. But he has a chance if he gets “tough” on terrorism, she added. “Say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran, or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do. But that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years.”
Forgetting for a moment that it is the Congress, not the President, that is empowered with the authority to declare war, this is a pretty brash statement, even for Palin. It is rare that a public figure would call for military action against Iran so explicity — and to call for such drastic action as a purely political ploy breaks an even stronger taboo in Washington circles.
So it cannot be a coincidence that Palin’s advice to President Obama comes just days after prominent anti-Islam activist Daniel Pipes wrote nearly the identical thing in the National Review. “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran” was the title of the article, which my colleague Jamal picked apart well enough that I don’t have to here. But I thought it interesting that Palin would so casually align herself on foreign policy issues — by all accounts her political Achilles Heel — with such a divisive figure as Pipes. Pipes, who became a comically ironic figure when President Bush tried to appoint him to the US Institute of Peace, has long advocated a war-hungry foreign policy, particularly against Islam which he calls a “threat” and “a true danger to American Jews.” “Pipes is to Muslims what David Duke is to African-Americans,” according to James Zogby of the Arab American Institute. In 2007, Pipes wrote a column in the New York Sun calling for the US to send overt support to the MEK terrorist organization:
Belatedly, the Bush administration needs to take three steps. First, let the MEK members leave Camp Ashraf in a humane and secure manner. Second, delist the organization from the terror rolls, unleashing it to challenge the Islamic Republic of Iran. Third, exploit that regime’s inordinate fear of the MEK.
Except for the most extreme right wing, Pipes’ particular brand of scholarship is deemed to be highly questionable, rooted in an unscientific methodology and characterized by gross generalizations of nearly all Muslims as “fanatics” and “militants.”
Thus, it was surprising to see Sarah Palin associate herself so closely with Pipes’ views on Iran while gearing up to run for President in 2012. Even after being excoriated throughout the 2008 election as not knowledgeable enough on foreign policy issues, Palin has chosen an awkward entree to the field. Her choice of informal advisors is sure to turn off a large swath of voters who tend not to be so radical on Middle East issues, particularly after the Iraq war. And brusque statements about sending troops into battle for such an asinine reason as political expediency are not likely to help her convince voters that it’ll be “no more politics as usual” under a President Palin, come the next election.