Sarah Palin's Outlook on the World: Iran and The Rapture

10/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • William E. Jackson Jr. Columnist, foreign policy expert, former U.S. Senate staffer and State Department/ACDA official

Theologian Alexander J. McKelway: Our politics really runs on a broad and deep resentment of intelligence in America. Why? *** Maybe mostly because we have few real "public intellectuals" whose thinking and learning touch ordinary life and inspire respect. Whatever the reasons, Sarah Palin, like President Bush, appeals to anti-intellectual resentment enough to put her in the White House.

Journalist Carl Bernstein on HuffingtonPost: It is time to confront an awkward but profound question: whether in picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has committed -- by his own professed standards of duty and honor -- a singularly unpatriotic act. *** In choosing Palin, he has demonstrated ... it may be permissible to imperil the country, conceivably even to "lose" it, in order to win the presidency. That would seem the deeper meaning of his choice of Palin.

In what has become the most embarrassing evidence of Sen. McCain's unfitness to govern--what I have described as "doubling up on dumbing down"--his running mate spouts baloney on foreign policy issues that is broadcast around the world. In her latest interview with Katie Couric of CBS, she could not even name a single newspaper or magazine she regularly reads to stay up on national and world affairs. Yet, she hardly ever admits that there is a policy question about which she has no knowledge. This egomaniac, who has never seen Russia from Little Diomede, speaks in tongues.

To quote columnist Kathleen Parker:

If BS were currency, Palin could bailout Wall Street herself. She filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there is not much content.

The Couric Interviews on CBS and Motorcade Diplomacy

In one section of their one-on-one interview in New York, Katie Couric asked:

Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

Palin replied:

That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the--it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

How's that again? One can occasionally half-way figure out what she must have meant. But that is the problem practically every time she opens her mouth; she often does not understand what the question is.

In Manhattan on September 23-24, Gov. Palin received her first national security briefing--from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell--and for the first time met leaders of foreign countries, in a round of speed-date diplomacy: from Afghanistan to Colombia to Georgia to Ukraine to Iraq to India, to Pakistan. At the Intercontinental Hotel, Zardari, the Pak leader, inviting a "fatwah," told her on camera she was georgeous. "Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you." He later commented: "she is obviously a hunting lady."

Obviously, he neglected to admonish her against U.S. cross-border raids into Pakistan from Afghanistan. When the hot topic came up in the September 29 Couric joint interview of Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain in Columbus, the senator cited it as an example of "a gotcha soundbite." Covert operations inside Pakistan was not a course of action to be advocated

out loud.

Palin enthusiastically agreed.

But she had previously voiced support for targeting terrorists in Pakistan, even without that country's approval, during her first national television interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson on September 11. Later, appearing at a Philadelphia restaurant, the Alaska Governor said of a raid into Pakistan: "If that's what we have to do to stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely we should."

The Manhattan diplomatic talks were private, but the photos were public. No spontaneous questions from reporters were permitted. Her handlers were McCain's foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, and Stephen Biegun, a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms and NSC staff member under President Bush. Biegun publicly asserted:

I think she's already fully prepared to be Vice President.

She also met with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, acting the role of a professorial clown.

How the mighty 85-year-old Henry the K has fallen from his days chasing Jill St. John and running the world

to his hour-long

briefing of a 44-year-old Wasilla hockey mom,

wrote Maureen Dowd in The New York Times of September 24. They talked about China, Iran, and Russia. And Georgia. Palin to Kissinger: "And you'll give me more insight on that, also, hunh?"

Russia on Our Doorstep:

Seriously, asked Katie Couric, in the second part of the Manhattan interview telecast on 9/25, how does Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia enhance the vice presidential candidate's foreign policy experience? Wide-eyed, the governor replied, words tumbling out fast and choppily, like an outboard motor loosened from the stern (per Alessandra Stanley):

Well, it certainly does because neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. *** It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where--where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next our state.

Was she suggesting that, as commander of the Alaska National Guard, she has knowledge of--if not command of--spy or reconnaissance planes sent over the Bering Sea, and perhaps air/missile defense systems as well? Or is it something she heard or read somewhere? Who knows what she means when she says such things?

In the 9/11 ABC interview with Charlie Gibson in Wasilla, falling back on her wits, she had said: "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."

SNL with Tina Fey

The now-legendary SNL skit captured Palin's infantile explanations:


On foreign policy, I want to give you one more chance to explain your claim that you have foreign policy experience based on Alaska's proximity to Russia. What did you mean by that?


Well, Alaska and Russia are only separated by a narrow maritime border (using her hands to illustrate). You got Alaska here, this right here is water, and this is Russia. So, we keep an eye on them.


And how do you do that exactly?


Every morning, when Alaskans wake up, one of the first things they do, is look outside to see if there are any Russians hanging around. And if there are, you gotta go up to them and ask, 'What are you doing here?' and if they can't give you a good reason, it's our responsibility to say, you know, 'Shoo! Get back over there!'

Israel and Iran: Apocalyptic Visions

More alarming than Gov. Palin's ignorance of national and international affairs are her religious perspectives and Pentecostal convictions if applied to foreign policy.

Back at the time of the Republican convention, Palin (who has an Israeli flag in her Juneau office) was accompanied by Sen. Joe Lieberman to a meeting with the board of directors of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. "We had a good productive discussion on the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship," said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, "and we were pleased that Gov. Palin expressed her deep, personal, and lifelong commitment to the safety and well-being of Israel." No similar meeting with any other interest group lobbyist was reported.

In the second Couric interview broadcast on September 25, there is a segment that reveals Palin's simplistic overview of Israeli-Iranian relations:

"We don't have to second-guess what [Israel's] efforts would be if they believe that it is in their country and their allies, including us, all of our best interests to fight against a regime, especially Iran, who would seek to wipe them off the face of the earth," Palin said when asked-- referring to an earlier interview-- whether the United States should ever second-guess Israeli policy.

It is obvious to me who the good guys are in this one and who the bad guys are. The bad guys are the ones who say Israel is a stinking corpse and should be wiped off the face of the earth. That's not a good guy who is saying that. Now, one who would seek to protect the good guys in this, the leaders of Israel and her friends, her allies, including the United States. In my world, those are the good guys.


It should come as no great surprise that a leading Zionist and neo-con intellectual, columnist Bill Kristol of The New York Times--one of those who recommended Palin to McCain--wrote in "How McCain Wins" :

McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her ... He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice ... In the debate (with Joe Biden), Palin has to dispatch quickly any queries about herself, and confidently assert that of course she's qualified to be vice president.

Kristol knows that Palin--from her formative experiences in the Wasilla Assembly of God--views Israel and her enemies in apocalyptic terms, as do many evangelical Christians. Her church preaches that, after a "mushroom cloud" war in the Middle East, Armageddon, Alaska would be a shelter for "saved" Christians at the End of Times when they ascend to heaven.

The Rapture Factor

There have been many examples of "strange bedfellow" relationships between Jews and fundamentalist Christians. The least understood, and probably most important, reason is sometimes missed by secular analysts. Evangelicals support Israel because of biblical prophecy, including passages that tie the survival of Israel to the Second Coming of Jesus. Explains a Southern Baptist church leader, evangelicals support Israel because

they believe God blesses those that bless the Jews and curses those who curse the Jews. Consequently, we believe America needs to bless the Jews and Israel, because if we bless the Jews and support Israel, God blesses us. And if we don't, God curses us.

But it goes beyond that. The establishment--and continuation--of the State of Israel is essential to set the stage for the imminent return of Jesus. At the time of the Second Coming, these Christians believe, Jesus will descend from heaven, subdue all of Israel's enemies and take believers to heaven in what is known as THE RAPTURE. This series of events--the time sequence is a subject of debate--ushers in the end-times. According to most evangelical scholars, Israel's existence is absolutely critical:

We're one step closer to the end-times than we were before the Jews came back into their land because (our) understanding of biblical prophecy is that Israel is established in the land at the time that the events of the Second Coming take place.

Rev. John Hagee, an avid supporter of John McCain and a critic of Catholics, spearheads a pro-Israel Christian lobby. He's signed up thousands of Zionist Christians and evangelical leaders to join his crusade. He also believes THE RAPTURE won't occur until Israel is a completely sovereign theocracy. More to the point of this column, Hagee has written extensively about an inevitable war with Iran. He has authored an incendiary book, Jerusalem Countdown, purporting to show that the Bible predicts a military confrontation with Iran. It once occupied the No. 1 position on the Wal-Mart inspirational best-seller list.

Hagee preaches:

It's a direct commandment that Christians should be supportive of Israel. It's the only nation that God ever created [and the Rapture will happen once the Jews have complete control of Israel]. It's the only nation that Christians are told to pray for, and therefore, because the Bible is the compass of our faith, we do what it says.

He has earned the nickname of "Pastor Strangelove" in our nuclear age, with Israel long having possessed nuclear weapons and Iran trying to obtain them.


The more I think about it-- if Sen. McCain will not drop her from the ticket-- let Palin be Palin. The one who told Charlie Gibson that when she was invited to join the ticket: "I didn't hesitate....You can't blink." She was "wired" for the challenge. The one who emphatically told Katie Couric, when sitting next to her running mate in a joint interview: "I'm ready, willing, and able to serve."

I hope that she will be sent off campaigning on her own, often. Let her be exposed to unscripted settings--town-hall type meetings, news conferences, and so on. When she emerges from the Sedona retreat, and survives the vice-presidential debate showdown, she should be tossed into the deep end of the pool.

Peering around the corner of history with Palin as vice president,

warned Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post,

is a terrifying prospect.