I watched to Sarah Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson on ABC. It was like listening to a recorded message, and a very frightening one at that.
First, she expressed great "confidence" in her ability to be president. She and McCain will carry forward the "mission," that is, to "reform" the government and" win the war". She supports Ukraine and Georgia joining NAT0. She understands that means using force to aid those states, i.e., getting into a war with Russia.
As for the Bush doctrine, she defines that as Bush's commitment to rid the world of Islamic extremists and terrorists, "and we must not blink in regard to where we go and whom we target." Over and over again, she referred to Islamic extremists as "hell-bent" to destroy us over and over again. She said of Bush's war against Islamic extremists and terrorists that there had been some flaws but the great thing about American democracy is that we can elect people to make it work better (essentially her idea of "reform" in foreign policy is to make carry forward the Bush policies more successfully)
Asked about her video recorded statement in a fundamentalist church that the soldiers in Iraq were there on God's plan, she then turned what she said on its head, saying that her statement was inspired by Abraham Lincoln's comment that we should not say that God is on our side but that we should make sure that we are on God's side. This sounded good, but it had nothing to do with what she had said, which the interview had before her eyes. She looked attractive and articulate and completely canned. It was like listening to a computerized voice on the phone, when you call a credit card for example responding to your questions based on voice commands. Reform, Hell-Bent, Democracy, Islamic Extremists, terrorists, win the war, over and over again when the right cues came--I felt like saying to the TV "representative," let me speak to person, even a Republican."
There are a few things that Palin does understand. NATO is a hard and fast military alliance in which member states are obligated to come to the aid with force of other member states who become involved in armed conflicts with non member states. She supports membership for Ukraine and Georgia and NAT0 using force whatever the consequences. She did say that she will work for a world in which war is the last, not the first option, but like her reference to Abraham Lincoln every other was the direct opposite of that.
Gibson pushed her on supporting unilateral U.S. intervention in Pakistan without the consent of the Pakistani government and also on the possibility of Israel acting unilaterally to destroy Iran's nuclear program. Here she dodged a bit, saying the U.S. shouldn't tell Israel how to defend itself over and over again. But she did say something I thought was a bit strange. Criticizing Iran's rightwing clerical president, Ahmadenijad, and stating that he should never have control of nuclear weapons, she then said that she didn't think that he would use them himself but might turn them over to terrorists. Is this the statement of a Vice President and possible president or someone watching the TV program 24 Hours which routinely uses such plots.
Gibson didn't ask Palin questions about her views on the separation of Church and State, legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act, HRH646, the national health care legislation sponsored by Representative John Conyers, the Equal Rights Amendment, which some have sought to introduce in Congress, the deepening mortgage, credit and banking crisis, rising unemployment, in short, the issues that impact the lives of Americans on a daily basis. But her answers to what he did ask her showed that she hasn't thought much about the consequences of what she advocates, that is, the policies that would implement her platitudes, and, in my opinion, she doesn't want to think about them. If God has a plan, anything that you do can be justified by that plan. If the people are poor and hungry, as an old religious person I knew when I was a child, a very nice person but someone with no sympathy for any public assistance, said to me, "God will provide." If the U.S. is occupying Iraq, it must be part of God's plan, even if large numbers of people are suffering and dying, because God loves us and wants what is best for us and by killing these people he are saving them from a greater evil, connected perhaps to Satan himself or herself, and doing God's work.
As I listened to Palin two things popped into my historian's head. First, since she mentioned Abraham Lincoln, I remembered something that Lincoln had written in the middle 1850s expressing disgust at the anti-Catholic "know nothings," who called themselves "The American Party" and their attacks on free speech, and non Anglo Protestant immigrants. If what the Know Nothings represented triumphed, he said would think of moving to a country which didn't pretend to stand for freedom and liberty, Czarist Russia!
I also thought of an excerpt from a documentary that I often show in classes that I teach, "Atomic Cafe." The excerpt is from a newsreel of the 1946 Bikini island atomic bomb test. The natives of the island are being relocated and in the staged scene, are being told through a translator what will happen in the presence of U.S. officers. Their leader," King Judah," refers that it is good and God's work and the American officer smiles and tells the translator to "tell" King Judah" that "if it is God's work it can only be good" and the natives happily leave for relocation as the bomb is dropped.
Bush and Cheney sought to bring back some of the worst of nineteenth century of laissez-faire capitalism. Now Sarah Palin gives us a taste of 19th century Know Nothingism. In 1856, when the Know Nothings created the American party to challenge the Democrats from the right, they ran third,behind the new Republican party which rose to challenge the Democrats from the left.Had the Know Nothing won out, like Lincoln at the time, I would shudder to think of the consequences.
If Abraham Lincoln returned to earth and listened to the Republican ticket he could only conclude that the Know Nothings with their chauvinistic nationalism and religious self-righteousness had taken over the party he led and were a threat to everything that the United States stood for. And if they win out, the world will shudder at the consequences.