Amid media circus, Palin lays out policy positions
By Byron York
In recent days, Sarah Palin has commanded the attention of the national press corps simply by taking in a few tourist sites on the East Coast.
Whenever she stops her “One Nation” bus, reporters lucky or canny enough to keep up with her have asked about her political intentions. Will she run for president? Is she thinking about running for president? If she ran for president, how would she campaign?
One thing many viewers have probably missed in all the horse-race speculation is that Palin is perfectly willing to discuss her positions on key issues, if anyone wants to ask. In fact, in recent days, weeks and months, we’ve seen a lot of policy commentary from the former Alaska governor. For example, during the bus trip, Palin took a stand on an issue that is crucial for candidates considering a run in the Iowa caucuses. “I think that all of our energy subsidies need to be re-looked at today and eliminated,” Palin told RealClearPolitics. “We’ve got to allow the free market to dictate what’s most efficient and economical for our nation’s economy.”
What that means is Palin opposes the infamous ethanol subsidy that some presidential aspirants are afraid to question, lest they lose support in heavily agricultural Iowa. Palin has also been speaking out in support of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan — another question that Republicans, and certainly all Republican presidential candidates, have had to answer. Palin supports the Ryan plan, even adding that she would like to include Social Security in the deficit- cutting mix (something Ryan left out). And when Palin criticizes President Obama’s inaction on the deficit, even David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who once said Palin “represents a fatal cancer to the Republican Party,” observes that “Sarah Palin is right about that. He has no plan.”
Palin has also been talking about foreign policy. In an extended on-the- bus interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, Palin addressed a proposal for $2 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt.
“We don’t have the $2 billion!” Palin said. “Where are we going to get it? We’re going to go borrow it perhaps from China? We’ll borrow money from foreign countries to give to foreign countries.” The problem would be far worse, Palin said, if the Muslim Brotherhood plays a significant role in a new Egyptian government and “our U.S. dollars go to support a government that perhaps will not be friendly to the American government.”
When Van Susteren wondered whether U.S. aid would “help us rather than hurt us,” Palin shot back: “We’re going to buy their goodwill? … Hey, here’s two billion bucks that we had to borrow. We’ll give this to you, and you know, we’ll cross our fingers and hope it does some good?”
Palin also questioned the usefulness of the billions in aid that the United States has given to Pakistan.
For those interested in her positions on issues, Palin’s Facebook page is filled with notes and commentary. Recent entries include titles like “New Afghanistan Development Dangerous to NATO,” “Obama’s Strange Strategy: Borrow Foreign Money to Give to Foreign Countries,” “Barack Obama’s Disregard for (Israel’s) Security Begs Clarity,” “Obama’s Failed Energy Policy” and “Removing the Boot from the Throat of American Businesses.” They’re not think-tank white papers, but they are substantive statements on key issues. To critics, publishing statements on Facebook seems less serious than releasing them from an office. But Palin has 3 million followers on the social-media website. That’s an important forum, especially when combined with Palin’s books and television commentary.
None of that, not even a bus trip that might include stops in Iowa and South Carolina in addition to New Hampshire, necessarily equals a Palin presidential candidacy. Palin is teasing the political world every step of the way of her current trip, saying that she hasn’t made any decisions about her future and that she simply wants to bring attention to America’s founding principles. But she’s careful to say there would be room for her, if she chose to run.
“The field isn’t set yet, not by a long shot,” Palin said during a visit to Gettysburg, Pa. “It’s going to change up a lot. And I think there will be more strong candidates jumping in.”
Will Palin be one of them? The political professionals who cite her utter lack of a campaign organization still say no, and they’re probably right. But run or not, Palin is establishing herself as a long-lasting voice in the Republican Party.
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Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.