Sarah Palin's Storm at the Tea Party
Why haven't responsible Republicans spoken out against her?
Are there any Republican grown-ups out there, and, if there are, will they ever start coming to the aid of their party?
That sentence could segue into any number of topics, but the one at hand is Sarah Palin, her Saturday-night speech at the Tea Party "convention," and her morning-after declaration on Fox News that, yes, a White House run is on her mind.
Do responsible Republicans (if the phrase hasn't lapsed from disuse) really want this pumped-up incarnation of Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes as their standard bearer?
Again, the question could be split up into many parts, but this is the "War Stories" column, so let's focus on Palin's take on war and peace.
Here's the key applause-getting line from that section of her talk:
Treating [terrorists] like a mere law-enforcement matter places our country at great risk because that's not how radical Islamist extremists are looking at this. They know we're at war. And to win that war we need a commander-in-chief, not a professor of law.
Obviously, she means to be attacking President Barack Obama, but the real question on the table here is does she believe what she's saying? Or, to put it another way: Is she a rank opportunist, or does she live on another planet? And of the two possibilities, which is worse?
President Obama was at one time a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, but to suggest that he regards counterterrorism as a "mere" legal matter, or that he's gun-shy as commander-in-chief, is preposterous.
Obama, after all, has nearly tripled the number of U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan. He has approved nearly twice as many CIA airstrikes against Taliban targets in Pakistan during his first year of office as President Bush did in his final year (65 vs. 36), killing more than twice as many militants in the process (571 vs. 268).
He has sent military trainers to help the Yemeni government fight al-Qaida insurgents. He has continued to boost the military budget. He has maintained the Bush administration's secret surveillance programs (despite protests from many Democrats). And Palin seems to have forgotten the time, last April, when Obama authorized SEAL sharpshooters to kill the three armed pirates who'd hijacked the merchant ship Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia. (The amnesia seems to have afflicted many Republicans, including some who lauded the president at the time.)
Fred Kaplan is Slate's "War Stories" columnist and author of the book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Photograph of Sarah Palin by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.