Friday, July 02, 2010
Sarah Palin is waging a battle inside the Tea Party movement to exempt defense spending from the group's small-government, anti-deficit fervor. […]
There's a sense among GOP insiders that she is not only the perfect figure to make the case, but she's also the only one who can pull it off.
"In the conservative ranks and within the party, she's really quite a crucial piece in this puzzle," said Tom Donnelly, defense fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "She's got both political and Tea Party/small government bona fides, but she also has a lot of credibility in advocating for military strength." […]
"The Tea Party movement is not something that's set in stone. She can have a bridging effect but she can also have a profound influence on the direction that the Tea Party goes," said Donnelly. Defense spending could also be a theme of Palin's much-mooted return to the campaign trial in 2012.
"Sarah Palin is uniquely positioned to have an effect and it could also redound in her favor," Donnelly said. "She can lay claim to this issue in ways that give her legitimacy and credibility for her next political move as well."
Palin's drive to lead the charge against defense cuts on the right was on display in a June 27 speech at "Freedom Fest," a conservative gathering in Norfolk, VA, where she sent a clear message to Republicans that deficit reduction can't come at the expense of the military.
"Something has to be done urgently to stop the out of control Obama-Reid-Pelosi spending machine, and no government agency should be immune from budget scrutiny," she said. "We must make sure, however, that we do nothing to undermine the effectiveness of our military. If we lose wars, if we lose the ability to deter adversaries, if we lose the ability to provide security for ourselves and for our allies, we risk losing all that makes America great! That is a price we cannot afford to pay."
Palin also directly took on Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, challenging his drive to reign in procurement spending and reevaluate the need for certain huge weapons systems and platforms.
"Secretary Gates recently spoke about the future of the U.S. Navy. He said we have to ‘ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 to $6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines, and $11 billion carriers.' He went on to ask, ‘Do we really need ... more strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?'" Palin said. "Well, my answer is pretty simple: Yes, we can and, yes, we do, because we must." […]
Opponents of defense budget cuts see Palin as perfectly positioned to make their case to the Tea Party rank and file. The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate remains hugely popular among the conservative base, giving her credibility even within the libertarian wing of the GOP represented by Ron and Rand Paul, two Tea Party favorites.
Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary and an influential neoconservative, argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in March that although Palin has become identified with the Tea Party, on national security she provides a bridge to the hawkish side of the GOP.
"Her views are much closer to those of her conservative opponents than they are to the isolationists and protectionists on the ‘paleoconservative' right or to the unrealistic ‘realism' of the ‘moderate' Republicans who inhabit the establishment center," he wrote.