In 1988, Mr Kristol became a leading adviser of another inexperienced Republican vice presidential pick, Dan Quayle, tutoring him in foreign affairs. Last week he praised Mrs Palin as "a spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism" that "is haunting the liberal elites".
Now many believe that the "neocons", whose standard bearer in government, Vice President Dick Cheney, lost out in Washington power struggles to the more moderate defence secretary Robert Gates and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, last year are seeking to mould Mrs Palin to renew their influence.
A former Republican White House official, who now works at the American Enterprise Institute, a bastion of Washington neoconservatism, admitted: "She's bright and she's a blank page. She's going places and it's worth going there with her."
Asked if he sees her as a "project", the former official said: "Your word, not mine, but I wouldn't disagree with the sentiment."
Pat Buchanan, the former Republican presidential candidate and a foreign policy isolationist, who opposes the war in Iraq, the project most closely associated with the neocons, said: "Palin has become, overnight, the most priceless political asset the movement has.
"Look for the neocons to move with all deliberate speed to take her into their camp by pressing upon her advisers and staff, and steering her into the AEI-Weekly Standard-War Party orbit." The AEI, or American Enterprise Institute, is a free-market think-tank with many neo-cons among its members.
That line about Palin being a "blank page" (the aide really should be named) reminded me of something Kevin Drum wrote back in November 2006, on a much-discussed Vanity Fair piece:
THE LIGHT MAN....This might be the most pathetic thing I've ever read. It's David Frum talking about George Bush:I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything.
Shorter David Frum: I used to think Bush was such an empty vessel that if I could just get him to parrot the words I wrote, they'd bounce around in his skull and become actual ideas for lack of any competition. Later, though, I finally realized why his skull was empty of serious ideas in the first place.
And, yes, this is the root of everything.
The neocons' wisdom and influence have long been inversely proportional, and their arrogance and vanity really cannot be overstated. It's interesting to read through that Vanity Fair piece on the neocons again, and watch how the neocons scrambled to blame others for their own mistakes - not that that's anything new for them. (At the time, Richard Perle was angry because, well, he wouldn't have been as honest about how disastrous Iraq was if he knew his remarks would be published before the 2006 midterm elections. Perle occasionally still claims he's a Democrat, despite working for Reagan, Bush the younger and apparently rooting against the Democratic Party regaining Congress in 2006. Perle's Democrat status may be technically true, but I think it's basically a bullshitter's quibble he brings to unbalance questioners and pretend to some sort of independence and intellectual integrity. It's similar to his fellow neocon and Reagan crewmate Michael Ledeen claiming he's not a conservative — although unlike Ledeen, Perle at least doesn't lie about urging to invade Iraq.)
Dicy Cheney argued that "Reagan provided deficits don't matter," and Karl Rove, movement conservatives and the press showed with their choice of Bush that they thought qualifications and competence didn't matter. David Frum with his 'empty vessel' notions evidently never thought much of Bush, and he was far from alone even within the administration. We see the same disdain for thought and competence in the Palin pick - and in her subsequent conduct, lying constantly even when debunked, we can see a familiar contempt for the truth, democracy and the American people. I suspect Sarah Palin is independent enough to have truly awful ideas all on her own. But after watching her interview with Charlie Gibson, and seeing as she combines some of the worst elements of both Nixon and Bush the younger, she'll fit right in with the neocon crew, who are still unwilling to learn much from their war of choice and what's arguably the worst foreign policy debacle in American history. Ah, neoconservatism – I guess they think Sarah Palin can put lipstick on it.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)