Sen. John McCain’s nominee for Vice President Sarah Palin has really turned the Russia foreign policy thing into a meaty issue with claims of expertise given her governorship of Alaska – though probably not in the way that will foster constructive or new ideas for any of us policy wonks. We don’t think too many informed people are buying the argument that she is a closet Kremlinologist, but then again, the audience they are asking to believe that claim may not be quite so foreign policy savvy. Furthermore, there is something to be said for the value or lack thereof of “experience” with Russia. So as she takes her first foray into diplomacy with meetings with Afghan, Colombian and other world leaders in New York (which is only marginally further away from Moscow than Wasilla), what, exactly, will be her role? In an article in the IHT, it appears that McCain’s top Russia guy Steven Biegun accidentally lets it slip that Gov. Palin will more or less just sit and listen and develop relationships while policy is handled behind the scenes. This seems like quite the gaffe:
The point of the meetings was not so much to cram Palin full of information, according to a McCain campaign adviser who has worked with Palin, but to introduce her to people like Kissinger so that she will feel comfortable calling on them for advice and counsel as the campaign continues.Palin was accompanied on her rounds by Randy Scheunemann, a senior foreign policy adviser to the McCain campaign, and Steve Biegun, a former staff member of President George W. Bush’s National Security Council.“Her primary purpose was to develop a relationship and to listen,” said Biegun, who quickly added, “I think she’s already fully prepared to be vice president.”
Whoops! That doesn’t exactly sound like she is steering the ship. This is all the more interesting coming from Biegun, who is a very interesting and complex character on McCain’s team, though it often feels like we are the only ones following that thread.