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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Palin and the Alaska National Guard

Via Rob at The Spyglass, I came across this four-minute video clip about Gov. Sarah Palin's duties — and her above-and-beyond performance of same — as commander of the Alaska National Guard. It makes several good points, not only in illuminating the responsibilities that all governors have in directing their states' guard units, but also about how Sarah Palin in particular undertook those responsibilities.

As with Gov. Palin's occasional forays into foreign affairs — which, as Rob points out, have included "pipeline negotiations involving Canada and fisheries matters in which Canada, Russia, Japan, and South Korea are concerned" — I don't think her supporters should over-argue her national guard command experiences as national security credentials. But they're not just nothing, either, and they deserve credit, and respect, for what they are worth.

U.S. senators, including Joe Biden, act as if their membership on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee were equivalent to being Secretary of State or even the President of the United States. That experience is not just nothing, either, but it's mostly back-seat, second- and third-hand, advisory-at-best experience. Being briefed on what the real decision-makers are doing isn't the same as making decisions. Slow Joe Biden may indeed meet with foreign leaders, but they're under no illusions that he can make a phone call and suddenly send a U.S. Navy carrier group, with its several hundred aircraft and soup-to-nuts tactical-to-nuclear capabilities, steaming along their coastlines. And Biden can make reckless suggestions, like splitting Iraq into three parts for its neighbors to devour, without any more consequence than Biden being justly ridiculed as a foreign policy idiot.

In addition to all that senator-type foreign-policy experience — and more than most, as when he was out in front of the Clinton Administration in leading the normalization of relations with Vietnam — John McCain has also flown attack aircraft off those carrier decks and commanded the Navy's largest air wing. The GOP ticket is not vulnerable on foreign policy/national security experience overall, and the more the Democrats want to talk about that, the more it will simply highlight how thin Obama's own credentials are.

Obama, after all, is the candidate who chose not to go visit injured troops at Landstuhl. And unlike Gov. Palin, Obama certainly has never arranged for returning national guardsmen, with families that still rely on game to keep food on the table, to get late-season hunting privileges. Indeed, in the unlikely event that it had ever occurred to him that they needed help, Obama would probably have suggested a new federal program to supply them with processed foods — when all they really needed was for government to get out from between them and their game animals. And there endeth the lesson for today.


UPDATE (Sun Sep 7 @ wee-small-hours): On Saturday, the so-called "Public Editor" of the NYT, one Clark Hoyt, largely blows off all complaints about the Times' coverage of Sarah Palin, although he's at least been forced to admit that Elisabeth Bumiller's claim that Gov. Palin was a member of the AIP was utterly false.

The assertion was based on an announcement by the party’s chairwoman, Lynette Clark, which The Times failed to tell readers. That was a mistake. “We should have attributed it,” Bumiller said. The next day, Clark said she had been wrong.

No, you idiots. You should have checked the voter registration records, which were (a) public information and (b) conclusively disproved your unreliable, unnamed source's story. That's what any competent high school newspaper reporter would have done. But at the NYT, journalistic malpractice is probably grounds for a promotion, so long as it favors a Hard-Left candidate's cause.

In the process of blaming McCain for the NYT's own shoddy reporting — since, after all, McCain picked someone who wasn't already known by the NYT's elite staff of worldly, cosmopolitan, and wise reporters and editors — this "Public Editor" claims, as a matter of fact, that Gov. Palin "never made a decision as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard, one of her qualifications cited by McCain."

That's another "fact" pulled straight from Mr. Hoyt's butt. What he presumably is referring to is a McCain's unpreparedness to talk to a CNN reporter about the specifics of what Gov. Palin had done. But instead, here goes the NYT with more made-up crap that is obviously, easily demonstrable as untruthful. (See, e.g., the video above, or this link.)

Those wishing to send non-profane reactions to this newest lie told by the NYT's "Public Editor" can email him at [email protected]. Not that it's likely to do any good. The Times is a dinosaur, a pathetic wreck of what used to be the world's best newspaper, and its rotting carcass will be bankrupt before long anyway. The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned; perhaps whoever buys it out of Chapter 11 will clean house and restore some semblance of journalistic honesty to it.

It does even less good to complain to the NYT about lies told by their op-ed columnists; they're given permission to lie as promiscuously and outrageously as they please. And indeed, Mr. Hoyt's ridiculous claim is repeated by op-ed columnist Frank Rich today (links in original):

Though McCain claimed “she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities,” she has never issued a single command as head of the Alaska National Guard.

This proves that Frank Rich (or someone working for him) can hyperlink, but also proves that Frank Rich can't (or more accurately, won't bother) to read what he hyperlinks.

The very same Anchorage Daily News article he linked says, unsurprisingly, that "the governor has no command authority overseas — or anywhere in the United States other than Alaska." But if Mr. Rich had bothered to continue reading, he would have found, unsurprisingly, that Gov. Palin has both delegated, and has sometimes herself directly exercised, her authority to command the Guard in all of the things it has done domestically when not under federal control. Of course, like any commander-in-chief in the civilian government (including the POTUS), she has relied upon the advice of uniformed officers and given them and members of her own staff discretion as appropriate, but the responsibility remains hers (ellipsis in original; boldface mine):

Occasions in which Palin does retain command authority over the 4,200-member Alaska National Guard are whenever the guard responds to in-state natural disasters and civic emergencies, said [Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the service commander of the Alaska National Guard,] who also serves as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Some examples?

"We've deployed individuals in state service all over the state under Sarah Palin," he said. "We had defense men down in Seward for the (Mount) Marathon run doing security.

"Out west and northwest we had erosion problems and the National Guard was involved in some of the protection out there. About three days ago, the Army National Guard picked up a lady from Little Diomede ... at the request of state troopers."

Did Palin directly approve each of those activities?

No, Campbell said. The governor has granted him authority to act on his own in most cases, including life-or-death emergencies when a quick response is required, or minor day-to-day operations.

"Some authorities have been given to me that she has acknowledged that I can execute," he said. "For others I have to ask her each time."

The recent decision to deploy a C-17 cargo plane from the Alaska Air National Guard to Louisiana to assist during the Hurricane Gustav response was an occasion in which he briefed the governor's office and sought its approval, Campbell said. But in that case, chief of staff Mike Nizich signed off on the deployment.

Sneering, elitist jerks like Rich can mock and distort the truth, but most Americans will see through their lies. In the meantime, I will continue to remind myself that the appropriate reaction to the NYT is usually not rage, but contempt and pity.


UPDATE (Sun Sep 7 @ 8:05am): More, this time from the LA Times:

Overseeing a state Guard is a "chief executive role" with real management responsibilities, said Mark Allen, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, the federal office that coordinates state National Guards.

"I don't think people should think it is a casual relationship, or is like the king putting on the medals," Allen said. "It is not that at all. But the role of the governor is to use the Guard to help the citizens of a state, as opposed to declaring war on a neighboring state."

The article stresses that heading up a state national guard doesn't give foreign policy experience, and that's a fair point. But it's some preparation — better, arguably, than a senator gets — to be commander-in-chief of the federal government's military forces. Again, I don't want to over-argue its significance. But it's not nothing, and it's not insignificant.

Posted by Beldar at 02:29 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Palin and the Alaska National Guard and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) arb made the following comment | Sep 7, 2008 5:52:24 AM | Permalink

Thomas Sowell on foreign policy experience.

(2) hunter made the following comment | Sep 7, 2008 8:13:00 AM | Permalink

The more they compare Palin and attempt to shred her, the more they shred themselves.
I was at a dinner last night, and every woman- three latinas, one anglo- were talking among themselves how much they like Palin and how she is what Hillary was not. I know that two of the women were democrats, by the way.
But they are voting McCain because Gov. Palin made them see that McCain is not who Obama says he is.

(3) Rob Harrison made the following comment | Sep 7, 2008 8:46:19 AM | Permalink

Thanks for the nod. I would add this to the video (the link in my post was misdirected, but has now been fixed): the Alaska National Guard has some special responsibilities which are also relevant to any consideration of Gov. Palin's national security experience:

"Alaska is the first line of defense in our missile interceptor defense system. The 49th Missile Defense Battalion of the Alaska National Guard is the unit that protects the entire nation from ballistic missile attacks. It’s on permanent active duty, unlike other Guard units.

"As governor of Alaska, Palin is briefed on highly classified military issues, homeland security, and counterterrorism. . . .

"Palin is privy to military and intelligence secrets that are vital to the entire country's defense. Given Alaska's proximity to Russia, she may have security clearances we don't even know about."

(4) Dai Alanye made the following comment | Sep 7, 2008 9:31:50 AM | Permalink

When writing of McCain's experience commanding the largest squadron in the Navy, it's pertinent to mention that it was supposedly the most inefficient (in some respects) when he took command, and approaching an entirely different standard when he moved on.

I'm getting this from memory, so it should be researched, but the significance lies in what he accomplished rather than the mere fact that he reigned over a large unit.

(5) arb made the following comment | Sep 7, 2008 1:08:11 PM | Permalink

"I'm getting this from memory, so it should be researched"

First the claim, THEN the research? Who do you think you are, the MSM? :-}

(6) Rob Harrison made the following comment | Sep 7, 2008 2:16:12 PM | Permalink

Ahh, but I can back up his memory, since I've heard similar comments from Navy pilots of his generation about VT-7 before John McCain took over as CO; during his time there, the squadron won a Meritorious Unit Commendation, so it was more than just "approaching" an entirely different standard.

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