Keep it simple, Keep it stupid: Palin on Nuclear Defense


Ever-innocent of in depth analysis, Sarah Palin likened President Obama’s nuclear policy to a child in a playground telling one of his playmates, “‘Go ahead, punch me in the face and I’m not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.”  Setting aside the stats on the amount of gradeschoolers that use the word “retaliate”, let’s focus on the bigger picture of Palin’s April 7 bid at “snappy quip of the day”.  Yet again, Sarah Palin has taken “Keep it Simple Stupid” to such ridiculous lengths that she has emerged looking… well… quite simple and quite stupid.  Even Obama who seldom comments on Palin’s yap felt the need to comment this time around, calling her “not much of an expert on nuclear issues.”

Let’s unpack Palin’s genius further with a look at the context of her remarks.  This past Thursday, April 8, Obama signed a nuclear treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that would result in both countries significantly scaling back the size of their nuclear arsenals.  Included in the smorgasbord of changes to nuclear policy, the United Sates is pledging not to threaten to or actually nuke any non-nuclear country that is in compliance with the international nonproliferation treaty.  Even if chemical or biological weapons were to be used on the US or its allies, the response under this new agreement could be aggressive military action but not nuclear action against said country.  Two caveats: nukes may be back on the table if biological weapons grow sufficiently in their ability to devastate AND North Korea and Iran are still fair game for nuking since they won’t cooperate with nonproliferation standards.

Back to Palin.  The vision of a post nuclear world obviously doesn’t get much traction with the Alaskan.  Neither does nuance.  Treaties of the kind just signed will help reduce the threat of nuclear warfare or nuclear terrorism as they will reduce the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals while simultaneously, bolstering security around what remains.  Palin seems to think that voluntarily reducing your nuclear capacity is a sign of weakness.  This is classic conservative shortsightedness.  If what we ultimately want is greater security, it makes sense to reduce firepower and the possibilities that the most destructive weapons in the world may fall into the hands of rogue states or terrorist groups.  Also, Palin seems incapable of reading the fine print: the nuclear option is not going away.  It can and will still be used, depending on the size of the threat against the United States.  And, as Robert Gibbs pointed out, the United States has, “a massive conventional arsenal that we believe has an important deterrent effect on anybody that might make the poor decision to attack our country.”

As entertaining as we may find Palin’s quips and sandbox nostalgia to be, if her long-term goal is the security of the United Sates and its allies, it would behoove her to think about more than inciting populist rage one chipper aside at a time.  Leadership is more than Tea Party diatribes, FOX talk or practiced, wink-punctuated debates rebuttals.  Unless it is addressed carefully, Palin’s lack of substance will collapse like her Katie Couric interviews and her failed governorship.  Time for some soul searching?  You betcha.



Bjorn Karlman

16 thoughts on “Keep it simple, Keep it stupid: Palin on Nuclear Defense”

  1. Even if this is our policy, you don’t announce it to the world…in terms of when we will retaliate and under what exact circumstances. Talk about lacking nuance…to have letter of the law retaliation spelled out in detail…that is just unnecessarily dumb. Obama lives in a black and white retardville world.

    I think nuance is the liberal code word for our guy made a total moronic move. It was really over used for Kerry during the ’04 election which certainly explains a lot. Isn’t it funny that the same people that ran with ‘I can see Russia from my house’ start clamoring about ‘nuance’ when Obama makes a move like this. These people supposedly care so much about details and accuracy, but take an offhand statement as literal truth like a bunch of retarded third graders and think they made a good point.

    The limiting of nuclear arms doesn’t bother me at all.

    Seriously though, stupid rhetoric aside, I really want to see if thing actually gets passed.

  2. Hey, first to comment; I feel privileged.

    I just want to say that you need to be careful not to make the same mistake that you are accusing Sarah Palin of. You’re saying her evaluation of Obama’s nuclear policy lacks substance and nuance, doesn’t attempt to understand it but jumps to conclusions. I’m sorry, to say, but when I read your criticism of Palin you sound kind of the same way.

    Based on a single sentence that she said you’ve extrapolated a lot of ideas that you are projecting on her without any direct support in what she actually said. From the quote you shared all that is evident is that Palin was concerned that the USA would be cutting down it’s defenses and making itself more volunerable. There is no evidence that she is against reducing the number of nukes in the world as a whole.

    Also, note that Palin’s comment was from the 7th, before the Treaty was actually signed on 8th, so she didn’t know, as we do now, that the treaty actually does reserve the right to retaliate. I’d be interested in knowing how she feels about the treaty now that we have more details. Personally, from the few details I’ve heard of this treaty so far, it sounds like a good thing, though before I heard this details my gut reaction was (like Mrs. Palin) to distrust it based on what I know of Obama’s ideology.

    The only thing I think you can possibly fault Sarah Palin for here is giving an opinion before all the details were known, but then again, giving opinions is what she gets paid to do now.

    I also think your comments about her “collapse” in the the Couric interview, and the “failed” governorship sound biased, grossly un-nuanced, oversimplified, and inaccurate. So maybe don’t be too quick to criticize Sarah Palin for those things: she’s no different than the rest of us.

  3. what worries me about palin and the rest of her tea party cronies is that people actually take them seriously. In Taiwan this winter, the voices of the DPP made wild accusations against the KMT claiming that the H1N1 vaccine would make you sick and possibly kill you and that Ma Ying-Jyo’s government was trying to cover it up. This resulted in a large percentage of the population remaining unvaccinated, which is dangerous considering how densely populated the country is. The lesson we can learn from this is that there are consequences when you stand up on a podium and say stupid sh*t! It is easy to fear-monger and to make scary predictions about the future in order to gain political recognition, but politics isn’t a game. Many horrible things have happened in the past when similar tactics were used.

  4. Yeah, there are obviously pros and cons to the kind of leadership and example setting that Obama is trying to offer by this approach to nuclear defense. But I would challenge you on all of that living in a black and white world rhetoric. We saw what neat definitions of good and evil brought us in the Bush administration and that form of aggression as diplomacy. It was catastrophic and America was hated worldwide as never before. Obama has reversed this so I am willing to give him a chance.
    As for running with a phrase as literal truth, I agree – it is not completely fair in that no one phrase adequately sums up someone’s viewpoint. I do, however, try to call the dems on their crap talk to… like in my Harry Reid post a while back. I feel like especially leaders need to be called on their one-liners because fair or not, they are what people remember and repeat.
    And yes, I too wonder how easily ratified the treaty will prove.

  5. “It was catastrophic and America was hated worldwide as never before.”

    More black and white rhetoric. That claim cannot be quantified or proven in anyway and I believe it to be false (we were much more hated during Vietnam). Bush = bad/evil Obama = good/holier than thou. I think it is an absurd and childish proposition. It makes me laugh anytime someone says it. No one that we actually care about hating us hates us any less now that Obama is president.

  6. OK, a few points:

    1) Thanks for being quick to comment. I like your ideas and they help sharpen my own.

    2) I agree that it is unfair to take one sentence and extrapolate irresponsibly from it. But check out the context of Palin’s remarks. Rather than excuse her, they show how she made her comments – much like a lot of the other ones that have landed her in hot water – offhand asides: (to the Southern Rep Leadership Conf: particularly beautiful because she says “nukulear”, just like Dubya and pronounces Chavez wrong as well) (On Hannity making her playground statement and not at all mentioning the fact that the nuclear treaty will result in the reducing of nuclear arsenals and added security for what remains.)

    Now I admit (as I did above in my comment to David), that it IS unfair to take one sentence and claim it speaks to the crux of a leader’s message and I knew I was opening myself up to your rebuttal by writing about Palin’s remark. So fair game and perhaps she IS secretly in favor of Obama arranging for substantial reduction of the world’s nuclear arsenals. But the fact of the matter is that when she is given the stage (and frankly, its a hell of a stage right now with her current job at FOX and her huge conservative following) to talk about Obama and nuclear policy, all she chooses to do is make playground quips and beat a dead horse about a job Obama had in his 20s. I am sure you can see why this is upsetting. This is not leadership, this is irresponsible chat show gabble. And I feel a duty to call leaders on their nonsense, just like (and I said this to David as well) I did when word got out about Harry Reid and his gaffe RE Obama and race. They are NOT like the rest of us (even if this does not excuse our own irresponsibility), they are leaders with incredible influence over others and they should either own that or go on permanent Alaskan fishing trips.

    As for her Couric interview(s) and her governorship I stand by what I said. The Couric performance was a devastating blow and proved even to the conservative base that Palin didn’t know her stuff. And as for the governorship, I realize it is a matter of opinion but it seems fundamentally unAmerican to quit like she did. She lost a lot of credibility doing that and I feel that seeing that as “failure” is not far off.

  7. Thanks for the Taiwanese illustration! I caught a little glimpse of the kinds of conversations I would also love to see in CultureMutt’s future: international reactions to American domestic and foreign policy.

    And yes, the platform Palin has is substantial and I still think she has the potential to be a valuable addition to American politics since I feel her motives are right and she radiates charisma. But she destroys her credibility when she makes these kinds of comments. We have very established and stubborn conservative and republican bases in this country. Simply bolstering their positions is going to do little in terms of forging progress or even winning an election. In order to interest independent voters, you have to do more than spout sensationalism. You need cogent thoughts. I am sure she has potential but what I’ve seen so far looks appropriate for the talk show circuit and nothing else. Of course, I may be getting ahead of myself. Perhaps a talk show is all she wants.

  8. Hahaha! I guess we are both doing it. I agree, hatred is hard to quantify so that hateometer will be based purely on opinion. But the tone changed with Obama as far as international diplomacy is concerned. On a personal level, as a non-American, I know from my time in Europe and Asia since Obama’s election that the perception of America and its place in the world, has improved (although, admittedly, people are undecided on what the future holds with Obama) Of course, sworn enemies will doubtless remain as such but on the world stage we have started to see what Obama’s worldview can achieve with world leaders. There is a respect for Obama and a willingness to cooperate that was far less apparent under Bush. The positive Muslim reaction to Obama’s Cairo speech last year, the headway in Afghanistan over the last few months and the Nobel Peace Prize are all areas that show progress (even if we could discuss each and what they “actually mean” ad infinitum.) on the world stage. Time will tell if these early signs result in sustained progress but I think the tone that is being set is far more conducive to diplomatic and international cooperation and progress than Bush’s unilateral shuffle.

  9. Good illustration, Tristan, but I don’t think you can really call the Tea Party people anyone’s cronies. There are a lot of independent groups and individuals there with views and opinions that differ as much as anyone’s. Pretty much they are only united by their universal concern that government has overstepped its proper bounds under the Obama administration.

  10. Resigning the governorship is only a failure if it was her goal to remain a politician, I think. It seems that she’s more interested in being a pundit rather than a leader, and maybe that’s for the better. As governor of Alaska I would have considered her in 2012, but as she is now I don’t think so. But maybe this is what she really wanted, I saw no reason for her to resign otherwise, and in that case you can’t really call her a failure.

    As for the Couric interview, Palin was treated supremely unfairly there (for obvious reasons, since Couric never goes to great lengths to hide her bias). I have a feeling that a lot of politicians would have trouble answering some of those questions, and the Russia comment seems like an example of what was clearly meant as a rhetorical rather than literal statement being taken completely the wrong in intentionally.

    I’m not a big Palin fan, she’s not really my style, but I think if you’re trying to be fair and intellectually honest you might give her a little more credit (or at least the benefit of the doubt) from time to time. As for her comments, well, those are good examples of why she’s not really my style; not that I disagree with her a lot, but she certainly isn’t always the most coherent. It’s a shame that it’s always the least eloquent, most extreme elements of both sides of the political that draw the most attention. I think we could find a lot more common ground if we listened to the well-founded arguments of the opposition, rather than then the outlandish ones. But then, it’s easier for us to stay comfortable in our own opinions that way.

  11. I also want to point out, as I did in a similar discussion on this topic with some friends on facebook that from what I know of the treaty with Russia so far it seems like a good thing. I was kinda leery of it at first, given my ideological differences with Obama, but I think he’s been good on Iraq and Afghanistan, and I think he’s good here to. Like Ed, I see a lot of similarities between Obama and Bush and Reagan (respectively) on these issues.

    Sarah Palin and some others seem to be suffering from an Obama derangement syndrome similar to the Left during the Bush years when they criticize Obama for things like this. And I don’t think that is going to win a lot of people over; most Americans think less nukes is good (as long as our rivals have less too – which is happening here, at least supposedly). We have to be willing to say Obama’s right when he’s right, or else our criticism of him when he’s really wrong has no credibility. And there’s certainly enough to criticize in my view.

  12. If her goal was to be a pundit via a truncated governorship I have even less respect for her. And as for the Couric interviews, what was so unfair? Those were the kinds of questions you would expect a future VP to at least be able to answer intelligently. Foreign policy, the Bush doctrine, the bailout, periodicals – a nerdy high schooler could answer that. And I agree, it is important to give Palin the benefit of the doubt. I think she is a good person and that she has the right motives. I actually think she is wasting her potential… she is the most convincing leader in the conservative camp and she spends her time on sensationalist nonsense. I do agree that we should compare the best in each parties with each other… but she really is supposed to be the best and she is a horrible disappointment. Help me see this differently, it really is hard.

  13. I respect your nuanced take Micah. And the Iraqi and Afghan approaches you mention are fairly Republican directions that I respect given the military situation in which we find ourselves. Simply appeasing the far left by withdrawing immediately would be disastrous.

  14. I find it hilarious that you purport to be an intellectual who wants to discuss the important issues of our day. Really, aren’t you just a left wing ideologue that writes inflammatory blogs about people from the other side to get a reaction? Why write an article attacking Sarah Palin? Who is she and why is she important to the issues facing us? It is surely an easy target much like Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or countless other liberals. If a person was just bored and wanted to stir up an argument, as I believe you do, both sides could go back and forth for months making fun of things that someone on the other side said. It seems to me to be a bit of a waste of time. But hey, some people play video games.

    Would it not be more intellectually honest to strike up a debate about how the government is spending more money than they can ever pay back? How this administration is growing government faster than ever before? Do you ever wonder where that leads? Has history not taught us that big government is not favorable to the people? Do you not worry, as I do, about some of the radical people with whom Mr. Obama has chosen to surrounded himself? The evidence, not biased rhetoric, suggests that this group wants a socialist style America. Can anyone show me where that has ever flourished like capitalism?

    Are you a socialist? Is that the direction you wish to see our government take? Because if it is, I would love to hear about how it has been successful in other countries.

  15. First of all, thanks a lot for commenting. You made some good points. Let me take them one by one:

    1) Me purporting to be an intellectual who wants to discuss today’s important issues: I think I am still in the process of finding my voice so if I sound too stuffy/intellectual, that is good to know. As for discussing important issues, I do try to bring up newsworthy topics in American politics but sometimes I strike out and the topic is only interesting to me or I come across as a sensationalist… kind of a sensitive, frustrating balance.

    2) Being a left wing ideologue that writes inflammatory blogs about people from the other side to get a reaction: Yes, I tend to side liberals on most issues although I feel lucky to have conservative friends and CultureMutt readers who remind me when I sound too Michael Moore. As for the inflammatory part, I do make an effort to provoke and invite CultureMutt readers into discussion. I have always liked debate and I don’t mind some spice as long as it remains reasonably respectful.

    3) Why write an article about Sarah Palin? Because she is one of the most interesting protagonists on the American political stage. She is both angelic and demonic, part genius, part know-nothing. Also, she has tremendous political clout and a stage like no other conservative. I feel that she wields tremendous political influence and should therefore be held accountable. Yes, she is an easy target like Pelosi and Reid and I have blasted Reid on CultureMutt in the past.

    4) Bored and wanting to stir up an argument: I am certainly not bored. Between my job, studies and other chaos, I struggle to write CultureMutt but I am passionate about politics so I make time for it. As for stirring up arguments, again, I love debate and I don’t mind provoking one. I draw the line with hate speech or racism – I don’t want that on CultureMutt and comments that indulge in either are deleted.

    5) I hate video games:)

    6) Would it be more intellectually honest to strike up a debate about how government is spending more money than they can pay back? – Great topic, I wouldn’t mind collaborating on that one with you. I posted about the CBO numbers RE health care reform a few posts back. Let me know what you think..

    7) Big government – another interesting topic. I am Swedish and am still getting used to American views on the role of government. I love American autonomy and independence so I certainly see the merit in keeping government in its place.

    8) Obama’s radicals – Who are you referring to? Most of his aides seem fairly sane. I could well be missing something – I’d be interested in finding out whom you are referring to. Especially the ones that want a socialist-style America. Personally I am not as caught up with the size of government as much as how well it works. My own country has scaled back its welfare state model and I don’t think that the ultimate answer for America is a dramatic shift to the left. I came to the US because I liked to opportunities and the can-do-it-ness. I don’t want us to lose that so I am a big believer in American checks and balances and I love American capitalism even if I think it could afford to be more compassionate to the poor and the sick.

    9) Am I a socialist? In a word, no. I definitely believe in the genius of capitalism. Right or wrong, greed motivates. I am all for capitalist democracy. I don’t think that this means you can’t take care of people though and I think that slowly the US is taking steps to invest more in the health and education of its citizens. In the long run, I believe this will take the American dream to a more prosperous, sustainable place.

    Sorry about the ramble. You raised excellent points and I would love to chat more so feel free to join our little tribe of commentators here on CultureMutt! See you soon.

Comments are closed.