Sarah Palin on Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul: I'm on Team Rand

Via Mediaite, skip to 4:48 for the key bit. The news here isn’t that she’s at odds with Christie; they’ve sparred sporadically for the past three years. The news is that the former running mate of superhawk John McCain, who’s been praised repeatedly by superhawk Liz Cheney, is defending the bete noire of interventionists from a hawkish national security critique. If you’re looking for a sign of how far grassroots opinion on counterterrorism has moved from where it was five years ago, there you go.

WaPo sees this as evidence that Palin might be able to help Paul with evangelicals in Iowa come 2016. Could be, but that depends on whether Ted Cruz is running, no? She’s talked up “Cruz control” for Washington in at least one speech; on the issues, although the two camps overlap considerably, she seems more closely allied with Cruz’s tea-party approach than with Paul’s libertarian one. In fact, here’s how Cruz described his foreign-policy views last week to Time magazine:

Right now there is a divide, say, between the views of John McCain on the one hand and the views of Rand Paul on the other. I like and respect both men, and I would say that my views are somewhere in the middle. The person whose views on foreign policy mine are closest to is Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s views on foreign policy, and how I would characterize my views, are that I think the United States should be a clarion voice for liberty, that we should speak against oppression, against tyranny and for freedom.

I think the U.S. needs to be exceedingly reluctant to put our men and women in harm’s way. I think if and when military action is justified, it should be justified only to protect the vital national-security interest of the U.S. But I also recognize the U.S. is today the world’s lone superpower. We have nations that have considerable hostile intents toward the U.S. And we have radical Islamic terrorists who would readily murder our citizens. I support peace through strength. I think developing our military strength so that we can defend our national-security interests makes it far less likely we’ll be drawn into war.

I think being unequivocal about redlines that cannot be crossed serves as a far more effective deterrent than the Obama Administration’s endless negotiation with no clear consequence.

That’s a mix of Paul (“exceedingly reluctant” on intervention) and McCain/Rubio (special obligations from being “the world’s lone superpower”), and it’s a politic middle way between Paul and Christie in 2016 so as to alienate neither centrists nor libertarians. Needless to say, it’s hard to imagine President Paul setting redlines and then ruthlessly enforcing them as Cruz knocks Obama for not doing here with Assad. My sense is that Palin’s in a similar place on foreign policy. Just yesterday, for instance, she posted a Facebook message praising McCain after he criticized O for underestimating Putin. That speaks to the chief TP critique of Obama abroad, that he’s not aggressive enough in confronting threats to the U.S. He’s weak, making nice with the Muslim Brotherhood and getting pushed around by savvier operators like Putin. Most libertarians believe the opposite, I think, that O’s actually way too aggressive in droning people willy nilly in Pakistan and Yemen and launching quixotic interventions in Libya and Syria. He’s not “strong,” exactly, but he’s waaaay too quick to flex his military muscle. The two critiques aren’t hopelessly contradictory — you can be weak in some foreign theaters and over-aggressive in others — but in terms of which gets more emphasis, tea partiers tend toward the former and libertarians toward the latter. That’s where Cruz/Palin and Paul diverge, I think.