Frank J. Gaffney Jr., president of a respected Washington think tank, contends that Sen. John McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is not only qualified to step into the president’s shoes but also has a portfolio “likely to be substantially better than that of either Barack Obama or Joe Biden.”
“Governor Palin’s personal story and qualities that are clearly resonating with millions of Americans across the political spectrum — her intelligence, scrappiness, integrity, common sense and deep-seated faith — when combined with her real-world experience in Alaska, suggest that she will prove to be better equipped than her rivals to deal with the dynamic and increasingly ominous national security challenges of our times,” says Gaffney, who leads the Center for Security Policy and is a columnist for The Washington Times.
Republican candidate McCain has been scrambling to deflect criticism of his choice, alleging lack of experience and ability to be commander in chief.
Gaffney, who held a key defense-policy role in the Reagan administration, has scrutinized this chief executive and commander in chief of her state’s Army and Air Force Guard units.
Some highlights of his analysis: Palin has spent much of her adult life dealing with an issue long central to Alaska and of increasing importance to the nation as a whole: how to provide energy security. She knows more about the subject than the other three on the two parties’ tickets put together, and she is poised to demonstrate unsurpassed leadership on this vital national security challenge. She managed her state’s department responsible for oil and gas exploration and exploitation, negotiating a long-delayed natural gas pipeline through Canada to the lower 48. She has been married for nearly two decades to a blue-collar worker on Alaska’s North Slope oil fields. Palin can bring to bear her insights into the need for expanded, yet environmentally sensitive drilling, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, together with an appreciation of the need to introduce fuel choice in our transportation sector. That issue is included in the bipartisan Open Fuel Standard Act introduced in the House and the Senate shortly before the August recess.
The Geographic Bonus Her state is adjacent to Russia, which has demonstrated increasing aggressiveness toward its neighbors in recent years. The targets extend beyond the relatively weak and formerly enslaved countries on its edge such as Georgia, the scene of a bloody invasion last month aimed at toppling the elected government there. Moscow also has conducted simulated strategic bombing runs with Soviet-era long-range, nuclear-capable aircraft. These offensive missions are designed to penetrate U.S. northern air defenses in a manner reminiscent of the most provocative Kremlin behavior during the Cold War. The best of those defenses, including a squadron of America’s state-of-the-art interceptors, the F-22 Raptor, are stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage. Palin not only is familiar with the base’s vital role in protecting U.S. territory but also appreciates its importance in projecting U.S. power in Asia and beyond as a pivotal transit point for long-range transport aircraft supplying military operations around the world. Alaskan territory is also along the trajectory of ballistic missiles launched eastward out of Stalinist North Korea. For that reason, among others, Alaska’s Fort Greely was selected as the site for the principal U.S. ground-based defense against such missiles. As that state’s governor, Palin would know more about the necessity for U.S. anti-missile systems than either Obama or Biden. Palin’s grasp of the danger posed by today’s principal enemy — adherents to the brutally repressive and seditious program the Islamists call Shariah — may not be wholly clear at this point. A tangible indicator of her views, however, is the enlistment of her eldest son, Track, on the anniversary of 9/11 last year and his imminent deployment to Iraq. His mother, like the loved ones of millions of other servicemen and women, has had to confront directly and personally the prospect of making the ultimate sacrifice for her country.
Gaffney suggests that America is only beginning to get to know Sarah Palin. Yet even as that familiarity and comfort level grows, the electorate already may rest easy, he says.
“By virtue of her home state and its unique role in America’s energy, defense and power-projection and thanks to her own public sector service and that of her offspring in the U.S. Army, it is not only wrong but foolish to portray her as totally unprepared to contend with the epochal foreign and defense policy issues we are confronting,” Gaffney concludes.
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