It now appears to be official that the neocons have turned on Sarah Palin, as illustrated by this exchange between Peter Wehner and Daniel Larison. Wehner, an old-line Straussian, is always a good weather vane for where the neocon party line is heading. Lately, he has been out in front tacking “moderate”, among the most vocal to repudiate Glenn Beck and now also warning against a government shut-down.
We should bear in mind that a week is a long time in politics. This week, it does indeed appear that the establishment will get its nominee yet again, but we shouldn’t assume by any means that Palin is down and out just yet. Back in 2009, when it was so confusing to see the neocons jump on the Tea Party bandwagon, I ultimately concluded that this is what it must have been like to see the Humphrey Democrats turn sharply against the Vietnam War in 1969.
If the neocons are in fact moving dramatically away from the Tea Party conceit and back to the moderate conceit, it is an incredible testament to their abilities to stick with a party line. Yet that can’t be the whole story. Bill Kristol, having been one part Henry Higgins and two parts Lenin in the rise of Sarah Palin, has yet to make his move. At a minimum, we can assume that Kristol’s core operatives such as Randy Scheunemann and Michael Goldfarb will be with Palin for the long haul.
This may or may not mean that there is a serious rupture in the neocon ranks. I have long believed that the reason David Frum has been so stubborn in his domestic heterodoxy of late, while also being as stubborn as ever on foreign policy, is because, given his family background among other things, he cares far more deeply about Israel than an operator like Kristol, and therefore knows what a disaster it would be for Sarah Palin to become the face of support for Israel in American politics. We already know that others, notably David Brooks, were aghast at what Kristol was cooking up through her from the beginning.
It would not be surprising if the realization of a looming disaster has now spread far more widely in the neocon ranks. At the very least, their increasing anxiety about the weakness of the Republican field shows how much their panicking now that they’ve made their bed.