Yep, you heard that right: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will travel to Hong Kong for her first commercial speaking engagement, a keynote address at the CLSA Investors' Forum September 23. Given that foreign policy was a soft spot for Palin during the 2008 campaign, this will give her a chance to boost her foreign policy cred (and she'll be able to see Taiwan from her hotel room).
It could also boost her business cred, while she's at it, depending on what her speech focuses on..."Our keynote speakers are notable luminaries who often address topics that go beyond traditional finance such as geopolitics," a CLSA spokeswoman said in a statement. Past luminaries include Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Alan Greenspan.
This will be Palin's first trip to Asia and her first major international speaking engagement. What will she say? The event will be closed to media, but we'll almost certainly get some kind of word about what she says. Here are six things to watch for:
1. Energy policy. Energy was Palin's pet issue during the 2008 campaign; she has direct experience with it in Alaska, and it was a hot topic last summer. If Palin wants to talk about geopolitics, it would make sense for her to approach it from an energy standpoint. Everything she says about drilling for more oil seems to rile environmentalists, but it'll likely rile them even more if she calls for more drilling while in China, a major polluter.
2. How much foreign policy will she put into the speech? This is a big opportunity for her to prove that she is, in fact, fluent in foreign policy matters, something lots of people doubted in '08. How much has she studied it since then, given that it was a gap in her profile, and an important one given that she may seek the presidency?
3. Foreign policy vs. national security. National security is the main issue for some Republicans. America's world standing and relationships with other countries, to them, is almost the same thing as its national security. Palin could satisfy a chunk of her base by talking more about terrorism than anything else.
4. How will she deal with China? Being in China, one almost has to say something about it. Hillary Clinton has taken some heat for not speaking out against Chinese human rights abuses; will Palin touch it? In a Democratic debate last year, candidates agreed that China is neither friend nor foe, but a strategic competitor. Will Palin lay out a vision of how the U.S. and China should interact?
5. How much will this speech be about 2012? If she uses phrases like "I would do X," it's on.
6. Criticizing America on foreign soil. As Glenn Greenwald noted, Republicans have lit into Democrats who criticize U.S. policy while on foreign soil. Mike Huckabee did so while in Israel this month, with impunity. As someone who disagrees with President Obama about most things, Palin is, by nature, critical of what the U.S. is doing right now...Huckabee wasn't criticized, but Greenwald's complaint may have sown the seeds for a later narrative about foreign-soil criticism if Palin blasts Obama. Plus, the drama always seems to find her. Liberals would probably make a bigger deal out of it if Palin criticized America than if Huckabee did.
And, a special bonus point of interest:
7. How much will she chat up Jon Huntsman, the former GOP governor of Utah who's now serving as Obama's ambassador in Beijing? He was touted as a possible 2012 candidate; if they meet, will they strike up an alliance?