Take her views on Iraq.
“I support President Bush’s efforts to stop terrorism by taking the fight to the terrorists,” she said in 2006.
“Our nominee for president is a profile in courage, and people like that are hard to come by,” she declared in her 2008 convention speech. “He's a man who wore the uniform of this country for 22 years and refused to break faith with those troops in Iraq who have now brought victory within sight. And as the mother of one of those troops, that is exactly the kind of man I want as commander-in-chief.”
Debating Joe Biden in 2008, she declared, “Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that is not what our troops need to hear today, that’s for sure. You guys opposed the surge. The surge worked. Barack Obama still can’t admit the surge works. We’ll know when we’re finished in Iraq when the Iraqi government can govern its people and when the Iraqi security forces can secure its people. And our commanders on the ground will tell us when those conditions have been met.”
This election cycle, Donald Trump has claimed that his opposition to the Iraq invasion dates back to 2003. His account of when he turned against the war easily predates the surge. He regards American efforts there as a folly, a waste, and a catastrophe. Politicians who characterized the conflict in that way were once deemed by Palin to be disrespecting the troops and showing white-flag waving naiveté in the War on Terror.
They were unfit, in her view, to be commander-in-chief.
Now she has endorsed a candidate who, along with Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, is arguably the biggest critic of neoconservative foreign policy in the race. “We are ready and our troops deserve the best,” Palin said in her endorsement speech. “A new commander-in-chief whose track record of success has proven he is the master at the art of the deal. He is one who would know to negotiate.”
That’s quite a contrast with “he's a man who wore the uniform of this country for 22 years and refused to break faith with troops in Iraq who have now brought victory within sight.”
Why the change?
One theory is that Palin never had any real foreign-policy convictions. She allied with George W. Bush when it was popular to do so in her party, adopted John McCain’s attitude when it was politically advantageous, and is changing again now that her most likely path to political relevance lies within a Trump Administration.
Another theory is that she was earnest in bygone foreign policy pronouncements, but it isn’t her priority. In this telling, Palin has substantive disagreement with Trump’s views, but they are inconsequential to her given other similarities in their outlooks.
Either way, Palin has defected from the neoconservative camp to a candidate who is openly antagonistic to the neocon worldview. And that strikes me as significant. The shift is eased by the fact that, like many neocons, Trump talks about foreign policy by declaring that the United States needs to be strong and tough. But the rhetorical similarities are juxtaposed with hugely different approaches.