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Did McCain Flip-Flop on GOP Platform — or Is Palin Winging It?

Marc Ambinder speculates on why Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would tell Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson that Sen. John McCain now supports planks of the Republican Party platform that he previously opposed, including constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and all abortions, and opposition to embryonic stem cell research.

During an interview today on Dobson’s radio program, Palin said she believes, from the bottom of her heart, that McCain supports these elements of the platform. Here’s the transcript:

[DOBSON]: …But I am telling you the Republican platform is the strongest pro-life, pro-family document to come out of a political party. Even more so than the platforms during the campaigns of Ronald Reagan. There are principles there that just, I’ve been fighting for, for 30-40 years and you are trying to articulate those same principles, aren’t you?

[PALIN] Absolutely. And Dr. Dobson thank you so much for recognizing that. This is a strong platform. [inaudible] around the planks in this platform that respect life and respect the entrepreneurial spirit of this great country. And those things, back to the social issues that are what Republicans at least in the past had articulated and tried to stand on. Now finally we have very solid planks in the platform that will allow us to build an even stronger foundation for our country. It is all good and it is encouraging, you would maybe have assumed people would have, that we would have gotten further away from those strong planks. But no, they are there, they are solid, we stand on them and again I believe that it is the right agenda for the country at this time. Very, very clear and contrasted tickets in this election, November 4th. People are going to see the clear contrast, just go to the planks in our platform and that is where you see them.

[DOBSON] In your private conversations with Sen. McCain, is it your impression that he also strongly supports those views? I know that he did not oppose that platform when it was written. Do you think he will implement it?

[PALIN] I do, from the bottom of my heart. I am such a strong believer that McCain believes in those strong planks and we do have good conversations about some of the details too, about the different planks and what they represent. And I’m very heartened that John McCain, he doesn’t want a vice president who will check the opinions of me at the door and we talk about some of these. And they are very important. It’s most important though, as you are suggesting that Americans know that John McCain is solidly there on those solid planks in our platform that build the right agenda for America.

Ambinder suggests that one of three things are possible:

Either Palin is trying to mislead Dobson, equivocate or perhaps he doesn’t know what her running mate believes. McCain opposes a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage…. He supports embryonic stem cell research…he opposes a constitutional amendment banning all abortion. Read the platform for yourself: On abortion… on gay marriage… on stem cells.. .

Maybe McCain changed his mind?

I would offer a fourth possibility: Palin hasn’t read the Republican Party platform and therefore is just winging it with Dobson.

Palin’s rambling, superlative-laden responses sound eerily similar to her rambling, superlative-laden responses to questions posed during her interviews with ABC’s Charlie Gibson and CBS’ Katie Couric, in which she clearly was winging it.

Here is an example, from Palin’s answer to a question from Gibson about whether she believes the Iraq war was part of “God’s plan.”

I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That, in my world view, is a grand — the grand plan.

I’m not knocking her for not having read the Republican Party platform. I haven’t read it either. However, it’s probably a good idea to err on the side of caution, rather than to wholeheartedly affirm someone else’s position on something she is unfamiliar with.

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