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At RNC, foreign policy on stage, and in the margins

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Not a lot of foreign policy in Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential acceptance speech on Wednesday night at the Republican Party convention in St. Paul, but what little there was nodded to pro-Israel concerns about her thin resume. (Palin met with officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday.)

Lots of red meat from Rudy, though.

And around the margins of the convention, Republicans are trying hard to make the case that it wasn’t all about John McCain, the man. (Much – no, make that just about all – of the convention has been about the extraordinary biography of Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.), with little room left for policy.)

In a special press conference Wednesday for foreign press (with an RNC official checking passes!) and at a session of the Center for U.S. Global Engagement (held at U-Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey Institute), top foreign policy advisers to the campaign said McCain was much friendlier to the notion of working with allies than – well, it was left unsaid, but certainly the Bush administration’s record of unilateralism hung heavily over the proceedings.

Key to making the case was Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the onetime Democratic vice-presidential nominee – and McCain’s preferred running mate until the Arizona senator caved last week to party base demands for a conservative candidate (embodied in “hockey mom” Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin).

Lieberman was the star speaker at the event hosted by Global Engagement (a group that advocates for greater political investment in foreign policy and that held a similar event at the Democratic confab in Denver last week) and brought reassurances that McCain has been mis-characterized as a hawk. McCain, a former POW, “hates” war, Lieberman said, suggesting that as president, McCain would shift powers from the Pentagon to the diplomatic corps.

“He’s going to take a very close look at our foreign and defense policy,” Lieberman promised.

At the foreign press event, deputy foreign policy adviser Kori Schake was asked what foreign policy advice McCain would take from Palin. Schake evaded the answer, replying that McCain would keep trusted advisers close – chief among them, Lieberman.

Schake also emphasized that McCain would reach out to allies, but was uncompromising on facing down Iran’s suspected nuclear threat: “A nuclear Iran would be an unacceptable danger for all of us.” Pressed for details, Schake told reporters to dig up two speeches: one to the Los Angeles Council on World Affairs, and the other to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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