Jan. 15, 2011 -- There appears to be a serious difference opinion at the top of the 2008 Republican ticket, with John McCain and Sarah Palin split on the issue of President Obama.
Much has been written about turmoil and infighting during that campaign. But the conflict now has nothing to do with politics in 2008, and everything to do with the direction of the Republican Party in 2011. One says the president actively wants to help America, the other, actively hurt it.
In Sunday's Washington Post, Sen. McCain wrote an Op-Ed lavishing praise on President Obama for his speech Wednesday night in Tucson. "President Obama gave a terrific speech Wednesday night," the senator wrote, "[he] "comforted and inspired the country."
And in notably gracious language, McCain added, ""I disagree with many of the president's policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause."
Read that carefully. He called President Obama a "patriot" who wants to "advance our country's cause."
Now contrast those words to language used by former Gov. Palin a little more than a week ago, when she said the President was, "Hell-bent on weakening America."
That statement came during an interview on Laura Ingraham's radio show that has drifted into that background a bit because of the discussion about the Arizona shootings, not to mention "cross-hairs' and "blood libel."
Palin used that notably strong language the day before the Arizona shootings in a discussion with Ingraham on raising the national debt ceiling, which she opposes, and the White House currently supports.
Palin told Ingraham that by supporting raising the debt ceiling, "what Obama is doing--purposefully weakening America."
Her logic is that as a senator, Obama said it was a sign of failed leadership to raise the debt ceiling. So that if he supports it now it must be that wants to deliberately hurt the nation.
Ingraham pressed Palin, "so his goal is to weaken America?" And the Governor responded, "on this issue, it has to be."
There is little question that Palin left exactly the impression she wanted to, because before she made the statement, she told Ingraham that what she was about to say would be the "takeaway" from their interview, and that it was "gonna get people all wee-weed up."
Again, what is striking is the stark difference between what is being said by McCain and Palin. The senator says, whatever his disagreements with the president, he believes Obama is "intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause." While Sarah Palin is clearly saying that she believes that the president is using his time in office to purposefully weaken America.
The striking difference in this language makes one wonder if McCain was directing his comments in the Washington Post Op-Ed at Palin's rhetoric?
His Op-Ed does seem to defend Palin from the criticism that her rhetoric is any way to blame for the Arizona shootings. "Imagine," he asks, what it must have been like, "to have heard in the coverage of that tragedy voices accusing you of complicity in it."
While he is clearly admonishing those who criticized Palin on that front, he is hardly embracing the type of language she has been using recently in public. The question is, does their split on this issue represent what will be a schism in the Republican party going forward. And which argument is more compelling to voters…Republicans and otherwise.