Saturday, September 13, 2008

In the Hot Seat

Earlier this week, I promised to return and share my thoughts on Gov. Sarah Palin’s “performance” before the television cameras a few days ago. Let me say at the outset that I think Governor Palin did rather well. That is if you judge her success by how she got through her series of interviews with ABC’s Charles Gibson without falling on her face. It was a mixed bag, to be sure, but there were no overt crash and burn moments.

There is no denying Gov. Palin is, dare I say it, likable enough. But she is hardly the paradigm of intellect, experience and virtue her fans make her out to be. As is par for the course for any interviewee of any persuasion, there was so much spin that I had a severe case of vertigo. Though always engaging, Palin was frequently defensive, shifting Gibson more often than not into the mode of a teacher dealing with a stubborn, disobedient child. Often evasive and always on-script, Palin was not able to be as spontaneous as she usually is.

For his part, Gibson was terrific. He was respectful and professional, yet hard and persistent. Some people, including some who may read this blog, find tenacity and proficiency in the media a point of contention. I happen to think the media exists to put just such people in their proper place. Some on the conservative side have decried Gibson’s so-called gotcha questions. Friends, those questions would not have been necessary had Palin the experience level and media transparency to equal the task laid out before her.

I have to admit, I was disappointed from the very beginning. From the first question, Palin utterly lacked humility. When asked if she was experienced enough to be the Vice President of the United States, she ignored the question and told Gibson flat out that she was ready. That’s the not the same thing. When asked if she had any pause whatsoever when Sen. McCain asked her to come aboard, she gave Gibson an unblinking, “No.” No? Leaving aside the fact that I like Thomas Jefferson’s ideal that public office is something you should be dragged into kicking and screaming (when was the last time someone ran for President who wasn’t voraciously ravenous for it?), Palin said she had no second thoughts whatsoever. Taking on the second most powerful job in the world didn’t give her even a moment’s hesitation? She is preparing to adopt the burdens and responsibilities of a world flying increasingly out of control and she is so confident in her abilities, so “wired” for ambition that it didn’t even give her a moment’s reflection? Either she is lying or she is deluded.

Persistent in discussing her qualifications, Gibson pointed out how little travel she’d ever undertaken, and how she had never even met with any foreign heads of state or been exposed, in any significant way, to the larger world. She countered by insisting there have been plenty of vice-presidential nominees with such shortcomings. Actually, in modern political history, there have not. She insisted that not having a big, fat resume with decades worth of Washington experience was actually a good thing. I sure hope John McCain doesn’t get wind of that one.

When asked what foreign policy experience she had, she gave no answer. When asked why we were attacked on 9/11, she gave no answer. When asked what the “Bush Doctrine” is — the predominant foreign policy issue of the Bush Administration — she not only gave no answer, she was obviously flummoxed by the question.

When asked about cross-border raids by our military, using current events in Pakistan as an example, Gibson had to force her into a corner to get a reply, asking her no less than five times for clarification. And still, she gave him no answer. When asked if Israel can do any wrong, she thrice parroted an obviously memorized party line. The answer was no. Really?

When asked about Russia, her best answer was that some of her constituents could see it from their back porch. She then instantly tried to switch the conversation to domestic policy. When Gibson pressed her, as he had to do on numerous questions, she called Georgia’s actions unprovoked (really?) and cavalierly spoke of going to war with the increasingly unpredictable ex-Cold War giant.

She had next to nothing to say about Iraq. But then, as Gibson pointed out, she recently told a reporter that she’s been so focused on state government that she hasn’t had much time to pay attention to Iraq. What a shame. McCain needs help with the whole Shia/Sunni thing. What she does know about the war in Iraq is “that it is from God.” When asked to explain that quote, made in church, she said she was quoting Abraham Lincoln, despite the fact that the only similarities to her quote and his is that they share the word, God. It was a flat out lie. I attended a church exactly like hers for 30 years. Trust me, I know exactly what she meant the first time around.

She was far more comfortable the second night when the focus shifted to domestic issues. But being more at ease certainly didn’t translate into less spin.

When Gibson confronted her on her support of the “Bridge to Nowhere,” she ignored him. When Gibson used facts and hard figures to reveal her lies, Palin dodged this way and that, saying all that was important was that she eventually killed it. Gibson persisted, engaging her on the issue of earmarks. Alaska, as it turns out, brings in more earmark projects than just about any other state. In fact, so much money rolled in during Palin’s governorship that it was worth $231 per resident. Contrast that with $22 a person for Illinois, Obama’s home state. That’s a 10 to one difference. Palin, for her part, suddenly stopped calling them earmarks and began referring to them as "infrastructure dollars" that were at least exchanged “in the light of day.” This is the maverick woman who has made slashing ear…er, "infrastructure dollars" a linchpin of her campaign?

On abortion, she changed her stance to fit McCain’s, saying it should be something the states decide. She then went on to practically quote Barack Obama word for word on his feelings about abortion in this country.

She also changed her stance on global warming and brought it more in line with her boss. She flat out denied ever claiming that humans were guiltless in causing global warming despite telling a Fairbanks newspaper just that mere months ago.

She praised Title IX in one breath and decried the very liberalism that ushered in her gender’s increased liberties in the next. She saw no problem with semi-automatic weapons staying on the street, giving Gibson an aw-shucks, I’m just a hick from Alaska excuse.

When asked repeatedly for specifics about how she and John McCain would change this country’s economic woes she reached way down into the bag of Republican manta and pulled out “cut taxes and control spending.” Wow. That’s a hum-dinger. When asked for specifics of what she’d cut, she turned instead to what she wouldn’t cut, spinning the question into a flag-waving party for veterans.

I guess, after all that, she looks a hell of a lot like George W. Bush to me. And here I was thinking she represented change. I’m glad she was able to clear up such false rumors as book bannings, etc. I’m fine taking her word on the so-called “Troopergate” issue until a court tells me otherwise. You see, I don’t need to embrace far-out, fringe accusations to make Palin look like an inexperienced, ignorant, out-of-her-league pretender. I need only the truth.


Anonymous POD said...

Bill Kristol summed up my feelings on the Charlie Gibson interview in the following article to be published in the Weekly Standard:

(Plus if mentions my new favorite monikor of the campaign - in addition to "above my paygrade" - the term 'PDS'.)

Mad Libs
Palin Derangement Syndrome overwhelms the media.
by William Kristol
09/22/2008, Volume 014, Issue 02

The liberal media are angry. Very, very angry. How do we know? Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's chronicler of all things media, says so:

The media are getting mad. Whether it's the latest back-and-forth over attack ads, the silly lipstick flap or the continuing debate over Sarah and sexism, you can just feel the tension level rising several notches. Maybe it's a sense that this is crunch time, that the election is on the line, that the press is being manipulated (not that there's anything new about that).

Of course, politicians are always trying to manipulate the media. And the liberal media are always allowing themselves to be manipulated by liberal politicians. So why the foot-stamping snit by liberal journalists? Not because "the press is being manipulated." Rather, because the American people are resisting manipulation by the media.

For, as Kurtz goes on to say, the media "are increasingly challenging false or questionable claims by the McCain campaign." In other words, the media are going after McCain. In his piece Kurtz cites two allegedly false claims from McCain ads that are in fact basically true--or, at least, no more one-sided than dozens of other campaign ads. Back when Barack Obama was coasting toward victory, normal campaign exaggerations ("You know, John McCain wants to continue a war in Iraq perhaps as long as 100 years") didn't fill the media with loathing for Obama. Now the McCain camp's exaggerations do.

Why? Because McCain is doing well. And because Sarah Palin is surviving--even flourishing--in the midst of the liberal media onslaught.

When the media get mad, they don't just pout. They pounce. How? By any means necessary. The day of Kurtz's article, September 11, ABC's Charlie Gibson conducted his first interview of Sarah Palin. Gibson asked: "You said recently, in your old church, 'Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.' Are we fighting a holy war?"

Palin responded, "You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote."

"Exact words," Gibson triumphantly retorted.

Not so fast. As Palin explained, quite eloquently, what she was saying was in the spirit of Lincoln: "Let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side." The tape of Palin's church appearance bore out her interpretation and revealed Gibson's mischaracterization. "Pray for our military men and women," she had said, "who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God." Gibson had made it sound as if Palin were claiming to know God's will, rather than praying that U.S. actions might be in accord with God's will and in a cause worthy of God's blessing.

No doubt the mere fact of Palin's asking for any kind of blessing on our troops and our national leaders at some backwoods Alaska church was sufficiently distracting to the scripters of Gibson's questions that they didn't look closely at the wording. God knows (so to speak) what they believe at a place like that! Why, their kids probably even enlist in the Army to fight our enemies.

Speaking of enemies: Within hours of the ABC interview, the Washington Post distorted straightforward remarks made by Palin that same day to U.S. soldiers deploying to Iraq. She praised them for going over to help "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans." Palin clearly meant that our soldiers would be fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq--a group connected to the al Qaeda central command responsible for 9/11. The Post claimed to believe that Palin was asserting a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11--as if she thought soldiers now heading to Iraq were going to fight Saddam's regime--and triumphantly noted that even the Bush administration no longer asserted such a connection (it never did, in fact).

Palin's remarks should have been unexceptional: We've been fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq for several years now. But the media are desperate to try to make her look foolish. In the same interview, she praised Ronald Reagan for having won the Cold War. What a gaffe, some media watchdogs barked. The Soviet Union didn't collapse until three years after Reagan left office! Gotcha!

Not a chance. Sarah Palin is quickly proving to be more than a match for the mad, mad media. Having foolishly started a war with her that they can't win, the liberal media would be well advised, for once, to implement their own favorite war-fighting strategy: cut and run.

--William Kristol

10:37 AM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Kristol is an imbecile. The American people are resisting manipulation by the media!? Are you kidding me? McCain and Palin stand up and spew overt lies and the public buys it hook, line and sinker and Kistol thinks the manipulation is coming from the press?! Wake up! (Now I know what my next post is about!)

POD, are you seriously buying her explanation that she was quoting Lincoln? Really?! Let me just show you the two quotes in question and then you can decide, ok?

Palin: “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.”

Lincoln: "My concern is not whether God is on our side, my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."

Like I said, the only similarity between those two quotes is that they both share the word, “God.”

Palin wasn’t imploring God’s blessing or humbling insisting that God is in control over the battlefield. She was saying, as many have said before her, that Iraq is a physical manifestation of a battle being conducted in the spiritual world. That this is a battle for the soul of the planet with Christianity holding to the side of good and radical Islam the representation of Satan’s buffeting demonic forces. Like I said, I grew up in the Assemblies of God. Such sermons are regularly preached.

Is her claim that our soldiers are going to Iraq to "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans" a mischaracterization when people interpret her claim to mean that Iraq was somehow involved in 9/11? Why the hell is that such a stretch, and coming from Neo-Cons, why is it blasphemy? Bush and Co. have been yelling such bunk from the rooftops for years, only ceasing when it became overwhelmingly clear that they had no idea whatsoever what they were talking about.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Rhonda said...

Brandon -
I may have said this to you before, but to me the bottom line when comparing the experience of Obama-Biden vs. McCain-Palin is that many, many people believe in Obama and think he'll do a good job, whereas ONE MAN decided that Palin would do a good job. How many times did McCain meet Palin before this selection? Once?
As others have said, it's as if McCain chose someone who would help him win the campaign, not someone who could step up to be The Leader of the Free World.

10:27 AM  

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