Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin and Gibson

I think that Sarah Palin did fine in her interview with Charles Gibson. It was not the bravo performance that her convention speech was and I know that my intellectual liberal friends won't like it. She has that voice that brings to mind Frances McDormand in Fargo. She speaks in terms of moral aspiration and commitment to forging a better world - all things that Ronald Reagan was derided for. She doesn't go out of her way to evidence a wry sophistication.

But let's go to the tape.

Gibson's exchange with her on what she said about God's plan and the war in Iraq amounted to a shameless smear attempt on his part. This is what Palin said:

“Pray for our military men and women 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,” she exhorted the congregants. “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”

Here is how Gibson repeated it, claiming that these were her "exact words." I place in bold the parts that Gibson pulled:

“Pray for our military men and women 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,” she exhorted the congregants. “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan."

This is complete intellectual dishonesty. If any of my students tried this (and, Mr. Sarver, I know that you never would), I'd fail them. You don't take a request to pray that a certain course of action is right and, by pulling portions of a sentence without any indication that you have edited it, turn that statement into a declaration that God has decreed that course of action is right. Lawyers would get sanctioned for that kind of intellectual fraud, although I have to say that, in 27 years of practice, I can't recall encountering something quite that bad.

She handled it well by explaining precisely what she meant. The only thing that would have been better is for her to expressly tell Gibson that these were not all of her words; that he was taking them out of context and omitting parts that supplies that context. But I think they made a decision not to have her confront him. And, in any event, she is an executive and not a lawyer or lawprof. She hasn't been trained to deliver the intellectual coup'd grace.

The Democrat talking point is likely to be that she "didn't know what the Bush Doctrine" is as if this is a well defined thing with a meaning about which people do not disagree. It also assumes that it is a simple thing that one either agrees or disagrees with it in toto. Believe it or not, one of things that I try to do as a law professor is break down generalizations into their comprehensible parts. Palin's request that he do so was perfectly reasonable.

But he wouldn't do it because he wanted - just knew he could - show her up. So much for intellectual subtlety. So she restated the question in a way that was, given his refusal to tell her what he meant, perfectly accurate and perfectly favorable to her side of the debate. Politicians do this.

Having been owned, he then he asked the question that he should have asked in the first place and she answered it.

Perhaps another point may be that she wants to let Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. Gibson wanted to push on that because "we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?" But, of course, it would not just be "we" but all of the NATO countries. Do the Democrats want to take the position that we ought to permit the reassembly of the Soviet Union? Bring that one on.

Another point might be her belief that a nuclear Iran is intolerable and that, if Israel needs to take them out, that's the way it is. This is a foreign policy position on which we can disagree, although I think she has it exactly right. I would only point out that the Israel has prevented the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East before. We condemned them then, but I suspect that, today, we are all grateful.

Could she have done better? I'd say so. Does she need to work on a few things? I think so. The transcript, i.e., the substance of what she said, is very strong while the video leaves room for improvement. (Contra the Palin as lightweight narrative.)

I'd give the first round to Palin on points. Let's see what happens next.


Anonymous said...

Alright now, let's see:

1. Palin links Iraq to 9/11
2. Talks about invading Russia (with what army and how to pay for it she doesn't care to comment on)
3. Clueless about the Bush Doctrine
4. Says at a church service that God's will was to invade Iraq, but now claims NOT to know what God is thinking (that's a good one)
5. Flip flops on the environment
6. She's an "expert" on Russia because she says you can see Russia from Alaska.
WOW!!! I'd say she's ready?!?!?!?!?

By the way, McCain claims to know how to get bin Laden, but won't unless he's elected Prez? Gee. . .isn't that blackmail?

Republicans. . .unbelievable!

Dad29 said...

Do the Democrats want to take the position that we ought to permit the reassembly of the Soviet Union?

Are you asserting that this is the intent of Putin?

3rd Way said...

Her interview last night reminded me of my interviews as a fresh out of college greenhorn trying to get my foot in the door and start a career. I was inexperienced and would require on the job training. I went through a number of interviews before I landed a position. The interviewers invariably asked questions to try and reveal the amount of on the job training I would require. On a couple of interviews I could feel my chances slipping away after I flubbed something the interviewer thought I should know.

Agreement or disagreement with the Bush Doctrine is THE most critical foreign policy question facing the next commander of the worlds sole superpower. Ignorance of that concept is inexcusable (if they didn't cover that in her recent cram sessions what did they cover?). I certainly wouldn't have been hired by anyone if I flubbed a question that critical on any of the interviews I was on. If I had flubbed such an important question, then been called out on the falsehoods of my statements and in my resume I would have been told flat out that I am not a suitable candidate, asked to leave and told to find a different career path.

If we hire this woman as our #2 executive we are making that decision simply on blind faith. Blind faith hiring decisions aren't made for entry level professional positions in this country, they certainly shouldn't be made for the most critical executive positions.

Dad29 said...

As to you, Anony:

The O-and-Savior toured Europe recently. Does THAT make him an expert on foreign affairs?

Recall that the Constitution provides that the PRESIDENT conducts foreign affairs, not the Vice-President.

Dad29 said...

3Way, "blind faith" in Obama seems to work well for some...

while Obama disclaims elementary knowledge of nature and biology, no less!!

3rd Way said...

Whatever Daddio. Obama has an answer I like for almost every question I have ever seen asked of him.

You can laugh it off and pretend she is in the same league as Obama, but deep down you know that potentially putting someone with the type of ignorance she displayed last night in control of our military is not a comforting thought.

She would be better off calling in sick than showing up for her debate with Biden in 3 weeks.

I'll admit I have been a little worried by the polls the last few days, but last night's interview made me feel a little better. Palin is not who she says she is or who McCain thinks she is.

Last night we saw the reason she has been hidden from the media for the last 14 days. This woman is not ready to be our vice president and certainly not ready to be president.

Terrence Berres said...

On Palin Derangement Syndrome at Talk Left.

"Palin asked Gibson to define what HE meant by it [the Bush Doctrine]. ... Indeed, her eventual answer to the question is extremely sensible (unlike Bush and McCain's actual policies) and smart politics. She did not accept the premise of Gibson's question and then gave a sensible answer to the question. This type of stuff is what is killing the Left blogs right now. They look like fools when they act this way."

3rd Way said...

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?
PALIN: His world view.
GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

Yeah... she really nailed that one out of the park. Anyone that has been paying attention for the last 7 years would have understood that Charlie was trying to get her opinion on some aspect of preemptive or unilateral use of force. When she answered his question with the question "his world view?" It is clear she isn't familiar with a group of concepts commonly referred to as the "Bush Doctrine". There certainly are different interpretations about what exactly is encompassed within the "Bush Doctrine", but to answer that question with empty boilerplate about ridding the world of Islamic extremism is in no way "extremely sensible and smart politics". Her answer was meaningless fluff. The defense of such meaningless fluff says a lot about the defenders.

Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 9:32's post is an example of what's wrong with out politics. Everything that he lists (with the possible exception of flip flopping on the environment because I don't know what he is referring to) is wrong.

As for 3rd Way's comments on the Bush Doctrine, the Bush Doctrine is not one thing and, in fact, people don't even agree on what things it includes. It was perfectly reasonable for her to ask him to clarify. Her own description of it was very general but defensible. I think, moreover, that Gibson's restatement of it is wrong and that Palin's answer corrected him.

Anonymous said...

dad29: Yes, the president is supposed to be in charge of foreign affairs, but also remember--one freakin' heartbeat away from the presidency!

Here's a quote from Palin the Great when she spoke at Alaska's Fort Wainwright on Thursday: "You'll be there to defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the deaths of thousands of Americans".

So, let me get this straight. There is NO connection between Iraq and 9/11 and Al Qaeda was NOT in Iraq prior to our invasion of that country (and we are all over Russia for invading Georgia--doublespeak), who the heck are we supposed to be defending? Oh that's right, it's not defending innocent people (care to count the dead innocent Iraqis because of our invasion), it is the OIL.

Anonymous said...

I am an independent voter and I watched the Palin interview with interest. I thought she did well. I do not think it is a big deal that she did not know the term "Bush Doctrine". I will bet that Obama did not know it either. The fact is I liked her answers.

I thought that she did will considering that she knew the whole country would be watching her and monitoring her every word.

Obama has made many interesting comments. I would hope that people like 3rd way called Obama on them. Like the whole UN security council comment regarding Georgia. Not realizing that Russia would have veto power. To me that is much more a bigger deal.

I really do not think all of the foreign policy questions matters in the least. The president has an army of advisors, a state department and a cabinet.

I want a President who I feel I can trust and who has the good of the country at heart. Right now I do not get that feeling from Obama. He to me is like a used car salesmen. I do not trust him, McCain appears trustworthy and has done much for this country. In addition, the hatred of the far left and the not so far left has also turned me off to Obama. If these are his supporters what does that say about him?

Anonymous said...

Without intending to be glib, this lady is basically Dan Quayle with lipstick. Should McCain win, she'd be assigned the same ceremonial roles that Quayle performed. Assuming McCain served out his term, we'd have nothing to worry about beside an ongoing string of embarassing public gaffes highlighting her naivete.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:14. Better check who actually is spewing hatred. I'm mighty tired of the righteous right claiming the left is full of hatred.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:33:

You really make me laugh? How has the right been hateful?

Anon 3:31:

If Obama should become president, would Biden keep telling people that Clinton is more qualified than him or ask a disabled person in a wheel chair to stand up?

I will take Palin.

Anonymous said...

I read Palin's next big interview is with Sean Hannity of Faux News. Won't that be a walk in the park for her. I'm sure after than, Rush Limbaugh can interview her.

And, speaking of the right spewing hate, simply listen/watch Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, etc. And someone please give me examples of the left spewing hate.

Dad29 said...

Yes, the president is supposed to be in charge of foreign affairs, but also remember--one freakin' heartbeat away from the presidency

H S Truman. Haberdasher.

Ring any bells with you?

Anonymous said...

anon 4:07

Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, Rosie O'Donnell, Randi Rhodes, Al Franken, Rev Wright, Keith Olbermann, Ted Rall... and on and on and on...

anon 9:32

Many people (even insiders) don't call it the Bush doctrine, but instead use terms like preemptive strike, Patriot Act, or Homeland Security. It doesn't consist of one thing and Palin was correct in trying to determine what Gibson was talking about. Alot of people have never heard the actual term Bush Doctrine.
Also put Palin's comments about the war, Iraq, God in context.
Context is everything.


Terrence Berres said...

3rd Way wrote "Anyone that has been paying attention for the last 7 years would have understood that Charlie was trying to get her opinion on some aspect of preemptive or unilateral use of force."

If Senator Biden had this understanding of the Bush Doctrine, wouldn't his opinion be indicated by his vote for the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq?

Dad29 said...

3Way might want to catch up with the meaning of the "Bush Doctrine"--see Owen's Boots for a link to Krauthammer (who invented the term Bush Doctrine) and his delineation of the FOUR different meanings of the phrase.

Gibson was using the 3rd...and only the 3rd.

Anonymous said...

Hey, DaddyZero, Palin didn't know the Third Meaning, the First Meaning, the Second Meaning, or the Fourth Meaning!

And she was FOR earmarks (in January 2008 when she sent a 70-page memo to the crook Republican Sen. Ted Stevens asking for $200 MILLION PLUS in additional waste!) before she was AGAINST them! She makes flip-floping John Kerry look like a tower of moral consistency!

Let's face it -- she is poorly prepared for a softball interview let alone be VP. Has someone told her "what a VP does" yet? Apparently not...

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Krauthamer, who I usually like, has an article today about how Gibson was wrong about what the Bush doctine is (when he had to explain it to her).

My question:

Then why didn't she correct him in the interview?

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Rick said,

"Anon 9:32's post is an example of what's wrong with out politics."

I'm sorry Rick, but your blog is an example of everything that's wrong with politics: when someone on "your side" says something stupid or completely dishonest, you and partisans like you find ways to justify it.

You complain that Anon 9:32 simplifies a lot of things that are more complex than that. I agree 100%. But then you turn around and do the same thing. Look at your post on Obama and lipstick - you find a way to blame Obama, a guy with the wrong letter after his name, for using a cliche that's probably older than the U.S. itself.

Look, you're a hell of a lot more respectable than most partisans, but you've got to stop pretending that you're really that different. You're still willing to find ways to make the other guy wrong and justify your guy (and girl) for being right.

Bottom line: you cannot possibly be partisan and intellectually honest at the same time. Your blog and Seth's prove that.

Rick Esenberg said...


I don't doubt that my preferences color the way that I see things. This is one of the reasons that I try not to go medieval on the other side and tell my students that they will never upset me by telling me that I am wrong. Indeed, in my Wisconsin Supreme Court class last year, I gave the award for highest grade to a guy who criticized my views on the role of the judiciary.

I am quite aware of the possibiity that I may be fooled by my inner partisan. He's a hungry fellow.

But I stand by my post on Obama and the lipstick comment. I think it is more likely than not that he was trying to riff off Palin's joke, although I don't think he thought much about how people might see it, i.e., that she was the lipstick on the Republican pig and that this has sexist implications. For reasons unfathomable to me, however, he reinforced that notion on Letterman.

He should have known that he was stepping into it. I tried to explain that, given the nature of politics and the way in which people see questions of race and gender, there are certain things that you need to avoid. Obama is very sensitive to the former, but not so much to the latter and that has caused him trouble.

But I didn't call him a sexist and I did not misrepresent what he said.

Later with respect to McCain's kindergarten ad, I tried to point out what was right and wrong about it. You can disagree with me, but I think I made a good faith effort to call it as I see it.

Perhaps my blog is an example of "everything that's wrong with politics," although I think that position is facially preposterous. In fact, you may want to reflect on your own assertion that I would have lambasted a Democrat whose child became pregnant before marriage when you knew precisely nothing about my own experience and response to it. Where was your own partisanship in that piece of presumption?

But let me suggest an alternative position. My reaction to the post by the anonymous guy is that he just misstated stuff with no effort to justify his assertion. I am trying to explain why I think the way that I do. I might be wrong. I might be led astray by my inner partisan. Call me on that. But to say that I am just like that guy is, I'm sorry, ridiculous.

You say that you can't be partisan and intellectually honest. This presumes that there is a non-partisan stance that is intellectually honest. Some position of complete neutrality and disinterest.

It doesn't exist - at least afer you've begun to develop preferences on matters of public policy which you will once you begin to know anything about them. We all have our biases. Our challenge is to discipline them - and to be honest about them.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Rick, but I think that TosaVoter has nailed you to the wall. You're trying to be the Marquette version of Althouse, but you can't resist the urge to defend all things wingnut and attack all things Obama.

Just like MULS doesn't remotely measure up to the UW Law School, you're no Althouse.

Anonymous said...

anon 7:53

Hey...if you are going to throw personal attacks at Rick, why don't you give your name? Too much of a chicken s#*#?

People who function on a lower intellectual level, insult others because they are not capable of presenting arguments. Sounds like you anon.

John Foust said...

Anonymity brings out the worst in some people. Instead of insulting them right back, I prefer to remind them that ad hominem attacks do not strengthen their arguments.

Anonymous said...


People like anon 7:53 would not understand that. They are so full of animosity that rational thought is not an option.

Peter Heyne said...

Readers may appreciate a direct link to Charles Krauthammer's piece in the Washington Post on the "Bush doctrine(s)":

In reply to "anothertosavoter," who wished Mrs. Palin to correct Mr. Gibson's error, I quote Mr. Krauthammer:

"Presidential doctrines are inherently malleable and difficult to define. The only fixed 'doctrines' in American history are the Monroe and the Truman doctrines which come out of single presidential statements during administrations where there were few other contradictory or conflicting foreign policy crosscurrents.

Such is not the case with the Bush doctrine."

Readers may also want a direct link to to the White House's official "National Security Strategy," updated March 2006:

Peter Heyne said...

Here are the clickable links:

White House Strategy

Krauthammer piece

Terrence Berres said...

Anonymous 7:53: "you're no Althouse."

Althouse: "The fact that there is an old expression isn't enough. What if Obama opponents took to saying 'pot calling the kettle black' or 'call a spade a spade'."

Anonymous said...

3rd way:

What were your thoughts regarding Obama not knowing that Russia has UN Security council veto power? He obviously does not know based on his responses regarding Russia and Georgia? This is a much bigger deal than Palin not knowing the term "Bush Doctrine"

I think you need to change your moniker from 3rd way to Obama apologist.

AnotherTosaVoter said...


I was out of line with my comment, and I apologize. I was on my third cocktail of the night, which I needed because political hacks are making my work life exceedingly difficult.

That being said, I don't see how an educated person can watch Ms. Palin's interview and be impressed. It was repetition of talking points. She sounded like a small-town city council member, which would be fine were she not running for Vice President.

As to your comment on Ms. Palin's daughter, you are half right - the first time I mentioned the topic in these comments, I specifically said I doubted you'd be an attack dog were the circumstances opposite. I cannot help but notice you have only addressed what your own opinion would be, and have neither agreed nor disagreed about what I believe would be a major line of attack by the right-wing hack-ocracy under those circumstances.

Any way I apologize again. While your posts are quite obviously partisan in nature, our political discourse would be far better off if it all resembled your blog.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Peter Henye:

Why didn't Ms. Palin answer as you or Mr. Krauthamer did? That the "Bush Doctrine" is nuanced and has several corollaries?

She doesn't know what it is, not even the commonly-accepted version of supporting pre-emptive strikes.