Saturday, September 13, 2008

It Was Charlie Gibson, Not Palin, Who Flunked The "Bush Doctrine" Test

Today Charles Krauthamer defines the "Bush Doctrine" as the term was originally used. As Krauthamer notes, he was "the first to use the term":

In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of the Weekly Standard entitled, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism," I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

That was the "Bush Doctrine" until September 11, 2001:

Then came 9/11, and that notion was immediately superseded by the advent of the war on terror. In his address to the joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11, President Bush declared: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." This "with us or against us" policy regarding terror -- first deployed against Pakistan when Secretary of State Colin Powell gave President Musharraf that seven-point ultimatum to end support for the Taliban and support our attack on Afghanistan -- became the essence of the Bush doctrine.

The third "Bush Doctrine" -- the one Charles Gibson apparently was referring to in his interview with Governor Palin -- emerged with the invasion of Iraq:

. . . A year later, when the Iraq war was looming, Bush offered his major justification by enunciating a doctrine of preemptive war. This is the one Charlie Gibson thinks is the Bush doctrine.

But Gibson's definition of the "Bush Doctrine" is not the one currently being used:

[T]he third in a series . . . was superseded by the fourth and current definition of the Bush doctrine, the most sweeping formulation of the Bush approach to foreign policy and the one that most clearly and distinctively defines the Bush years: the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world. It was most dramatically enunciated in Bush's second inaugural address: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

So which definition was Palin supposed to assume that Gibson meant when he asked the question: "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"

Cynics would say it was a trick question. I don't think that was Gibson's intent. As Krauthamer argues, and I agree, Gibson asked an ambiguous question that he didn't even know was ambiguous. He was like the kid who thought he was smarter than he was and didn't need to study for the test:

Yes, Sarah Palin didn't know what it is. But neither does Charlie Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, sighing and "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the mother of five who presumes to play on their stage.

Gibson, not Palin, missed the question.

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