Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Survives Charlie Gibson

Gov. Sarah Palin's much anticipated interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson went well, all in all. The context did not allow the dynamic Saracuda that wowed us during the convention, but nonetheless, she proved, once again, that she is literally ready for prime time.

Palin has taken the most criticism from the mainstream media for asking Gibson to be more specific when he asked her what she thought about the "Bush Doctrine." Supposedly, this was Gibson's "gotcha" moment.

Palin, however, handled the question just like any attorney would instruct a witness: never guess at the questioner's meaning; if you don't understand the question, ask for clarification. It was therefore not only appropriate but wise for Palin to ask Gibson "what respect" of the Bush Doctrine he wanted her to address.

Gibson's question showed the extent to which the networks and The New York Times form their own echo chamber. Gibson forgot that the term "Bush Doctrine" came from the media elites; it's a made-up name.

And as Karl Rove -- who knows a little about the Bush Administration -- said on the O'Reilly Factor tonight, there are four different foreign policy applications that get characterized as "The Bush Doctrine." Rove observed that Gibson used iteration number two of the doctrine as the premise of his question, whereas Palin's answer seemed to refer to the fourth iteration. Bottom line: the question was unclear without defining the term "Bush Doctrine", and Palin was correct to force Gibson to be more precise.

Gibson was reasonably fair. He was more condescending the first night. Gibson's lowest moment came when he asked Palin to detail all her overseas travel for her entire life, and forced her to admit that she's never met a genuine "head of state." Implicitly, Gibson seemed to looking down at Palin for not having taken a World Tour, like Obama. Gibson was too polite to call Palin a hick, but he made clear his judgment: Obama is cosmopolitan and international; Palin is not. Gibson's elitism contrasted nicely with Palin's spunky populism.

Palin was stronger tonight on domestic issues. Her deeper knowledge of issues like energy and cutting local property taxes allowed her to relax and answer more spontaneously.

Gibson seemed ready to say "gotcha" again when the discussion turned to the federal budget, and how a McCain budget would differ from the Bush administration's budget. Palin responded in a very Reaganesque manner: cut waste, increase efficiency. Gibson pressed her on entitlements and made the bizarre assertion that agencies have nothing to do with entitlements. Palin refused to be intimidated and insisted that savings could be found in the agencies themselves. And she's right. Social Security checks don't spring from the ground; they are generated by a massive bureaucracy that undoubtedly can be streamlined.

Perhaps Palin's best moment occurred when Gibson tried to draw a wedge between her views on energy and Sen. John McCain's, particularly with respect to drilling in ANWR. It was a moment when Palin was Palin. She acknowledged that McCain opposes drilling in ANWR but said she's working on him. And the twinkle in her eye suggested that she'll be relentless on the subject -- almost pit bull-like -- until she has convinced McCain to drill.

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