Don’t Poke the Bear?

Did the ABC News/Charles Gibson Interview Reveal More About Gibson?

As I watched the first Gibson interview with Sarah Palin, I commented that the banner headlines in the mainstream media would shout that Palin lacks the experience and judgment to be president because she supports admission of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and that she did not know what the Bush Doctrine was.

To be honest, I thought the Bush Doctrine amounted to “America will treat other nations that harbor or aid terrorists – as terrorists” with the promise that the terrorists would be hunted down and defeated. According to Charles Gibson, I was wrong – it was the doctrine of “anticipatory strike” or “pre-emptive war” that Gibson identified as the Bush Doctrine.

As it turns out, I was no more wrong than any other American – or Governor Palin herself – in not getting Gibson’s interpretation. I just assumed since he is a very well informed member of the media, his interpretation was the only correct one. A blog on Weekly Standard here suggests there is no one fully agreed-upon meaning of the Bush Doctrine, but the most common one cited in ABC News’ own reportage happens to be the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” theme that if you harbor or aid a terrorist, we will recognize you as a terrorist (the one that came to my mind as I watched the interview).

Charles Gibson seemed horrified at Palin’s unflinching support for Georgia – and later mention of Ukraine – entering NATO. The idea that when one NATO ally is attacked it is considered an attack on the whole alliance was perceived as a foolhardy provocation of Russia. Palin reminded Gibson that we do have the same obligation to our existing NATO partners – something of which he is keenly aware. The “Don’t Poke the Bear” mentality of the Democrats and the mainstream media didn’t immediately register with Palin – she simply restated her support of the states in which Russia has shown an expansionist interest.

Score points for global impact wisdom on Palin’s part for deflecting questions about whether the U.S. has a right to cross the Afghanistan – Pakistan border without Pakistan’s permission. Such incursions were authorized by Bush to chase down border insurgents who support the Taliban from “safe havens” within Pakistan. President Bush recently signed a “secret” finding authorizing such attacks (which is why it’s an issue). Palin was smart enough to realize it is not the place of a candidate to second-guess the diplomatic implications of such a finding resorting to the tried and true “all options should be on the table”. Had she said “yes”, she could then be accused of creating an international diplomatic incident with Pakistan and if she said, “no” she would be making an un-supported comment about the current administration’s policy. Neither Clinton nor the current president Bush made such mistakes when they were running. Criticizing the current president’s approach on such issues is one thing, making a blanket statement about an ongoing diplomatic issue – especially with Pakistan’s government in a state of flux – would be outright stupid (which apparently Gibson thinks Palin is).

I have to admit, I wasn’t dazzled by Palin’s overall performance, but I was impressed – especially by two important things:

  1. Gibson treated her seriously and with respect. He focused on issues that are important to Democrats and their supporters in the media (her faith, for example) but he also covered real substantive issues our next Vice President needs to be informed about. He didn’t condescend to her or make any play to the “girl power” mentality other media hypesters have done. In fact, he treated her the same way he would have treated any other Republican.
  2. Palin, on being challenged about a stand on global warming where she has moved toward McCain’s position insisted she was not making political adjustments to accommodate McCain. Later, when a related issue came up, she struck a position opposite that of McCain (drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve). When Gibson reminded her that McCain’s position was against drilling in ANWR, she said that is an area where they’ll have to agree to disagree – but she’ll continue to work on McCain. BINGO! A president needs a vice president who will support him when it matters, replace him when it is necessary and stand up to him when he needs diverse points of view to make the tough decisions called for by his office. Clearly, if they win in November, McCain will have that kind of vice president.

As for the “how many world leaders have you met” qualifying question Gibson repeated throughout one segment of the interview, I am stunned that Palin didn’t retort, “actually, two more than Obamma met before his world tour last month”. If meeting world leaders while on a whirlwind campaign tour in Europe and the Middle East is a qualification to be president, she can punch that ticket with an airplane reservation. I’d be willing to donate my miles.

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