early and often

Palin’s First Interview Impresses Few, Concerns Many

The big news out of Sarah Palin’s interview with Charles Gibson (who, so far, is easing fears that he’d be about as tough on Palin as on his own granddaughter) is that Palin seemed unsure of how to answer a question on the “Bush Doctrine” because she didn’t know what it was. It’s hard to tell, though, whether this will matter to voters — is the average voter familiar with the Bush Doctrine? In fact, experts today are debating whether there really is a single, clear-cut Bush Doctrine or whether it’s been used to mean different things at different times. Even allowing for some leeway, however, many saw in Palin’s overall performance proof of a foreign-policy novice quickly forced to cram for her first big test.

• Eve Fairbanks thinks Palin “looked tightly wound and sounded talking-point-programmed.” Though she is surely intelligent, “she sounded like someone who had simply never had to think about many of the things Gibson asked and had just crammed for a test.” [Stump/New Republic]

• Alessandra Stanley says Palin “didn’t look rattled or lose her cool … but she skittered through with general answers, sticking to talking points that flowed out quickly and spiritedly, a little too much by rote.” She sometimes “looked like a student trying to bend prepared answers to fit unexpected questions.” [NYT]

• Steve Benen thinks Palin appeared “unprepared, programmed, and generally unaware of current events.” She was “just wrong” on the origins of the war between Russia and Georgia, didn’t “have the foggiest idea what the Bush Doctrine is,” and “really didn’t want to answer an important question about U.S. strikes in Pakistan.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Howard Wolfson thinks Palin “didn’t say anything disqualifying, but it is unlikely that anyone watching would have come away sanguine about her ability to step in as President on Day One if necessary.” [Hack/New Republic]

• Joan Walsh, acknowledging the risk of sounding sexist, writes that “Palin sometimes reminded me of poor Miss South Carolina,” and John McCain should be ashamed “to have picked someone as ignorant and unready to be president as Sarah Palin.” [Salon]

• Greg Sargent thinks Palin’s answer on the Bush Doctrine “could have a serious impact on the race, unless everyone politely agrees to ignore it.” [Election Central/Talking Points Memo]

• Craig Crawford thinks the Bush Doctrine answer revealed “surprising unsteadiness on a critical military policy question that should have been a no-brainer for the Iraq War supporter.” When she finally answered, her “rambling sounded like she was afraid that it was a trick question.” [CQ Politics]

• Chuck Todd and friends write that while it “didn’t seem to be a complete and utter disaster,” Palin probably “won’t be the campaign’s go-to person for the Sunday shows just yet.” The “biggest question” is how Saturday Night Live will “play it” — will they “exaggerate her deer-in-the-headlights response to the ‘Bush Doctrine’ question,” or “will it portray a mean, unfair, and condescending Charlie Gibson”? [First Read/MSNBC]

• Marc Ambinder also calls the “Bush Doctrine” question Palin’s “deer-in-headlights moment.” [Atlantic]

• Richard Kim believes that “even if Palin looked like a moose in headlights, even if she eventually confused preventive and preemptive war — it might not matter,” because she “ultimately hit the right emotional notes.” [Notion/Nation]

• Michael Crowley suggests we cut Palin some slack on the Bush Doctrine “in part because I hesitated myself about its precise meaning, and even its (sensible) Wikipedia definition suggests it can mean different things.” The greater concern “was her refusal to state explicitly her view on unilateral American attacks against terrorists in the tribal areas of Pakistan.” [Stump/New Republic]

• Richard Starr disputes the idea that Palin’s Bush Doctrine answer was “revelatory of inexperience” since, “as it happens, the doctrine has no universally acknowledged single meaning. … Preemptive war; American unilateralism; the overthrow of regimes that harbor and abet terrorists — all of these things and more have been described as the ‘Bush Doctrine.’” [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Ta-Nehisi Coates claims that “[y]ou simply can’t be a credible VP nominee and have no idea what the Bush doctrine is.” Admittedly, there are possibly different interpretations of what the Bush Doctrine is, but Palin “seemed to not even have a handle on any of the various definitions. It was almost as if she’d never heard the phrase.” [Atlantic]

• Andy McCarthy also contends that it “was utterly reasonable for Gov. Palin to press Charlie Gibson on what Gibson meant by the Bush Doctrine. Everyone does not mean the same thing by the term, there is lots of good faith argument about what it means.” [Corner/National Review]

• Carol Platt Liebau notes that Gibson actually didn’t quote Palin directly in his “task from God” question, “and the omission changes its substance markedly.” She suspects this is part of the plan “to make Sarah Palin sound like some kind of religious wacko.” [Town Hall]

• Kevin Drum say Palin’s remark that admitting Georgia into NATO may mean going to war with Russia “is not a gaffe of any kind. Nor is it something that Palin blurted out due to inexperience.” It is, in fact, the position of both John McCain and Barack Obama. [Mother Jones]

• Matt Yglesias agrees that both parties hold this position. But it was “a bit shocking” that Gibson and Palin could “offhandedly mention that war with Russia could be an Article V treaty obligation and then skip ahead to the next issue without dwelling at all on the fact that U.S.-Russia war could mean a full scale nuclear exchange and the death of billions of people.” [Think Progress]

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

Palin’s First Interview Impresses Few, Concerns Many