On Paper, An Excellent Performance

I didn’t get home from work in time to see Governor Sarah Palin’s performance on ABC tonight–I wonder sometimes, who does?–but I’ve read the transcript, and it appears to be an excellent job by Governor Palin. A few key exchanges, for those who, like me, couldn’t watch the interview live:

GIBSON: Governor, let me start by asking you a question that I asked John McCain about you. And it is really the central question. Can you look the country in the eye and say, I have the experience, and I have the ability to be not just vice president, but perhaps president of the United States of America?

PALIN: I do, Charlie, and on January 20th, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, we’ll be ready. I’m ready.

GIBSON: When McCain asked you to take the spot on the ticket, for a moment, did you think no?

PALIN: I did not. I thought yes, right off the bat. When he offered me the position, as his running mate, the first thing I said to him was, if you really think that I can help the ticket, if you really think that I can help this country, absolutely, I want to do this with you.

GIBSON: And you didn’t say to yourself, am I experienced enough? Am I ready?

PALIN: I didn’t hesitate, no.

You couldn’t script it better than that. Today’s interview dealt almost exclusively with foreign affairs, presumably Governor Palin’s weak spot. Nevertheless, she did very well:

GIBSON: But this is not just reforming a government. This is also running a government on the huge international stage, in a very dangerous world. When I asked John McCain about your national security credentials, he cited the fact you have command of the Alaskan National Guard and Alaska is close to Russia. Are those sufficient credentials?

PALIN: But it is about reform of government. And it’s about putting government back on the side of the people. And that has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues.

Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie. And that’s with the energy independence that I’ve been working on for these years, as the governor of this state, that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy. That I worked on as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conversation Commission, overseeing the oil and gas developments in our state, to produce more for the United States.

GIBSON: National security is a whole lot more than energy.

PALIN: It is. But – but I want you to not lose sight of the fact that energy is a foundation of national security. It’s that important. It’s that significant.

Again, I think that’s well done. A Governor does not engage in foreign policy, but Palin’s legitimate expertise with respect to one of the two or three most important foreign policy issues, energy, is a big plus.

GIBSON: Let’s start, because we are near Russia. Let’s start with Russia and Georgia. The administration has said, we’ve got to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

PALIN: First off, we’re going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak the other day and giving my commitment, as John McCain’s running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. And we have to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have asserted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable. And we have to keep …

GIBSON: You believe unprovoked?

PALIN: I do believe unprovoked. And we have to keep our eyes on Russia. Under the leadership there.

Palin is right, as we noted here. Repeatedly through the interview, she demonstrated a more sophisticated grasp of foreign policy than Gibson’s media perspective.

Some news outlets have tried to make Governor Palin sound like a warmonger on the basis of this exchange:

GIBSON: You favor putting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine definitely yes. Yes. And Georgia. Putin thinks otherwise, obviously he thinks otherwise.

GIBSON: Under the NATO treaty, wouldn’t we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. That is the agreement. When you are a NATO ally, is, if another country is attacked, you are going to be expected to be called upon and help.

That is, of course, John McCain’s position, and NATO has already said that it intends to admit Ukraine and Georgia one day. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, it’s probably Obama’s position, too.

Readers who are friends of Israel will appreciate this exchange:

GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and need to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

PALIN: Well, first, we are friends of Israel, and I don’t think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves, and for their security.

GIBSON: So if we didn’t second guess it and if they decided they needed to do it, because Iran was an existential threat, we would be cooperative or agree with that?

PALIN: I don’t think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right?

PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.

Gibson asked Palin whether she agrees with Barack Obama’s proposal to invade Pakistan (he didn’t phrase it that way, of course). Palin’s response was appropriately measured:

GIBSON: But governor, I am asking you, do we have the right, in your mind, to go across the border, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America, and our allies, we must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink, Charlie. In making those tough decisions of where we go, and even who we target.

GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there.

OK, we have to pause here. If Gibson thinks that was a “blizzard of words,” just wait until he interviews Joe Biden! For the record, Palin’s answer consisted of 43 words, not greatly longer than Gibson’s 28 word question, and shorter–less of a “blizzard”–than the very first question Gibson asked in the interview, which was 56 words long. Gibson continues:

Is that a yes, that you think we have the right to go across the border, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government? To go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?

PALIN: I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying America, and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table.

Finally, Gibson attempted a “gotcha” moment by trying to make Governor Palin look like a religious nut. A novel idea. Here is the first part of the exchange:

GIBSON: You said recently in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.”


PALIN: 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 them out on a task that is from God.


GIBSON: Are we fighting a Holy War?

This is beyond stupid. Gibson is apparently unable to parse the grammar of the prayer. Palin said, “PRAY THAT our national leaders are, etc.” She tries to explain basic Christian doctrine that is common, as far as I know, to all denominations:

PALIN: That’s a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words, when he said, first he suggested, never presume to know what God’s will is, and I would never presume to know God’s will or to speak god’s words, but what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that’s a repeat in my comments, was, let us not pray that God is on our side, in a war, or any other time. But let us pray that we are on God’s side. That’s what that comment was all about, Charlie.

There is a further colloquy in which Gibson remains clueless. He tries to resurrect his point one more time:

GIBSON: Then, are you sending your son on a task from God?

PALIN: I don’t know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision. What he decided to do, in serving for the right reasons in serving something greater than self, and not choosing a real easy path, where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer.

One of the problems with this type of interview is that the reporter–here, Charlie Gibson–thinks he is “vetting” the candidate on behalf of the people. But if you read the interview, you can see that the candidate’s IQ is 30 or 40 points higher than the reporter’s, and Gibson doesn’t do a particularly good job of keeping up. It’s safe to conclude, though, that just about anyone who watched the interview will think that Governor Palin acquitted herself admirably.

UPDATE: This is almost beyond belief. The Associated Press, which is increasingly indistinguishable from the DNC, headlines: “Palin tries to defend qualifications in interview.” The AP’s absurd account begins:

John McCain running mate Sarah Palin sought Thursday to defend her qualifications but struggled with foreign policy, unable to describe President Bush’s doctrine of pre-emptive strikes against threatening nations and acknowledging she’s never met a foreign head of state.

What’s happening here is that America’s least respected, least talented and least honorable interest group, our reporters and editors, are trying to ram their choice for President down our throats. The AP directs its “news” account, which might as well be an Obama campaign press release, toward the ignorant, that is, those who weren’t able to see or read the interview, or otherwise judge for themselves. Will the media’s effort to force the election of Barack Obama work? It’s hard to say. There is no precedent for this sort of mass mis-reporting of the news.

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