16 Sep 2008

Sarah Palin Sells the Headfake, But Gibson Doesn’t Bite–and Other Sundry Observations

All Posts No Comments

People have analyzed the heck out of Sarah Palin’s response when Charlie Gibson asked if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine. For the record, I agree that it is embarrassing that she didn’t know what it was, especially since foreign policy is her obvious weakness. On the other hand, as somebody who just got butterflies before giving an economic briefing to a bunch of 20-something Hill staffers, I know that there always exist reporters’ questions that terrify you. So I felt bad for her, perhaps in the same way that I actually felt bad for Scut Farkus (“He had yellow eyes!”) after Ralphie beat the crap out of him.

Now what interests me isn’t the demonstrated ignorance, so much as Palin’s response to the question. After Gibson asked her, she pauses for a few moments, no doubt considering that she can’t possibly give a definitive answer. She obviously can’t chance saying she doesn’t agree with it. But on the other hand, she knows it’s a trap; she can’t chance saying she does agree with it, because for all she knows, Bush made an asinine comment back in 2003 saying false intelligence claims should be a war crime.

So what does Palin decide to do? She totally bluffs!! She says, “In what respect, Charlie?” Notice the use of his first name? I really hope I don’t sound sexist here: I am just observing that this woman obviously knows some men can be charmed. (Just listen to how Rush Limbaugh gushes over her. And it’s not that he has some hidden agenda; no, I think he literally has a crush on Sarah Palin.)

Now Gibson doesn’t take the bait; he sees that she doesn’t know what it is, and he relishes the fact that he’s got her; it’s why he fumbles around a bit–I think he was trying to hold in his victory shout. This is what he had hoped for going into the interview, and now at this moment he sees he can force checkmate in three moves.

So Gibson says, “Well, what do you interpret it to be?” Now c’mon, the purpose of that is to force checkmate. That’s awesome, incidentally; that’s what journalists are supposed to do. But for the people who are saying, “What are these Republicans talking about? Gibson was just asking her questions!” I would just say, this is what they’re talking about. Gibson went in there thinking, “My job is to show the world what an idiot I know this woman is.”

Now what is hilarious about Palin is, after Gibson shows he is clearly trying to trap her, she bluffs again!! She says confidently, “His world view?” as she nods her head vigorously. In other words, she’s still trying to blow it off; she’s hoping that it won’t be so bad as it feels, that when she’s done with the interview no one will say, “OK don’t panic, we can contain this.”

So that display of Palin’s ambitious risk-taking tells me a lot more about her, than whether she knew what the Bush Doctrine was. (Just as we trust a jury of 12 average Joes–rather than a professional judge–to determine guilt or innocence, so too it might make more sense to allow an average Joe or Sarah–rather than a policy wonk–to decide whether or not to bomb another country.) The episode with Gibson also leads me to believe that she concealed her daughter’s pregnancy from the McCain campaign, and then told them as soon as it was clear there was no turning back on her.

This leads to another issue: Why is everyone mad at the poor vetting done by the McCain campaign? Suppose instead of learning about the pregnancy, instead we learned that the McCain camp forced every daughter of every VP contender to take a pregnancy test with a female McCain staffer who actually watches the girl pee on the tab (or whatever). Can you imagine how crazy the Democrats would go over that? “This foreshadows the police state McCain wants to install! Are we going to trust this monster with our reproductive freedoms?!?!”

Now let’s make sure everyone understands this last point: I am saying there are thousands of people in this country who would (a) Be horrified at what McCain would have had to do to learn about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy if her mother didn’t volunteer the information, and yet at the same time (b) Are horrified that McCain picked a VP candidate who had a pregnant daughter. Isn’t that a bit odd, that McCain is reviled on this score no matter what he did? (I suppose he could, as a rule, only consider candidates without children, but then people would be mad about that policy, too.)

Last issue about Palin: I am ashamed to admit that only when my wife told me yesterday did I learn about Palin’s mayoral policy of making rape victims pay for the police to administer the kit (necessary to identify the assailant). I was puzzled at first, because I had heard tons of criticism of Palin, yet not a word about this rape kit deal. But then I realized what had happened: All of the criticisms I had heard were audio clips played by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. So of course they are only going to play ridiculous things, like the Pontius Pilate analogy.

I can imagine some hardcore libertarians saying, “What’s your problem? Those are tax dollars. Do people have a right to rape kits now?” However, things are a bit more complicated than that. Most obvious, the government forbids competing judicial and enforcement providers. Also, the price of those rape kits is way higher ($300 to $1200!!) than it would be in an open market. So suppose the government monopolized water, and then insisted that everyone pay $10 per gallon. Would that be responsible stewardship of tax dollars, or instead would it be criminal?

Comments are closed.