Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin's ABC Interview

So I promised to start poli-blogging, and this is as good a place as any to start. Side Note: it's apparently being aired tonight, but basically the whole things available online, I'm less focusing on the whole interview than on the blog fights I'm seeing around it, which are basically indicative of how people interpret the show.

I'm seeing much being made of the distinction about whether Palin said that Iraq was a Holy War or whether she was quoting Lincoln in saying we needed to pray that Iraq was part of God's plan. (Examples on the pro-Palin side: Michelle Malkin and Ace of Spades, on the anti-Palin side: Blogwogo).

Personally, I think it's a wash politically. 1) Of course someone from an evangelical stance would want to pray about it. 2) Of course anyone who supports the war in Iraq will believe that we have prayed about it and God's answer was "yes." Those who support Palin will feel that at last they can have a leader who understands the importance of including prayer and an honest seeking of God's will in government, and those who don't support her will be horrified to think that anyone presumes to interpret for God in this manner.

Side Note #2 - Interestingly, I found it far easier to pull examples from pro-Palin sides upset about what anti-Palins are saying than to pull anti-Palin comments - the pro-Palins seem to be refuting a hype that isn't really happening. Not sure how to interpret that one yet, whether the pro-Palins are hyper-sensitive, or it's a pre-emptive strike, or there are simply more pro-Palin bloggers.

My opinion? I don't like anyone invoking God in a political cause, simply because there's too much divergence of opinion as to what God is saying to different people. Also, as I pointed out to relatives who want prayer re-established in schools because "we are a Christian majority nation": and what will you do if Christianity becomes the minority? I may be Christian personally, but I don't like anything that invokes God as a support for your public policy, no matter if it's Palin or Lincoln saying so. I'm not horrified by the quote, and I understand where she's drawing from, but I'm inclined to go the other direction. Still, as I said, it's a political wash.

I was far more interested in the varied interpretations of her remarks on the Bush doctrine.

There's a bunch of kerfluffle on the blogs about this, too, and opinions seem rather split along party lines (surprise, surprise), with some feeling that her remarks showed tremendous political savvy:
Of course, the actual Bush Doctrine is a bit more complex than the AP makes it out — and Palin’s response to Gibson’s question — “In what respect?” — is, as Pablo points out in the comments to the previous post, a perfectly clearheaded response to a foreign policy plan that is far more intricate than the AP presents it, and that has been expanded upon by a long history of those who’ve presumed to define it. Just because the press can’t be bothered to think in anything more than soundbites doesn’t mean a Governor or VP candidate should oblige. (from Protein Wisdom)

And others feeling they showed a complete unfamiliarity of basic foreign policy:
Without being smarmy about it or unfurling gotcha questions, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson demonstrated that he knows volumes more about national security and foreign policy than does Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. (from Slate)

And commenters basically feeling that Gibson was being condescending and women will backlash against his picking on Palin:
I’m sitting here listening to Fox and Friends and these guys talking about the Palin interview. What a bunch of condescending Jerks. Saying things like if she can’t handle Charlie Gibson she’s obviously not ready to be Vice President etc… And something about whining. Do they have any idea how pissed off women get when they are talked down to like that. Basically, they were saying yeah you’re a really sweet gal, but you can’t handle the big leagues baby… (Pats on head).I’m so damn mad right now as I’m sure a lot of women are. Why can’t they just give her a little basic respect? ( comment from Hot Air)

My take: After watching the clip a bunch of times, I don't think she knew what he meant by the Bush doctrine. On the other hand, she was smart enough not to stare blankly, but to try to reframe the question to her advantage, which shows basic competence and an ability to speak off the cuff. That said, if I were her, I'd fire her preparers.

I'm not surprised she didn't know what it was - as many pro-Palin commenters pointed out, most of the American public couldn't define it. However, many Americans can't tell you who we've invaded recently and have no basic handle on FISA or what the tax plans of the respective parties actually are beyond the sound bites they get from commercials, simply because they don't need it for their professions. It annoys the hell out of me, but I am coming to terms with that. Leaders, on the other hand, I expect to know this shit. So I'm a tad concerned. As a female, I'm even more concerned with the commenters, of whom I've excerpted only one, who felt that hard questions for her are "picking on" the girl. We'd better ask these questions, of all the candidates, and expect reasonable, competent answers. We're interviewing for a rather important job here, folks.

Finally, there's the Georgia issue. Politically, I think it's a wash to some degree, but I'm troubled by it. As the news is reporting, she pretty much advocates admitting Georgia into NATO, which as Gibson points out in the interview, means that if Russia tries invading them again, we are obligated to go their aid militarily:
GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.

GIBSON: Because Putin has said he would not tolerate NATO incursion into the Caucasus.

PALIN: Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO.

Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but...

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

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

Anti-Palin bloggers are making much of this - she advocates war with Russia! Pro-Palins are pointing out that Biden also issued a statement in favor of extending Membership Action Plans (MAPs) to Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia. Hence, the political wash.

That said, I'm bothered by it. Frankly, I disagree with both of them. From what I've seen of the latest conflict, Georgia is not ready for admission. Yes, Russia invaded Georgia, a country which seceded from the former Soviet Union, which smacks of bullying and revived the spectre of the cold war. But the fact remains that Georgia invaded South Ossetia, which was attempting to secede from Georgia, which was not the best idea in the first place. So, to make the scenario overly simplistic by removing all historical context on motivation and simply dealing with who's invading who, we have a big bully picking on a smaller bully. If these were your friends, would you like to irrevocably bind yourself to defend one or the other of them no matter what? I personally don't think so. The region is far too unstable to be ready for that kind of commitment. Yes, a MAP is not an admission, just a final step toward it, so there is some argument that by the time Georgia would actually be admitted this would all have been sorted out. Color me cynical, but I'm not buying it. This is a serious kind of commitment they're talking here, and the resources necessary would be insane (never get involved in a land war in Asia), and I'm not convinced we'd be "on God's side," to jump back to the first part of the post. Yes, democracy is good and I'd like to see it defended. But recall that Iraq under Sadaam was theoretically a puppet democracy. It's not the label, but the actions that count. I'd want to see a demonstrated commitment to democratic ideals, not just labels, from a country prior to commiting to mutual defense, and the situation there is simply too murky to go ahead yet, IMHO.

So, by my scorecard:
  1. Iraq as a holy war - a push, those who agree will applaud it, those who don't will be horrified. I'm not favorably inclined toward it, but neither am I shocked by it.
  2. Unfamiliarity with the Bush Doctrine - troubling to me, but people who vote by sound-bite won't care.
  3. Georgia's NATO admission - will get a lot of press, and I think it's a bad position to take, but it appears both sides are taking it to some degree, so that will probably be a political wash as well.

UPSHOT: I'm not favorably impressed by her so far, but disagree with most people about how and why (big surprise). I think people are focusing too much on nitpicking red herrings and cherry-picking perspectives that support what they already believe (again, big shock). Finally. . . . although this is an interesting debate, and makes good press, can we at some point focus on what the actual presidential candidates have to say? I'd really like to know.

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