Palin: A mystery woman comes into focus

Scrutinizing Sarah Palin

I watched Sarah Palin’s first national TV interview last week with mixed emotions: “sorrow, pity, incredulity—and fear,” said Fred Kaplan in Speaking variously in platitudes, non sequiturs, and rote-memorized talking points, the woman asking us to put her a heartbeat away from the presidency—“and a 72-year-old cancer survivor’s heartbeat, at that”—gave the impression of someone who “had never given a moment’s thought to these matters before two weeks ago.” The most excruciating moment, said Ellis Henican in Newsday, came when ABC’s Charles Gibson asked the Alaska governor whether she agreed with “the Bush Doctrine.” Staring back “like a moose in headlights,” Palin first fished for hints—“In what respect, Charlie?”—and then lamely offered up, “His worldview?” I’m not saying our presidents need advanced degrees in international relations, but is it asking too much that Palin at least have heard of the “basic underpinning of American foreign policy” in the 21st century?

That’s utterly unfair, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. The term “Bush Doctrine” in fact has had several meanings over the years—from Bush’s threat to treat states that harbor terrorists as harshly as states that sponsor terrorism, to the goal of spreading democracy. So Palin was totally within her rights to ask Gibson for clarification. Palin probably could have “answered some things better,” said Kathryn Jean Lopez in National Review Online. But all in all, she “did just fine.” On the land-mine-laden topics of Pakistan and Israel, she gave diplomatic answers; she refused to be cornered into either denying global warming or conceding it’s entirely the product of human activity; and she impressed many with her “no-surrender, take-no-crap conservative sense.” Besides, at the end of the day, it’s Palin’s refreshing attitude, not any wonkish command of detail, that “might just take McCain/Palin to victory in November.”

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