08.31.2009 0

The Palin-Gibson Interview and Why It Still Matters

  • On: 09/15/2009 09:44:16
  • In: Sarah Palin

  • by David Bozeman

    Bill O’Reilly recently suggested that Charles Gibson was booted as ABC’s anchor partly because of negative viewer reaction to his icy, condescending interview with Sarah Palin in September of ’08, just after her vice-presidential nomination. That may be a stretch, and guest Bernard Goldberg countered that most ABC News watchers are probably not Palin fans anyway, but that interview, particularly that one moment — you know the one — will haunt the former governor for the rest of her political life.

    That single exchange dominates public perception of her interview and her candidacy. Most of us bristle when we watch it. Gibson: “What is your opinion of the Bush Doctrine?” Palin: ” . . . In what respect, Charlie?” Palin supporters slough it off, given that it was her first one-on-one, adding that at least she was natural and not programmed with glib talking points. Besides, they add, there is no one definitive Bush Doctrine. Still, conservatives can concede that Palin did fumble the question and that preparedness for the world’s highest jobs is a viable concern.

    One can lament, like talking to a brick wall, that Barack Obama and other Democrats need never qualify their intelligence or backgrounds. Despite the Internet and alternative outlets such as Fox News, liberals, by way of the media, still define the political landscape, thus Republicans such as George W. Bush are quizzed on the leaders of foreign nations while Democrats with wafer-thin resumes by-pass the foreign policy what-ifs and coast on the auras of their ‘brilliant’ minds. Only Hillary Clinton made Obama’s lack of readiness a campaign issue.

    Taking time out from more urgent discussion, conservatives, including this writer, have penned countless articles defending Palin from the perception that she is a lightweight unprepared for national leadership — the left’s knack for defining the argument strikes again. Interestingly enough, and forgotten by even some of her most ardent supporters, Palin did, in fact, present a solid foreign policy vision in that interview.

    Gibson, peering over his glasses and down his nose, asked Palin if she believed, as she had supposedly said in church, that the US was fighting a holy war. “Exact words,” he reminded her. With nary a hesitation, she explained that she was recalling the words of Lincoln: “Let us pray not that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.” She continued that we enjoy freedoms that many of us take for granted: ‘I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.” While not a unique vision built on tactical specifics, it is a far cry from the widely accepted Tina Fey caricature who chirps, “I can see Russia from my front porch!” Palin’s clarity and love of country was eclipsed by her own stumble minutes earlier and, finally, by Obama’s deep, silky pitches for hope, change and other generalities.

    One of the sad realities of political life is that style often tops substance on the national radar, and statesmen have to work twice as hard to keep pace with snake oil salesmen. True, a number of factors contributed to the Republican defeat of ’08, with the Gibson interview barely even a factor. Nonetheless, a prevalent theme of last year’s campaign was that for vice-president, experience mattered, while for president, concerns such as readiness and foreign policy were tabled. We are now saddled with a president whose ideology was shaped by Reverend Wright and Chicago radicals, who was hungry for the advice of 9/11 ‘truther’ Van Jones and is open to actually prosecuting the interrogators who protected us from terrorists.
    The leadership America needs is revealed not in academic pedigree or IQ scores or gotcha lightning-round questions.

    It is measured by one’s patriotism and regard for individual autonomy. Everyday citizens who dig beneath the sound bites and pop-culture perceptions will see that Obama’s dismissal of average Americans clinging to guns and religion and his dubious associations were far bigger red flags than Sarah Palin’s stumble. As she continues her foray into public life, she will have to define herself as well as her own personal vision. If she can overcome the biases of the mainstream media, she can hold her own with any world leader, and her Gibson interview is less a snapshot of her worst moment than a warning to the next conservative superstar.

    David Bozeman is a Liberty Features Syndicate writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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