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It Was Gibson’s Gaffe
Which made the smug condescension all the more precious.


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Charles Krauthammer

This declaration of a sweeping, universal American freedom agenda was consciously meant to echo John Kennedy’s pledge that the United States “shall pay any price, bear any burden . . . to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” It draws also from the Truman doctrine of March 1947 and from Wilson’s 14 points.

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If I were in any public foreign-policy debate today, and my adversary were to raise the Bush doctrine, both I and the audience would assume — unless my interlocutor annotated the reference otherwise — that he was speaking about Bush’s grandly proclaimed (and widely attacked) freedom agenda.

Not the Gibson doctrine of pre-emption.

Not the “with us or against us” no-neutrality-is-permitted policy of the immediate post-9/11 days.

Not the unilateralism that characterized the pre-9/11 first year of the Bush administration.

Presidential doctrines are inherently malleable and difficult to define. The only fixed “doctrines” in American history are the Monroe and the Truman doctrines, which came out of single presidential statements during administrations where there were few conflicting foreign-policy crosscurrents.

Such is not the case with the Bush doctrine.

Yes, Palin didn’t know what it is. But neither does Gibson. And at least she didn’t pretend to know — while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, “sounding like an impatient teacher,” as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes’ reaction to the phenom who presumes to play on their stage.

Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist.

© 2008, The Washington Post Writers Group



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