The Corner

My Take on The Palin Interview — So Far

There was a lot in the interview she could — and should — have waved off as hypothetical or said it would depend on the context. Because A) that’s what 90% of seasoned politicians say and B) because 90% of seasoned politicians say that sort of thing because it’s the right answer. Invade Pakistan? It depends. What’s the nature of the threat? What’s our relationship with the Pakistani regime? What are our alternatives? Is Nato with us? Her ultimate answer was right, of course. We should invade Pakistan if, absent any other option, our national security is at stake. But I think Palin needs to walk through that stuff a bit better, or just dismiss the questions with boilerplate. I think her response on Israel was largely right for the same reasons. At the end of the day we shouldn’t — and can’t — second guess Israel if they feel they’re in mortal danger. We may be able to restrain Israel on the timing of the small stuff, but if they feel like Iran’s an existential threat, how does Charlie Gibson or anybody else propose stopping them? Are we going to bomb Israel to prevent it from bombing Iran? Hardly. 

Anyway, I’m not saying Palin should dodge or be fake about anything. But on foreign policy almost all “statesmen” and “experts on international affairs” use code phrases to dodge offering firm answers because that’s the responsible thing for them to do. There are some commitments we don’t make in campaigns.

Politically, I think she seemed a bit nervous and offered some phrasing that will cause the people who already hate her irrationally to irrationally hate her some more. Beyond that, she did herself little to no harm and came across as a real person put in an unreal situation which is pretty much the reality of things. She beat the expectations her biggest detractors set for her and at least met the expectations of everyone else. There were no huge gaffes (though her answer on the Bush Doctrine came close I thought), despite what lunacy you may read at TPM or elsewhere.

But I must say, I don’t understand why anyone would give Kathryn grief for saying Palin wasn’t at her best, unless you honestly think this is the best interview performance Palin will ever give. I doubt that very much. Good politicians are quick studies and she is a good politician. Once she figures out how this game is played (and I don’t mean game in the trivializing way) she’ll do better and better. It only gets easier.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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