The Corner

The Palin Interview

The very rough editing job by ABC makes you yearn to see the whole thing, and hopefully they’ll make it available. But from what they showed, Palin comes off a bit nervous but pretty strong. Her instincts and basic views seem to be in the right place (and of course, by the nature of the VP role, are where John McCain is too). Substantively there was nothing (for me) to disagree with and essentially nothing to criticize. She swatted away the “are you saying the war is a mission from God” nonsense very effectively and calmly—and the question really seems very silly if you actually listen to what she says in that clip from her church.

She’s only met as many world leaders as most governors have, and she’s only traveled to as many countries as most Americans have—hardly disqualifying for a vice president, though it would certainly be nice if she were more worldly; I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to raise those questions. She would have done well to have spoken about judgment and decision-making experience in response to Gibson’s queries about foreign policy experience and, as Joe Biden would have, to answer a good number of the questions she was asked with “that all depends on the circumstances.”

The only real problem spot, I’d say, was her asking Charlie Gibson which aspect of the Bush Doctrine he was referring to. It certainly seemed like she didn’t know what it was—whether that’s the case or not. Gibson’s clarification, by the way, didn’t help all that much, or at least wasn’t quite accurate. The Bush Doctrine originally referred to the policy of treating nations that harbor terrorists as terrorists themselves. It has since also come to include other elements, like regime change and democracy promotion as elements of the war on terror, and preemption in the face of evident but less-than-imminent threats. Gibson’s description—“The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us,” wasn’t a good description of even the preemption element of the Bush doctrine (and his claim that the preemption element was enunciated in September of 02 is also incorrect), though Palin’s answer suggested she didn’t quite agree with Bush on the question of imminence. Neither one of them came off too well from the exchange, but only one of them is running for office and Palin should have done better with that one.

On the whole a good start, though perhaps not a great one. Tough questions, all handled well, and a decent command of complicated issues. How many members of Congress, for instance, would have done as well? I’ll be curious to see the full transcript and video, and the remaining clips to air tonight and tomorrow.

And by the way, when do we get to hear Barack Obama explain why he thinks he’s ready on day one?

Yuval Levin — Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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