Palin on the Bush doctrine

September 12, 2008 at 10:45 am | Posted in U.S. Politics | Leave a comment

Well, you can’t become an expert in foreign policy in just two weeks, and it seems there’s still some ground she hasn’t covered yet….

In the interests of fairness, I suppose we should remember that Sarah Palin didn’t really need to know what the ‘Bush doctrine’ was back in 2002; she’d just finished her second term as Mayor of Wasilla and had lost her bid to become Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor. All her politics was local, and she wasn’t required to have a view on anything beyond the Alaska state lines until about two weeks ago. It’s not Sarah Palin’s fault that the Republican nominee for Vice President can’t speak with authority and expertise on foreign policy; it’s John McCain’s. You can’t, with the best will in the world, learn how to think about foreign policy in two weeks; the best you can hope for is the ability to speak about it, and to a journalist, Charlie Gibson, who is generally regarded as a fairly third-rate interviewer. Her answers in this part of the interview seemed so couched and contrived that it seemed she was merely stringing together talking points, rather than trying to engage with the question itself. At this point, we have no way of knowing whether what comes out of her mouth is what she thinks or what she is told to say, which is fairly worrying when you’re talking about someone who might be President one day.

The following excerpt sums this problem up fairly well:

GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we’re going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.(emphasis mine)

The first, most literal interpretation of this is that McCain/Palin doesn’t currently regard war as a last option. Perhaps, one day, with the forging of new alliances & working with existing allies, there may come a point where war is a last option, but at the moment it’s just a goal to be strived for. The more generous interpretation is that Ms Palin does genuinely regard war as a last resort, but was so concerned with compensating for her lack of expertise with hawkish words about ‘eliminating’ those ‘hell-bent’ on destroying the country, that she couldn’t formulate an answer in a way people would understand.

It’s difficult to game how well this might play politically, but when you judge it solely as an interview for the role of Vice President to a man in his 70’s, her command of the issues was inept. Of course, raising these concerns automatically makes you an elitist, so I’ll try to refrain from ever mentioning the matter again.


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