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September 15, 2008

Palin’s Lack of Knowledge Reflects Poorly on McCain’s Judgment


Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for the vice presidency, has now done exactly one one-on-one interview. After watching it, it’s easy to see why.


Sitting down with Charlie Gibson of ABC, her answers to questions were a familiar pattern of canned right-wing talking points. For someone running to be the vice president, she could have been mistaken for any number of talking heads and minor pundits who’ve taken to the airwaves of Fox News over the last 10 years to defend the Republican platform. But it was her answer to the question about the Bush Doctrine that was most alarming.


Asked about it by Gibson, Palin was flummoxed. A second or so of uncomfortable silence followed, after which Gibson softened the question so that she could answer.


She identified the Bush Doctrine – the same rationale that ultimately dashed upon the rocks and shoals of Iraq’s non-existent unconventional weapons programs – not as a piece of policy, but as the current president’s worldview.


Palin’s gaffes unfortunately don’t end with the Bush Doctrine. She also endorsed war with Russia if that nation were to again attack Georgia, as if war between two nuclear-armed powers is a normal and routine course of events. She also said that we need to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Unfortunately for her, it is Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls Iran’s armed forces, and Ahmadinejad will be forced from office by 2013, well before Iran’s nuclear program could hope to produce nuclear bombs.


The idea that a candidate for the vice presidency has no clue about the centerpiece of the current administration’s foreign policy should terrify basically everyone, as should the knowledge that she knows apparently very little about the most enflamed regions of the world. The Bush Doctrine is hardly a secret document, and anything you really need know about it to answer a 10-second question about it is to have read about it in media reports and put a moment’s thought into how it applies to the world today. Palin was incapable of doing that, and she instead looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck when queried.


This raises serious questions about her fitness to serve as vice president, and especially – should the worst happen – as president. Worse, it raises questions about the judgment of John McCain, who could have picked far more qualified people – women, if he so insisted. Instead, he chose someone with apparently so little curiosity about the world that she can’t describe the centerpiece of American foreign policy for the last six years.


This becomes more serious when you consider what we know of that vetting process that named Palin as the vice-presidential candidate. McCain aides say that they typed Palin’s name into Google – although the candidate himself professes incompetence with it comes to the Internet – and that appears to be about as far as anyone went. Upon her nomination, reporters and Democratic lawyers flocked to Alaska to see what kind of dirt could be dug up on her. What they found is that they were breaking new ground. Prior to the naming of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate, none of the McCain people had gone to Alaska to do even as little as look through her tenure as mayor of Wasilla.


In picking Palin, of course, McCain shifted the entire tenor of the campaign. He did an about-face from his earlier platform of experience, and is now running on his reputation as a maverick who’ll do his own thing. His voting record calls that into question, but his pick for vice president raises other, darker questions. Will his sense of maverick lead him to buck the system when the system needs to be bucked, or to reckless decision-making in pursuit of short-term benefit?


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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