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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.
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?
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