Republican VP candidate Sarah “Her-icane” Palin did to Barack Obama and Joe Biden what Hurricane Ike is fixin’ to do to Galveston, Houston, and yours truly here in Texas – she blew them away. This will probably be my last post for a couple of days because big, bad Ike is coming our way like Ike Turner hunting for Tina after a bender. Even with all the excitement headed my way it’s obvious to me that Sarah Palin has taken over this presidential race. Memeorandum, for instance, has been dominated by stories about Palin recently and today is no exception.
Sarah Palin’s interview with Charlie Gibson went well with the exception of the “Bush Doctrine” question and, desperate for anything to counter her compelling story and personal presence, her opponents have pounced on the perceived bobble. But the term is an artificial concoction – there’s no formal policy of that name. So should Mrs. Palin be expected to have an opinion it? Her response, I think, was not unlike my own. “Bush Doctrine” means different things depending on who you talk to and each is a potential landmine for a Republican candidate. Asking “Which part?” seems like a reasonable, if overly cautious, response to Gibson’s question.
What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the “Bush Doctrine” exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years.
That’s not necessarily true. I’ve paid a great deal of attention to international matters and in my view Palin’s response cuts through the facade of media interpretation and gets directly to the important principle involved:
“I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership — and that’s the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.”
This may not have been the question that Gibson asked; however, when discussing the primary policy interest of the Bush Administration, it is the most salient answer possible.
Fallows and folks like Glen Greenwald feel differently – or pretend to, for ideological reasons – and prefer to focus on issues like domestic surveillance, telecom immunity, and close parsing of words like preemptive and imminent, all of which is well and good. We need people to do that, to act as a free and skeptical Fourth Estate, to keep the powers that be if not in check at least partially honest.
However, the primary function of an executive is not to banter about with subtleties of the English language or be overly concerned with legal technicalities, at least not in a time of “heightened security”. No, the executive’s first responsibility is to understand the fundamental issues at work in a situation and choose the best possible response to a given situation.
Sarah Palin is not America’s foremost expert on foreign policy, that’s a given. But she understands exactly what the Bush Administration has been trying to do for America and the world, probably at least as well as most of the people who have been slamming her over the interview, Fallows and Hilzoy included.
The great issue, indeed, the great threat, of our time is Islamic Terrorism. The so-called Bush Doctrine is a response to that threat. It exists to meet it, not the other way around. People who don’t remember that really ought to take a step or two back and remember the forest instead of focusing in on one insignificant tree among so many.
Yes, ideally Palin would be more familiar with the media lexicon so that terms like this one don’t trip her up. But I’ll take my chances with someone who understands what’s at stake and will take strong action to protect America over someone who is hip to insider language but isn’t willing to do everything necessary to protect the freedom of people he – or she – is supposed to serve.
Now, it’s off to batten down the hatches, matey. Wish me and my family luck; I’ll do the same for Barack Obama. Frankly I’m not sure who needs the good wishes more at the moment, him or us.