Impact of Palin's Foriegn Policy Flub

>> Friday, September 12, 2008

The first thing to point out is that Palin's mishandling of the question regarding the Bush Doctrine is conclusive proof that she does not belong on the ticket. She is not ready and she proved it. Any one who wants that proof now has it. We need to keep hitting on that. That being said the real test of the long term impact of this is how the media covers it.

I fervently believe that if you approached the average voter and asked them to tell you about the Bush Doctrine they would have no clue. That means that any potential voter evaluating this interview will have no reference for just how important it is. If you want to learn about that yourself i recommend hilzoy's take over at Washington Monthly

The big deal about the Bush Doctrine was that it changed our position radically. We used to affirm, along with all other countries, a right of what has normally been thought of as preemptive war: the right to respond to an imminent attack against us, when we have credible evidence that it is imminent. When a country is obviously on the verge of mounting an invasion or a strike against us -- when its troops are rolling towards the border, or its missiles counting down -- we have never thought that we had to wait for that country to actually attack before we did. But we did once claim this right only in response to evidence of an imminent attack, not to a general sense that another country was in some way threatening. The point of the Bush Doctrine was to change that: to say, as Bush said at West Point: "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long." It was, basically, the acceptance of preventive war: war waged not in response to evidence of an imminent attack, but in response to the possibility that a country that was not attacking us now might attack us at some point in the future.

To anyone who had been following foreign policy in even the most cursory way, but who had somehow forgotten what the name "Bush Doctrine" referred to, Charlie Gibson's explanation would have made it clear what big Bush administration change in policy was under discussion. "Oh, right", such a person would think: "that."

For that reason, one of the most striking things about Palin's response, to me, was this: in answering Gibson's question, she seemed to think that she was accepting the Bush Doctrine, but what she actually said just restated the old doctrine of preemption. When, as Palin said, "there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people", the claim that we have the right to preempt that strike does not require the Bush Doctrine; it just requires the old, and much more widely accepted, doctrine of preemption. That is: in what Palin says here, she's not actually supporting the Bush Doctrine at all. She's just saying what generations of American Presidents and candidates have said: that when a country is actually about to attack us, we don't have to wait for them to actually land a blow before we can strike back.

So it is important. However voters may not know it was important that she know that. The term "Doctrine" linked to a Presidential name is a foreign policy term of art. It is elemental. Not to understand that makes you a real neophyte and Palin clearly did not understand the term. Again, regular voters may not know this. The key is now how the media informs them that this was a serious mistake.

People hate gotcha questions. We all hated the bullshit questions that were asked in the Dem debates, some even by gibson. Given the media circus surrounding Palin McCain will try to spin this as a journalist trying to trick Palin or embarrass her on tv. He will go right after the questioner. If he succeeds in making that case then the voters will believe that the question was a gotcha question and did not reveal anything about how qualified Palin is. If they think it was simply a trick it will make her even more sympathetic.

It becomes a real test of the media. McCain will not be happy he spent his credibility earlier this week on his lies because it only makes it more likely that they do a credible job informing the voters that this was a big flub. Voters dont need to know the Bush Doctrine or exactly how important it is, only that it is important. If they dont know it makes it very likely that they take cues from the reliable source, the tm. The press has a chance here to turn the debate back into substance.

This will get a lot of play right over the next 24 hours so pay attention to the way the coverage shapes up. Will the media dismiss this horrible flub or treat it like the deal breaker it should be?


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

  © Blogger template Sunset by 2008

Back to TOP