Sarah Palin’s reputation survived her interview with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson.
The same cannot be said for Charlie Gibson.
On my radio show last week, I twice defended Barack Obama. Once, against those conservatives who took a comment made by Obama in an interview with George Stephanopoulos out of context and suggested that Obama had inadvertently admitted he was a Muslim. And again, when I contended that Obama did not imply that Palin was a pig in his now famous "lipstick on a pig" reference.
I mention this only because I want to assume that people of good will on both sides can still be honest about what transpires politically. And in this instance what transpired was that Gibson intended to humiliate Palin.
It wasn’t even subtle. Virtually everything Gibson did and virtually every question he posed was designed to trap, or trick, or demean Gov. Palin. There are views of his face that so reek of contempt that anyone shown photos of his look would immediately identify it as contemptuous.
But one series of questions, in particular, blew any cover of impartiality and revealed Gibson’s aim to humiliate Palin.
GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?
PALIN: His worldview?
GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
When he asked Palin whether she agreed with the Bush Doctrine without defining it, he gave the game away. He lost any pretense of fairness. Asking the same unanswerable question three times had one purpose — to humiliate the woman. That was not merely partisan. It was mean.
I couldn’t answer it — and I have been steeped in international affairs since I was a Fellow at the Columbia University School of International Affairs in the 1970s. I have since been to 82 countries, and have lectured in Russian in Russia and in Hebrew in Israel. Most Americans would consider a candidate for national office who had such a resume qualified as regards international relations. Yet I had no clue how to answer Gibson’s question.
I had no clue because there is no right answer. There are at least four doctrines that are called "Bush Doctrine," which means that there is no "Bush Doctrine." It is a term bereft of meaning, as became abundantly clear when Gibson finally explained what he was referring to:
GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that — the right to preemptive attack of a country that was planning an attack on America?
That’s the Bush Doctrine? "The right to preemptive attack of a country that was planning an attack on America?"
Isn’t that just common sense? What country in history has thought it did not have the right to attack those planning to attack it? I learned the "Bush Doctrine" when I was a student at yeshiva in the fourth grade, when I was taught a famous Talmudic dictum from about 1,800 years ago: "If someone is coming to kill you, rise early and kill him."
And preemptive attack is exactly what happened in June 1967, when Israel attacked Egypt and Syria because those countries were planning to attack Israel. Would any American president before George W. Bush have acted differently than Israel did? Of course not. Did they all believe in the Bush Doctrine?
That is how Gibson added foolishness to his meanness.
All the interview did was reconfirm that Republicans running for office run against both their Democratic opponent and the mainstream news media.
This year it is more obvious than ever. The press’s beatification of Obama is so obvious, so constant (how many covers of Newsweek and Time has Obama been on?) that media credibility even among many non-conservatives has been hurt.
Let me put this another way. Charlie Gibson showed far greater hostility toward the Republican vice-presidential candidate than Dan Rather did in his interview with Saddam Hussein or Mike Wallace did in his interview with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Which reminds me of another Talmudic dictum: "Those who are merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful."
We might call it the media’s Gibson Doctrine: Confront Republicans, act obsequious toward tyrants.