Palin's First Test

Larry Elder
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Posted: Sep 18, 2008 12:01 AM
Palin's First Test

So how did Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, handle her first big-time sit-down interview?

ABC News' Charlie Gibson asked pointed questions about her fitness for office and her views on foreign policy. After Palin strongly answered "yes" to the question about her preparedness to assume the presidency, Gibson asked whether she agrees with the "Bush Doctrine."

"In what respect, Charlie?" asked a rather bewildered Palin.

"The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?" Gibson challenged.

"His worldview?" Palin asked.

Gibson replied, "No, the Bush Doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war."

"I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do," said Palin, "is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hellbent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made."

Gibson finally explained: "The Bush Doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a pre-emptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?"

"I agree that a president's job," said Palin, "when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America."

Critics pounced. "Palin unready for prime time!" "Couldn't define the Bush Doctrine!"

Really?

Point of order: President Bush never used the term "Bush Doctrine." Gibson said the administration "enunciated" it in September 2002. But in June 2002, President Bush, in a speech at West Point, declared his intention to be proactive in fighting the War on Terror, and that he refused to wait before taking action to protect national security. Some called this the "Bush Doctrine."

During a newscast Sept. 21, 2001, Gibson called the President's speech of the previous evening "very forceful." The President, he explained, outlined "what is being called the Bush Doctrine." The newsman called it "a promise that all terrorists' organizations with global reach will be found, stopped and defeated." Isn't this precisely what Palin said?

Maybe someone will ask Sen. Barack Obama about the "Bush Doctrine," for the senator seems "confused," too. During a primary season debate, Sen. Hillary Clinton took issue with Obama's desire to meet with heads of rogue states without preconditions. Obama attacked. Why? Sen. Clinton embraced, charged Obama, the "Bush Doctrine"! "The Bush administration's policy is to say that he will not talk with these countries unless they meet various preconditions," said Obama. "That's their explicit policy, and that was the question that was posed at the debate. This is the assertion that she made during the debate and subsequently, was that she would not meet with various leaders unless certain preconditions were met." Does someone need to set Obama straight?

Gibson also asked Palin about Russia and Georgia. She surprised Gibson by blaming the crisis on "unprovoked" Russian aggression. But Obama, after his initial hemming and hawing, also blamed Russia and condemned its aggression. Critics attacked Palin of taking the "hard-line" view that both Georgia and Ukraine should be admitted into NATO. Well, so does Obama. Does this make Obama a "hawk"?

Should the United States, asked Gibson, enter Pakistan -- without that country's permission -- to pursue terrorists? Yes, she said, "In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target." But Obama accuses the Bush administration of taking its "eyes off" pursuing Osama bin Laden, and once vowed to invade Pakistan if necessary in order to capture or kill the terrorist.

Perhaps someday Gibson will sit down with and question the foreign policy judgment of Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden. He first supported the war in Iraq; then he didn't. He co-wrote a pro-war op-ed in December 2002 and predicted the United States military presence in Iraq -- following the toppling of Saddam Hussein -- to last as long as a decade and urged Bush to prepare this nation accordingly. Biden now wants out of Iraq by a date certain. He opposed the surge, as did Obama, and predicted its failure. And he came up with a plan to break Iraq into three parts -- a scheme that the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shiites rejected.

Bottom line: Palin, though at times nervous and uncertain, passed her first foreign policy grilling. Can Obama/Biden say the same thing?