Holy, moley. Two weeks of intensive preparation, briefing books, talking points, schooling...and that’s the best she can do? Set afloat from her strict script for the first time in two weeks, Sarah Palin showed tonight how totally unqualified she is to be vice-president of the United States.
Charlie Gibson is the oldest and most bland of what now passes for the network anchors. After getting advice from everyone in the blogosphere, he ignored it all and came to his Palin interview with the simplest of questions. He started one big fuzzy softball – "Can you look the country in the eye and say ‘I have the experience and I have the ability to be not just vice president, but perhaps president of the United States of America?’" Well, duh – what do you think she’s going to say, no? But Palin even seemed to struggle with that one, denying that she hesitated at all when asked. "You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission...you can’t blink." Oh, great. Haven’t we just suffered through eight years of Mr. Non-Blink, Mr. Committed to the Mission? Do we really want even one more year of people leading themselves down blind paths just because they made the stupid decision to head that way in the first place?
But that was just the start. Palin failed on every substantive question Gibson floated out there, from Russia (sure, Georgia should be in NATO; sure, we would have to defend it if...no, wait...) to Iran (she repeated three times that we should not second-guess Israel if it decides to take out nuclear facilities) to Pakistan (coming out, as far as anyone could tell – "is that a yes?" asked Gibson – in favor of unilateral strikes into the country). She clearly had no idea what the Bush Doctrine (strike first, ask questions never) was, asking "in what respect" Gibson was asking her that damn question. She even punted the issue after Gibson graciously told her what it was, saying that a president should act if "a strike in imminent", not realizing imminence has nothing to do with the dumb and hopefully dead doctrine.
Throughout the session, Palin was leaning forward in a defensive crouch, the file cards of her training shuffling in her head for the right category, subject and bullet point. Away from the safety of her script and the cheery surroundings of her stump speeches, she was much smaller in stature and presence, not that she was all that great to begin with. The look on her face was often one of confusion and impatience. Palin was in a tough situation. She had to do two things: 1) pretend she knew about things about which she did not have a clue; and 2) hide her true feelings about international relations, mostly, as much as she’s thought about it (obviously not much), having to do with "god’s plan". She failed miserably at both.
She was clearly out of her depth in the world of serious thought, even on the fairly lightweight issues broached by Gibson. She wasn’t even mildly conversant in any of the subjects regularly discussed by real and armchair politicians at all levels of government and in blogger basements all over the country. She didn’t have a clue and you couldn’t tell from her defensive posture and demeanor whether she cared that she didn’t.
Palin obviously cares about many things – mostly having to do with religious nuttery and using her position as governor to extract family vengence and to have her kids fly around with her at state expense -- but, still, she cares. But during the interview, it was clear that, until she had to, she had not given the great policy questions of our time any thought whatsoever.
If Gibson had put the same questions to Barack Obama, Obama would bat one and then the other out of the park, in the back of his mind wondering "what’s with the soft stuff?", waiting for the real interview to start. So would anyone in Washington at a rank above summer interns. Her lack of depth reveals an entirely different perspective on "experience" and its relevance to those who aspire to the presidency, vice- or otherwise.
It is one thing to manage the nuts-and-bolts of a town or state. It is quite another to act as the figurehead of a government that pretty much runs itself. A president has to manage the Big Picture of the country's direction and its role in the world. It really is essential to have talked and thought a lot about it; your ideas challenged in public and private debate. You can't just jump into it in a month or even a year, especially with the kind of obvious intellectual uncuriosity displayed by Paliin in the interview.
The interview with Palin tonight showed how utterly irresponsible John McCain was for putting this lightweight on his ticket. I sense, from the lack of celebratory clucking on the right-wing tonight, that his supporters, deep in their hearts, feel the same way.