Of Sarah Palin, Charlie Gibson And Bad Journalism

I have yet to see the interviews between Sarah Palin and Charlie Gibson but I have read the transcript and examined the commentary that followed. None of it reflected well on Charlie Gibson, who usually does a good job in his interviews but who botched this one.

The most egregious botching, of course, came when Gibson stated that the Bush Doctrine stated that the United States has the right of “anticipatory self-defense.” As Charles Krauthammer points out, this statement of the Doctrine is nonsensical:

I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of the Weekly Standard entitled, “The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism,” I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

Then came 9/11, and that notion was immediately superseded by the advent of the war on terror. In his address to the joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11, President Bush declared: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” This “with us or against us” policy regarding terror — first deployed against Pakistan when Secretary of State Colin Powell gave President Musharraf that seven-point ultimatum to end support for the Taliban and support our attack on Afghanistan — became the essence of the Bush doctrine.

Until Iraq. A year later, when the Iraq war was looming, Bush offered his major justification by enunciating a doctrine of preemptive war. This is the one Charlie Gibson thinks is the Bush doctrine.

It’s not. It’s the third in a series and was superseded by the fourth and current definition of the Bush doctrine, the most sweeping formulation of the Bush approach to foreign policy and the one that most clearly and distinctively defines the Bush years: the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world. It was most dramatically enunciated in Bush’s second inaugural address: “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

See also Soren Dayton’s discussion and be sure to follow the links to Clive Crook’s analysis of the matter (one wonders when a certain fellow Atlantic blogger of Crook’s will be honest enough to follow the Crook’s example (I enjoy punning when I can) and note that this “gotcha” moment was anything but). For those who–unlike Andrew Sullivan–are interested in actually getting facts on the nature and evolution of the Bush Doctrine, this post by the Great and Mighty Beldar is indispensable. More on this issue comes from Michael Abramowitz, who also notes that there are different iterations of the Bush Doctrine and that in trying to embarrass Sarah Palin, Charlie Gibson basically ended up embarrassing himself.

So Gibson screwed up. Quite magnificently at that. And he screwed up in another portion of the interview as well. It seems that everyone and their ancestors–stretching back to the Cro-Magnons–is stating that Sarah Palin believes the war in Iraq to be a task that has been handed down from God. As Patterico and Jim Lindgren make clear, however, Palin was actually praying that what was being done in Iraq would be done in line with God’s plan and as she points out in the interview with Gibson, this is entirely consistent with Abraham Lincoln’s prayer that instead of God being on our side, we ought to be on God’s side.

In addition to all of this, there was curious editing going on on the part of ABC. And Gibson’s blatant bias against Palin came through in spades in the interview and may well–if there is any justice in the world–cause a serious backlash against ABC and in favor of Palin.

So Charlie Gibson and ABC flubbed it. Royally. And now they have the nerve to sit idly by while other people claim that it was Sarah Palin who flubbed the interview. Gibson and ABC knew what questions they were out to ask, had the opportunity to do the research and failed completely at the task. The ridicule that should follow for this incompetence will come soon, won’t it?