Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin on the Bush Doctrine

We didn't watch former morning show personality Charlie Gibson's interview of Sarah Palin, as we have actual work to do and as we figure that the media interpretation of the interview is as important as the interview itself. This morning it appears that the "gotcha" is Gov. Palin's handling of Gibson's opaque question about the "Bush Doctrine."

The problem is, of course, the question, not the answer. The "Bush Doctrine" means many things to many people. And for a candidate in 2008, how anyone responds to anything labeled "Bush" is fraught with peril ("Governor, do you enjoy Bush's baked beans?"). So Palin's first response, to seek clarification, is natural and necessary, even wise.

When Gibson then identified the "Bush Doctrine" as the right to strike preemptively, he did two things. One was to identify as the "Bush Doctrine" something that Bush asserted but which was not originally the substance of the thing. The original "Bush Doctrine" was that nations harboring terrorists will be treated as terrorists. Remember the famous post-9/11 speech in which Bush said that those who aren't with us are against us? SWNID does, but Gibson has forgotten that speech, remembering instead only parts of later speeches on the rationale for the invasion of Iraq.

At any rate, Palin did what national figures on the international stage have to do with vague questions that call for specific commitments about future hypotheticals: answered according to a vague but important general principle. To wit, she didn't say that she'd strike preemptively, but she said that the primary function of national government is to protect its people. Good enough.

In SWNID's own sphere and away from the cameras, we get asked this stuff all the time, as in "What do you think of . . ."
  • "the emerging church movement?"
  • "the emergent church movement?"
  • "the idea that Satan is bound right now?"
  • "higher criticism?"
  • "unaccredited seminaries?"
  • "ministers who don't have degrees from one of our Bible colleges?"
  • "ministers who are elected as elders?"
  • "community churches?"
  • "contemporary Christian music?"
  • "the way that so-and-so is running his church/organization?"
Given that one seldom knows what is in the mind of the inquirer who offers such broad, vaguely defined objects of inquiry, let alone whether the inquirer is interested in thinking more about the subject, in learning SWNID's point of view as a potentially stimulating one, or in deciding whether SWNID is worthy of elevation to the bishopric or burning at the stake, it's hard to know how to answer. We don't exactly know the question or the motive, after all. So we typically ask for clarification and then give an answer that runs toward "On the one hand . . . On the other hand."

More's the case, we assume, when the question is asked in front of a hundred million voters.

So it is the knowledgeable politician who answers an opaque question with an opaque answer. In some circles, such answers are called "diplomatic."

For more on this, we direct gentle readers to Andy McCarthy's post on National Review Online's collaborative blog, "The Corner."

5 comments:

steve-o said...

I'm glad you highlighted this as well. I tend to think myself as highly informed concerning politics and I myself was puzzled when hearing that there even was a Bush Doctrine.

While some of Governor Palin's responses to Charlie were less than forceful, she did nothing to harm the ticket. This is even more discouragement for the Obama, who desperately needs a new campaign staff in order halt this McCain surge.

Matt Coulter said...

I never knew you kept a journal of all the questions I ever stopped by to asked you... that's kind of flattering.

Christian Penrod said...

So what do you think about all of those things you listed? Your desire to not answer said questions implies that you are, in fact, in doubt.

Seriously though, most of those are very interesting subjects that many of your respectful readers would like to have insight and discourse on. You could start by defining terms for us and sharing some thoughts on them. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Is "Bush's Baked Beans" a euphemism for John Kerry?

Anonymous said...

Krauthammer, who first used "Bush doctrine" in a column, has a great one out in Saturday's column. He says the term has been used for 4 different doctrines during the Bush presidency, all because Bush's emphasees have changed as the world situation has changed.