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?"
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."