ABC News anchor Charles Gibson began the first “exclusive,” non-McCain controlled, media contact with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin by asking, “Govenor . . ., 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?’” Palin replied, “I do, Charlie . . . I’m ready.” Gibson continued, “And you didn’t say to yourself, ‘Am I experienced enough? Am I ready? Do I know enough about international affairs? Will I feel comfortable enough on the national stage to do this?’” Palin looked Gibson in the eye and responded, “I didn’t hesitate, no. I answered him yes because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can’t blink. So I didn’t blink then even when asked to run as his running mate.”
What a revelation about the Republican vice presidential candidate! People who don’t blink don’t think. Life is actually about blinking. About questioning before answering. About thinking before doing. About ascertaining before acting. About looking before leaping. About reflecting before risking. About being introspective not “wired.” Most of us blink and “take a moment to think about it” when asked to join a neighborhood committee—never mind become a candidate for vice president of the United States. Life is about reason being an empowering friend of faith not its enemy. Blinking is not a sign of weakness but of awareness of reality. Not blinking reveals a stunted not a strong mind.
Governor Palin should have blinked. When Charles Gibson asked how Alaska’s closeness to Russia contributed to her understanding of that country’s actions, she replied, “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”2 Palin has never been to Russia. Nor obtained a passport until last year. Nor ever met a foreign leader until the McCain campaign arranged such contacts for her at the UN in New York. The magical quality of seeing conflict-producing Russia as “our next door neighbors [italics added]” Many Americans do not even know their next door neighbor—let alone those in adjoining neighborhoods. And the magic of having foreign policy experience rub off on her by reportedly engaging in “motorcade diplomacy, a lightening round of meetings and photo opportunities designed to portray Ms. Palin—who lacks much in the way of foreign policy experience, has traveled abroad little and has not met a foreign head of state before Tuesday—at ease with world leaders.”
Governor Palin should have blinked. Her second “exclusive” rare, unscripted interview was with CBS anchor Katie Couric, who asked her the ever-threatening follow-up question: “You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?” Palin did not bat an eye: “That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada.” Then came another dangerous specifics-demanding question: “Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.” Palin attempted to remain steely-eyed: “Well, it certainly does, because our, our next door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am executive of.”
Katie Couric’s third, obviously dreaded, follow-up question forced a programmed, Governor Palin to ramble even more off script: “Have you ever been involved in any negotiations for example, with the Russians?” Palin’s unblinking response:
We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.
Governor Palin should have blinked. When Katie Couric stated, “You’ve said, quote, ‘John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business.’ Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?”
Palin answered, “I think that the example you just cited.”
Couric repeated the ever dangerous follow-up question: “But he’s been in Congress for 25 years. He’s been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.”
Palin’s primed response: “He’s also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he’s been talking about- the need to reform government.”
Couric persisted with the same threatening question: “But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action.” And for emphasis, Couric repeated, “Can you give me any other examples in his 25 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?”
An evasive Palin veered to the “right”: “I can give you examples of things John McCain has done that have shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.
Couric would not let her hide behind generality: “I’m just going to ask you one more time—not to belabor the point. Specific examples of in his 25 years of pushing for more regulation.” A cornered Palin responded, “I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you.”
Governor Palin should have blinked. When Katic Couric asked Palin what other Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with besides “Roe v. Wade,” Palin fudged, “Well, let’s see. There’s, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but . . .” Couric asked for specifics: “Can you think of any.” Palin’s jumbled response:
Well I could think of . . . any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I could take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as vice president, if I’m so privileged to serve, wouldn’t be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.
Governor Palin should have blinked. The smallness of her world was exposed when Katie Couric asked, “And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?” Palin replied, “I’ve read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.” Couric followed up, “What, specifically?” Palin answered, “Um… all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.” Couric asked again, “Can you name a few?” Palin side-stepped: “I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too.” Palin then went of on a defensive tangent:
Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, ‘Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?’ Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.
Governor Palin should have blinked. Her October 2nd debate with Senator Joe Biden reveals that she has read little about foreign affairs in newspapers and magazines. She disclosed her ignorance:
Now Barack Obama had said that all we’re doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians. And such a reckless, reckless comment and untrue comment, again, hurts our cause. That’s not what we’re doing there. We’re fighting terrorists and we’re securing democracy, and we’re building schools for children there . . .
If Governor Palin had read “all of them” newspapers and magazines, she would not have made such a “reckless, untrue” criticism of Senator Obama. All she had to do was read the headlines of numerous newspaper accounts of US airstrikes killing Afghan civilians. To name just a few: the Los Angeles Times’ “Does Killing Afghan Civilians Keep Us Safe?”; The New York Times’ “U.S. Killed 90 in Afghan Village, Including 60 Children, U.N. Finds”; Reuters’ “Fresh anti-US protest over Afghan civilian deaths”; TIMES ON LINE’s “Afghan inquiry into American bombing of ‘wedding party’”; the AP’s “Videos Show Dead Afghan Children After US Raid.”; and The Washington Post’s “Coalition Airstrike Kills Afghan Family.”
If Governor Palin had chosen to read the many accounts of “precision” US airstrikes that have wantonly killed countless Afghan civilians, she might have blinked at the Los Angeles Times’ story:
Not surprisingly, civilian casualties infuriate Afghans. . . . A report last September from the United Nations concluded that Western airstrikes were among the chief inspirations for suicide attackers within the country and that they engendered resentment against both the Afghan government and Western forces. The number of suicide attacks in Afghanistant went up six times from 2005 to 2006, to 136, and Taliban insurgents carried out more than 140 suicide bombings in Afghanistan in 2007.
The latest US intelligence report on Afghanistan should be enough to finally make Republican vice president candidate Palin blink. The report “concludes that Afghanistan is in a ‘downward spiral’ and cast serious doubt on the ability of the Afghan government to stem the rise in the Taliban’s influence there, according to American officials familiar with the document.” The causes: “The rampant corruption within the government of President Hamid Karzai” and “an increase in violence from militants who have launched increasingly sophisticated attacks from havens in Pakistan.”
Governor Palin’s recitations in her debate with Senator Biden reveal she has the same speech writers as President Bush: “But again, with some of these dictators who hate America and hate what we stand for, with our freedoms, our democracy, our tolerance, our respect for women’s rights, those who try to destroy what we stand for cannot be met with just sitting down on a presidential level as Barack Obama had said he would be willing to do. That is beyond bad judgment. That is dangerous.”
Had she read “all the newspapers and magazines in front of” her, she would have known that the US government’s support of dictators in the Middle East, its military bases and boots in other people’s lands and its imperialistic, energy-grabbing and -controlling, foreign policy, topped off with the Bush administration’s falsely-based, criminal, preemptive invasion and occupation of Iraq, are what America stands for in the world and make it the most hated, not greatest, nation on earth.
Governor Palin should have blinked. All those follow-up questions in the only two spontaneous, McCain campaign-uncontrolled ABC and CBS interviews. That was enough to make her programmers prompt her to announce at the debate with Senator Biden, “I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear. But I’m going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also.”
“Talk[ing] straight to the American people?” Not if the McCain campaign can help it. At the first “town hall meeting” with Senator McCain, a woman in the audience asked her to answer concerns about her lack of experience in foreign policy. Gov. Palin did not blink. “I think that I’m prepared. . . . I’ll be ready and I have that confidence . . . If you want specifics with specific policy or country, go ahead and you can ask me, you can even play ‘stump the candidate’ if you want to, but we are ready to serve.” The news report continued, “The crowd applauded and McCain stepped in [italics added] to highlight Palin’s experience dealing with energy issues in Alaska, command of the Alaska National Guard, and her son’s deployment to Iraq.” The story ended, “About an hour passed at that point. . . and McCain opted not to take any more questions. Neither did Palin,who made closing remarks after the Arizona senator had concluded.” It was actually about playing stump the voters.
Governor Palin should have blinked. Instead, in her only debate with Senator Biden she was “wired” to wink:
Hey, can I call you Joe?
Darn right it was the predator lenders. . . .Let’s commit ourselves just every day American people. Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation . . . band together and say never again.
Reform of government is coming . . . we’re going to forge ahead with putting government back on the side of the people and making sure that our country comes first.. . . That’s what John McCain has been known for all these years . . . . the maverick . . . has ruffled feathers.
John McCain . . is so committed to of putting government back on the side of the people and get rid of the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in Washington.
John McCain who knows how to win a war . . . He knows to learn from the mistakes and blunders we have seen in the war in Iraq.
Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. . . . Now doggone it, let’s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education and I’m glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with you wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? . . . I come from a house full of teachers. . . . My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here’s a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School. You get extra credit for watching the debate.
I like being able to answer the tough questions without the filter, even of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they just heard. I’d rather be able to just speak to the American people like we just did.
From now until the election, one may safely assume that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will only be taking “unfiltered” questions on the run and in controlled settings, between one filtered speech and another on the McCain scripted campaign trail.
It is about image not insight. It is about novelty not knowledge. About being folksy not informed. About veneer not vision. About slogans not substance. About playing fool the voters not “stump the candidate.” It is about winking. It is about a “Pit Bull with lipstick.” It is about turning Republicans into rabble-rousers at campaign rallies. It is about Senator McCain’s unstable judgment. It will be about the judgment of the American people on election day.
Rev, William E. Alberts, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain, and a diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.