Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin stumbles, making schoolgirl errors along the way.

Sarah Palin has given her first interview of this election and was obviously flying by the seat of her pants.

She has been schooled to be feisty, to counter charges that she was inexperienced by stating that many Vice Presidents may never have met a foreign head of state and she appeared to knock the notion that "big fat resumes" were important for someone a heartbeat away from assuming the leadership of the free world. She argued that it was no longer time for "politics as usual", essentially signalling that her lack of foreign policy experience - an experience that she, once again, defined through her understanding of the energy market - was an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

But she swiftly undermined her own argument when the subject turned to Georgia and Russia, a conflict which she defined as "unprovoked" Russian aggression, and a conflict which she said the United States should be ready to go to war over.

She essentially said she would be prepared to start WWIII over Georgia's territorial integrity.

Charlie Gibson asked her whether Nato membership would commit the US to going to war on behalf of Ukraine and Georgia if they were attacked.

Astonishingly, Palin replied: "Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a Nato ally."

She was so proud at being able to show off her recently acquired knowledge of the commitments which membership bestows on Nato towards country's within the organisation that have been attacked, that she announced WWIII almost as an afterthought.

If anything was to prove that she is unready to assume the Presidency at a moment's notice it was that. There was no nuance to her positions, no understanding of the bigger picture. One got the feeling that she has only recently been taught what benefits Nato membership bestowed upon smaller nations and as far as she was concerned A was followed by B which led to C: World War III.

And then Gibson turned to Iran and her answers became even more confused and confusing. She began by hoping that "WMD... that nuclear weapons" wouldn't "be given" to Ahmadinejad, a novel concept when one considers that the US hawks believe that Iran is developing such weapons rather than seeking to have such weapons handed to them.

When asked what her stance would be regarding an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, she three times stated that it was not the job of the United States to "second guess" Israel's actions. It was possibly the greatest green light the Israeli's could ever hope for. With American troops in Iraq and the Iranians able to wreak havoc there if they so please, it was another answer of astonishing recklessness. She was essentially saying that the US should exert no restraint over any Israeli action in the region, which might be orgasmic to the ears of neo-cons everywhere, but it certainly made the rest of the planet sit up and pay attention.

Gibson then asks her about the Bush Doctrine and it is as plain as the nose on your face that she does not know what the Bush Doctrine is.

“Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?”

Seeking direction, and perhaps time to formulate an answer, Ms. Palin leaned back, smiled stiffly and said, “In what respect, Charlie?”

Initially unwilling to define the doctrine, Mr. Gibson said, “What do you interpret it to be?”

Ms. Palin asked, “His world view?”

Mr. Gibson said, “No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.”

He then, rather too helpfully for my liking, explained the concept of anticipatory self defence. She went on to argue that, should intelligence imply that an imminent strike is about to happen, that the US has the right to self defence. This, of course, is the opposite of the Bush Doctrine and describes self defence as defined by the Caroline incident of 1837 where the imminence of an attack justifies the use of pre-emption. The whole point of the Bush doctrine is that it removes imminence from the equation. Her ignorance at this point was glaringly obvious. She's been given some rudimentary schooling but, scratch beneath the surface, and she makes schoolgirl blunders.

Gibson then asks her if the US have the right to cross the Afghanistan border into Pakistan to pursue terrorists without the permission of the Pakistan government. It's about as obvious a trap as he could possibly lay for anyone who has paid a moment's notice to this election. Does she agree with McCain or Obama? She put forward what Gibson described as "a blizzard of words" in an attempt to avoid answering, but eventually concluded that America has to do "whatever it takes", which put her on the side of Obama rather than McCain.

Again, when she didn't understand the nuance behind the question - or even, it appeared, McCain or Obama's positions on this subject - she, on this occasion, chose feisty, and landed on Obama's side of the argument. And she did so without even appearing to realise that she had walked into a trap.

It could under no circumstances be portrayed as a great victory for Palin. She looked tense and nervous and often appeared to wish to substitute feistiness for knowledge. Perhaps in some Republican circles this will be deemed enough, but to the rest of us she simply doesn't look ready.

It's as if she's crammed for some exam - and can give some of the answers - but it's very clear that she has no concept of the bigger picture.

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