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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Neither Palin nor any human in her shoes could satisfy the mainstream media's lust for "gotcha" questions

When we're talking Sarah Palin and the old media hacks, no good deed goes unpunished — as I argue at length in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com.


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

No vice presidential nominee in American history — not even J. Danforth Quayle — has been so viciously and unethically savaged by the mainstream media press corps as Sarah Palin. To her considerable credit, she's nevertheless continued to make herself more and more available to their shenanigans, however.  And increasingly, it's the old-media sharks who are being discredited in the public eye.

When Katie Couric demanded that Gov. Palin instantly summon up a verbal summary of John McCain's 26-year history as a legislator, detailing the instances in which he's supported government regulation or oversight of programs, Gov. Palin must have been tempted to pull a Dan Aykroyd-to-Jane Curtin reprise: "Katie, you ignorant slut! You couldn't possibly answer that question yourself off the top of your head, and neither could anyone else, including John McCain. Virtually every bill creating or affecting a government program involves striking a balance between the proper degree of freedom and regulation, and we'd be here for hours if anyone even tried to give you a literal and comprehensive answer to that question. So please, drop the switchblade and act like a real journalist again, will ya?" Instead, Gov. Palin politely said that she's have to get back to Ms. Couric on that.

(In fact, rather than buttressing her original point — a simple one, not in genuine dispute by anybody, to the effect that McCain had gone on record years ago demanding closer oversight of and accountability for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the sort of detailed answer literally called for by the question would have required Gov. Palin to spend many minutes detailing an aspect of Sen. McCain's career that libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives find rather worrying. The genuine question isn't whether John McCain has ever insisted on government oversight on any other occasions, it's whether he's been too willing to impose it. Thus, a comparable question to Joe Biden would have been: "Tell us every example of legislation that Sen. Obama has supported as a state or U.S. senator that has delivered or would have delivered funds, via earmarks or otherwise, into the hands of his political allies and supporters — and for each, tell us why we ought not suspect that there's graft involved." Even Slow Joe Biden would have found a way to sidestep that question.)

So today, Gov. Palin takes press questions in New York. So what spin does Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico.com put on the session — no doubt anticipating that which we'll hear from most other old-media sources? Of course, it's that she "offer[ed] mostly evasive answers to specific questions."

Okay, then, what were the specific questions? The first was "whether she supports the reelection bids of embattled Alaska Republicans Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young." Now ask yourself this: When was the last time reporters made a big deal pressing either Barack Obama or Joe Biden on whether they support the re-election campaign of similarly-indicted Democratic congressman William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson?

In fact, Gov. Palin openly and actively supported her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, in his GOP primary battle against Young. (Parnell lost by a razor-thin margin.) And well before this year's election season, she had deliberately and openly distanced herself from both Young and Stevens, publicly demanding that both be more forthcoming in responding to allegations of ethical failures on their part. It would be a real stretch for anyone to describe her relations with Young or Stevens since she took office as anything else but "carefully polite but frosty," and of course to get into that office in the first place, she first had to defeat the third member of the Alaska Good-Old-Boys Troika, Frank Murkowski.

Today in particular, however, Sen. Stevens is in the middle of a jury trial. If he's convicted, his career will be over regardless of anything Gov. Palin says. It would be hugely inappropriate — a misuse of her official position, in fact — for her as Governor of Alaska to either support or lambast Stevens in the national press while the jury is still hearing evidence. Gov. Palin politely pointed that out — she's quoted today as saying "“Ted Stevens' trial started a couple days ago. We’ll see where that goes” — but eager to further his "She's Hiding from the Press!" meme, Vogel still insists on characterizing Gov. Palin as being "evasive."

As for Vogel's second example of a specific question on which Gov. Palin was "evasive," Vogel tells us that she "deflected a follow-up question about whether she felt the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has inflamed Islamic extremists." Now, to begin with, phrased that way, that's not a question so much as an argument, an Obama-campaign talking point. The real issue is whether the benefits to our side in the Global War on Terror from our presence in those countries is worth whatever inflamation their presence causes — and that's the issue Gov. Palin chose to address in her answer, rather than assuming the questioner's premise that the "inflamation" is the only important part of the equation:

I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. Do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction, terrible destruction on that day. But since Sept. 11, Americans are uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again.

That's not being "evasive," friends and neighbors, that's being assertive. (And it's also, I submit, the correct view of the larger issue.)

For Vogel to characterize these answers as "evasive" is simply disingenuous — the application of an unrealistic standard that no honest journalist would ever apply to any other politician who gave the same answers to the same sets of loaded questions in any other context.

Here's the sub-text, folks: The old-media hacks who are in the tank for Obama are screaming "Say something stupid, Gov. Palin, to give us ammo to feed our bogus narrative that you're in over your head!" And when she refuses, what's their headline? "Palin non-responsive to reporters' requests."

The good news is that fair-minded members of the American public — including fair-minded people on the political Left — can see through this shrill charade. I don't expect the charade to abate between now and November 4th because that would require the hacks to climb out of the tank, and that just ain't gonna happen. But I think Gov. Palin will continue to impress her supporters, and more importantly that she'll continue to win more, as her unfiltered, unapologetic common sense continues to shine through to the American voting public.

Come November 5th, Democrats and their not-so-secret supporters in the old media will regret having insisted that the spotlight stay so focused on Sarah Palin.


UPDATE (Thu Sep 25 @ 9:30 p.m. CST): Patterico proves that CBS News badly butchered their transcription of Couric's interview with Gov. Palin — in ways that tend to make Gov. Palin's answers seem disjointed and clueless — but the mistranscriptions are already propagating all around the blogosphere. I hadn't seen the transcriptions, but watched the first couple of episodes live, and I personally thought Gov. Palin did quite well in them overall.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:13 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Neither Palin nor any human in her shoes could satisfy the mainstream media's lust for "gotcha" questions and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Reader made the following comment | Sep 25, 2008 7:42:47 PM | Permalink

It's been truly enjoyable to watch you scramble to defend your newfound heroine Palin, even as her favorability ratings plummet. Indeed, today even her own constituents showed their lack of faith in her "qualifications":

Farleigh Dickinson Univ. poll of Alaskans:

Which vice presidential candidate has the background and experience to be a good president?

Palin (R) 37
Biden (D) 43
Both 5
Neither 7

So Palin's own constituents in Alaska think she isn't qualified.

Seriously, watch either of these two videos from Palin's trainwreck of an interview with Couric and tell me you have *any* confidence in her ability to assume the mantle of the Presidency:



Watching those videos is painful. I simply cannot believe that even you are capable of watching those and seeing a person who is an acceptable VP nomination.

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 25, 2008 8:56:36 PM | Permalink

"Reader," thanks for your thoughtful comment and your selective provision of links. I think you're being selective in your description of your source to the point of disingenuity, but let's let my readers decide that for themselves. Here's the actual link to the Farleigh-Dickenson University's "Public Mind Poll," and here's a lengthy quote that, I agree, is fairly interesting:

Alaskan and Delawarean views of Palin and Biden predictably mirror one another on some points, but surprisingly not all. They each see their home state candidate in a favorable light: Alaskans have a favorable opinion of Palin (62%-28%), while Delawareans have a favorable opinion of Biden by a similar margin (65%-25%), somewhat improved from a year ago during his bid for the presidency. But it should be noted that Alaskan Democrats have an unfavorable view of Palin (61%-25%) and a very favorable view of Biden (72%-5%) while Delaware Republicans have an unfavorable view of Biden (58%-30%) and a favorable view of Palin (78%-7%).

Alaskans also say Palin is better described as “honest, trustworthy” (50%-28%) than is Biden, while Delawareans say it’s Biden (52%-25%). Likewise, Alaskans say Palin better understands the concerns of the average person (61%-26%) while Delawareans say Biden (55%-32%) does. Alaskans also say Palin “gets the job the done” (56%-27%), while First Staters say it’s Biden who is more effective (56%-28%). And each state gives its local candidate the edge on developing the nation’s future energy policy: 58%-28% for Palin among Alaskans and 51%-31% for Biden among Delaware’s voters.

When it comes to the “background and experience to be a good president,” Alaskans concede: They give the edge to Biden 43%-37%, while Delawareans agree 69%-18%. Likewise, Alaskan voters say Biden is “better equipped to handle an unexpected international crisis” (44%-32%), and Delawareans agree 73%-14%. Voters in both states hesitate to give a decisive edge on the question of who is better equipped to “clean up the problems on Wall Street.” On that timely question, Alaskans split 35%-30% for Palin but 33% say “neither” or “don’t know,” while Delawareans say it’s Biden who can clean up Wall Street (44%-20%), but another 34% say “neither” or “don’t know.”

“Alaskans support Palin,” said Woolley. “But at the same time that they are aware of her early political successes, they are aware of her brief political history.”

Nearly three out of four Delawareans (73%) say Biden was a good pick for vice president but that number declines to 64% when asked whether he would make a good president. Even so, when asked the same question a year ago (Oct. 2007), Delaware voters split evenly, with 41% saying he’d make a good president and 41% saying he wouldn’t. Meanwhile, a majority of Alaskans say Palin is a good pick for vice president (61%), but that number declines to 49% when Alaskans are asked whether she’d make a good president.

None of this, by the way, undercuts Alaskans' approval ratings for Gov. Palin's actual past performance as governor, as opposed to their guesses as to how she'd perform in the office she's running for (VPOTUS) or might theoretically someday succeed to (POTUS). There's a long-standing history of Americans saying they think U.S. senators are "better prepared" to become president than state governors are, but then actually voting to elect governors. Quick, name one genuinely major legislative accomplishment of Joe Biden, who's been in the Senate since 1973. Anything besides the pro-credit card company bankruptcy bill?

Probably the most interesting thing about that poll is that his constituents seem to like Biden considerably better now that he's not running for president himself. It makes me think that they really see him in the role of Falstaff to Obama's Prince Hal, a sort of ridiculous but beloved court jester who's good to have around for his good cheer and ridiculous gaffes. But he's been trying for more than two decades to persuade them, or anyone, that he's presidential material, and he's yet to win a single delegate. Now, that's funny.

Finally, I did indeed watch the segments that have been shown so far of Gov. Palin's interviews with Couric. As I posted at length at HH.com, I think she acquitted herself well, and Couric very poorly, in the specific exchange about other instances of McCain being pro-regulation. Overall, it's also easy for me to see from those interviews why Gov. Palin is the most promising and exciting newcomer to the national political scene in at least two decades, while Ms. Couric continues to languish as the distant third place competitor in a dying network news business.

(3) Reader made the following comment | Sep 25, 2008 9:35:59 PM | Permalink

wow, pretty incredible denial. I also like how you avoid any discussion of Palin's disastrous stream of incoherence regarding her proximity-to-Russia-based foreign policy "experience" and how the bailout relates to health care and creating jobs.

I read your HH post, and it's laughable. You completely ignore McCain's recent posturing and attempts to portray himself as the grand regulator who's "taken on" Wall Street and is ready to handle this crisis. That is the context of Couric's question. When your running mate is going around acting like he's a big reformer with a history of reining in Wall Street, you should be able to help back up that claim. Couric even quoted Palin's *own* claim that "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business" in her question. Asking about McCain's ideas & track record on reforming Wall Street is completely fair game, and Palin completely flubbed it.

Palin's response to the revelations about Rick Davis being on a retainer was also astonishingly vapid.

Oh, and here's an answer about how's been more active in legislating in the financial area (hint, it's not McCain).

http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/mccain-has-introduced-no-banking-bill-this-congress-2008-09-25.html (Republican presidential nominee John McCain has not introduced any banking or housing bills in the 110th Congress, while Democratic rival Barack Obama has proposed five.)

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 25, 2008 10:31:53 PM | Permalink

Reader, dissenting views are welcome here when expressed with civility. Your first comment was civil. Your second one is less so. I point out the trend because this isn't the DU or dKos, and I do hold commenters here to a higher standard of civility than those places or Townhall.com do. I'm pretty tolerant of slurs directed at politicians and other public figures, but much less so when it comes to other commenters or yours truly. So be advised.

Posture all you want, but it doesn't change history. History shows that McCain has been an effective senator who's sponsored and passed major legislation bearing his name. Not all of it is legislation I agree with, but there's no doubt that he's gotten things passed. Barack Obama has never been the principal legislative sponsor of any major piece of legislation; his biggest solo accomplishment is a bill relating to the Congo.

Nor does your bluster or Katie Couric's snippy manner change the historical fact that Sen. McCain warned of looming problems at Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Dems ignored those warnings and blocked his and others' efforts at meaningful reform while people like Chris Dodd and Jamie Gorelick were getting their sweetheart deals. There's blame enough for both parties, but you're just playing diversion games, as was Couric, to try to keep the public's attention off of McCain's prophetic warnings. It won't work.

Your cite about Obama and banking bills is pretty funny. That would be the same Barack Obama who claimed credit for committee action in the Senate Banking Committee, even though he's not on that committee?

Finally, no state governor has extensive responsibility for foreign policy, but border-state governors have more than others, and Russia is in close proximity with Alaska, sharing an archipelago. No one, including Gov. Palin or Sen. McCain, claims that the governorship of Alaska compares to the presidency, but then again, neither does any other governorship or, for that matter, senate committee membership. Ronald Reagan had only the foreign policy experience of a border-state governor, but he won the Cold War and restored America to world-wide leadership because his core values were consistent and deeply held. So are hers.

Joe Biden, by contrast, can produce a long list of foreign leaders and diplomats whom he's shaken hands and made small-talk with, and yet he's still stupid enough to propose carving Iraq into thirds or sending Iran a $200M no-questions-asked check after 9/11 to soothe "Arab" concerns. Barack Obama can pop off about an "undivided Jerusalem" or argue that he should meet with the world's greatest despots without preconditions. And you're pointing fingers at Gov. Palin?

(5) Reader made the following comment | Sep 25, 2008 11:29:18 PM | Permalink

It's difficult to remain civil in the face of such deliberate obtuseness, but I fail to see where I displayed any incivility. Sure, I called your post "laughable" and accused you of "incredible denial," but that's awfully tame. Perhaps you'd rather sling accusations of incivility than defend the merits of Palin's nonsensical, off-topic ramblings.

Also, you are either ignorant or lie just as much as your heroes John & Sarah. You claim ...

[Sorry, "Reader," but that's where it stops. I don't pay for bandwidth in order to provide you, or anyone, with the privilege of insulting me on it. It's a big internet and a free country. Feel free to get your own blog and insult me there to your heart's content. Here, you won't. It's my blog, and even if they're arbitrary and subjective, I maintain certain minimum standards for civility, which you can't seem to accommodate. Begone. — Beldar, Fri Sep 25 @ wee-small-hours.]

(6) Dai Alanye made the following comment | Sep 26, 2008 8:56:17 AM | Permalink

It's obvious that "Reader" is a troll whose comments are simply repeats of Demo talking points.

Some of Palin's strengths--her ever-present smile and wide-eyed look--can work against her when up against a censorious inquisitor. They can easily be characterized as depicting ignorance and being a deer-in-the-headlights.

Still, Palin has a significant advantage over Biden. In Alaskan politics she has proven able to learn and learn rapidly, while Biden continually shows that he has trouble comprehending new concepts. She's still learning the Washington way of effectively handling the enemy media, and is probably stuffed far too full of well-meant advice. Given a little time and experience, this will change.

But I would really like to know whose bright idea it was to have Palin confront Gibson and Couric before rewarding more friendly interviewers while getting her feet under herself. Even Bill O'Reilly would have been preferable to those two.

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