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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Did someone feed Palin answers to give Cameron for the questions from Couric which she'd ducked?

In an afternoon guest-post at HughHewitt.com, I express an opinion contrary to my good friend Patterico's about whether Gov. Palin had answers for Katie Couric about what periodicals she reads and SCOTUS decisions she disagrees with, but chose not to share that info.


[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)

My very good blogospheric friend and fellow Texas Law School alumnus Patrick Frey (a/k/a Patterico) — who is as perceptive a watchdog of the mainstream media, and especially of his current hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, as has ever lived and breathed and blogged — is also never shy to express his sincere and natural skepticism about even conservative figures.

He proved this in a short post yesterday that he sardonically entitled Palin Knew the Answers, She Just Didn't Want to Say Them. In it, he expressed incredulity about Sarah Palin's post-debate explanations for some of the subjects on which she'd been non-responsive in her interviews with CBS News' Katie Couric. And the post is so short that I can't discuss it without quoting the whole thing, for which I think he'll forgive me this once (italics and link in original):

The New York Times’s Caucus Blog:

Ms. Palin explained that she stumbled in the Couric interviews not because she didnt know the answers, but that she was annoyed with the interview because she thought the questions did not focus enough on the qualities needed in a vice president. She promised to try to be patient in the future.

I’m looking for more genuineness and honesty. Instead I’m getting answers that I don’t believe.

One last thing you should know before I share my own take on this: Patterico has a diverse readership who conduct high-quality debates in his comments, and a short post like this may fairly be read as his gutsy invitation to readers to take issue with his opinion — and in this instance, many of them already have.

As for my take, it begins this way:

Patterico, my excellent friend, take a step back. Look at your own post. At the end of it, you express a terse opinion, which of course is your right and, indeed, the essence of punditry. Above that there are two sentences that you've quoted from elsewhere, and above that a short introduction to the block-quoted material, from which you quite properly hung your hyperlink.

So what jumps out at you about your own original post, my friend?

Would it be any more obvious to you if, instead of your opinion being founded on a single-sourced report from an NYT in-house blog — something subject to even less editorial control and discipline and ethics than the NYT's normal news reporting — this had come instead from the LAT? Are you entirely comfortable having formed your opinion based on "facts" or summaries of facts vouched for only by, and filtered through, the New York Times? Or are the alarm bells ringing yet?


If Patterico had gone to the NYT blog's own source before writing his post — not just the Fox News' report linked here and in the NYT blog piece, but also Fox News' very rough transcript, or to the video (which Fox has re-run incessantly since the interview) — he would have discovered that actually, Gov. Palin first gave a self-critical evaluation (using hindsight) of her overall performance in the Couric interviews. Then she gave more specific and very discrete explanations for her answers to Couric about (a) what publications she reads and (b) what SCOTUS decisions she disagrees with.

The NYT collapses all of that discussion into a single unflattering and implausible summary — one which, I respectfully submit, does not fairly match what Gov. Palin actually said.

Patterico, in an update to his original post, allows how more or better context might have been useful, but for that he went not back to the Fox News story or the transcript or the video, but a post from Jake Tapper from ABC News. That would be the same Jake Tapper who earlier this year uncritically reported that Gov. Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party without even bothering to check the conclusive and public voter registration records, a colossal mistake that ought to have gotten him and Elisabeth Bumiller of the NYT both fired. Tapper may be a nice guy, interesting to read, and this time he did indeed provide a lot more of Gov. Palin's explanation for her original non-answers and her present ones — but reliable on Sarah Palin matters? Not even close. Like me, Patterico cross-examines people for a living and knows the danger of double hearsay. Go to the source, my friend!

Specifically, in her own words (as established by the Fox News video), here is the general explanation as to why Gov. Palin thinks she came off poorly overall in the Couric interviews:

Well, OK. I'll tell you. Honestly. The Sarah Palin in those interviews is a little bit annoyed. Because it's like, no matter what you say, you're going to get clobbered. If you cease to answer a question, you're going to get clobbered on the answer. If you choose to try to pivot and go on to another subject that you believe that Americans want to hear about, you get clobbered for that, too.

But, in the Katie Couric interviews, I did feel that there were a lot of things that she was missing, in terms of an opportunity to ask what a V.P. candidate stands for. What the values are represented in our ticket.

I wanted to talk about Barack Obama increasing taxes, which would lead to filling jobs. I wanted to talk about his proposal to increase government spending by another trillion dollars. (AUDIO GAP) that he's made about the war that I think in my world — disqualify someone from consideration as the next commander in chief. Some of the comments that he's made about Afghanistan, what we're doing there, supposedly, just air raiding villages and killing civilians. That's reckless and I want to talk about things like that.

So, I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed. But, that's also an indication of being outside of that Washington elite, outside of the media elite, also. And just getting to talk to Americans without the filters and let them know what we stand for.

Katie Couric is heir to Dan Rather's anchor chair at the same New York-based TV network which was willing to re-publish (and then defend) obviously forged documents in an attempt to destroy a national GOP candidate just four years ago. If for no other reason than that, It would have been appropriate for Gov. Palin to be guarded in her dealings with Ms. Couric.

It's also fair to say that by the latter stages of their interviews, Ms. Couric had indeed shown a distinct lack of interest in campaign policy issues. Can one seriously blame Gov. Palin for wondering whether Ms. Couric's near-exclusive focus was, instead, on making Gov. Palin look like an ignorant hayseed?


Reasonable minds might still differ about that, I suppose. So let's go on to Gov. Palin's more specific explanation for her evasive response on the questions about the specific publications she regularly reads:

So, my response to her. I guess it was kind of filtered. But, I was sort of taken aback, like, the suggestion was, you're way up there in a far away place in Alaska. You know, that there are publications in the rest of the world that are read by many. And I was taken aback by that because I don't know, the suggestion that this was a little bit of perhaps we're not in tune with the rest of the world.

I, for one, do not think it's entirely implausible that Gov. Palin might have thought she detected at least a hint of regional snobbery in Couric's question. Watching the interviews, I thought I detected quite a bit more than a hint, and of course, that didn't include anything Ms. Couric may have said off-camera or that ended up on the cutting room floor.

More to the point, it's entirely implausible that Gov. Palin genuinely doesn't know what newspapers and magazines she reads — or worse for her, but clearly insinuated both by Couric and by the NYT blog — that she really reads none. To believe that, we would have to reject outright the part of Kaylene Johnson's biography of Gov. Palin in which she describes an athletic yet bookish girl who grew up in a state where it's dark and freezing outside all day and all night for half the year (at page 21-22):

... From the time [Sarah Palin] was in elementary school, she consumed newspapers with a passion. "She read the paper from the very top left hand corner to the bottom right corner to the very last page," said [her sister] Molly. "She didn't want to miss a word. She didn't just read it — she knew every word she read and analyzed it."

Sarah preferred nonfiction to the Nancy Drew books that her classmates were reading. In junior high school, [her sister] Heather — a year older in school — often enlisted Sarah's help with book reports. "She was such a bookworm. Whenever I was assigned to read a book, she'd already read it," Heather said.

Sarah's thirst for knowledge was nurtured in a household that emphasized the importance of education. There was never any question that all the Heath kids would go to college. With her love for newspapers and current events, Sarah majored in journalism and minored in political science. Her brother, like their father, became a teacher. Heather works for an advertising firm. Molly is a dental hygienist.

Can one seriously credit Gov. Palin's entire family, in their interviews with Kaylene Johnson back in 2007, with fabricating all of this about Sarah being a bookworm who read newspapers cover to cover, even before there was an internet? Can we further assume that Sarah Palin doesn't read newspapers, but she did bother to earn a degree in journalism — just so that she could give a more plausible fabricated answer a week after a 2008 interview with Katie Couric in which she'd be asked about what newspapers she reads?


On the SCOTUS decisions, Gov. Palin flatly confessed that she had erred in permitting her caution and annoyance to cause her to clam up. Again from the transcript of the Cameron interview (two "(INAUDIBLE)" notations in the transcript replaced by me with her actual words, still in brackets, but based on my repeated listening to the video):

CAMERON: But, as a conservative, there are some in the Republican Party who would expect a vice presidential nominee to understand judicial conservatives and to have something that they might object to.

PALIN: And that's fair. Right. And on that one, truly I shouldn't have been so [flippant] and [just sort of brushed aside] that. Because that was an important question and I should have answered it.

And yes, I can cite a lot of cases that I absolutely disagree with the Supreme Court on.

At Mr. Cameron's invitation, she then proceeded to discuss three particular cases. One, the most recent Exxon Valdez decision, Gov. Palin had also discussed earlier this year, long before her selection by McCain, in a video that one of Patterico's guest bloggers posted earlier this week. But in the Cameron interview, Gof. Palin went on to discuss all three cases in terms that were absolutely accurate and rational. Besides the obvious Alaska connection on the Valdez case, she also described Kennedy v. Louisiana, as to which she expressed outrage that the SCOTUS had restricted states' rights to impose capital punishment for child rapes if they think that fitting, and Kelo v. City of New London, which she said she'd been aware of (and had disapproved of) ever since she handled eminent domain matters as a mayor.

Now, perhaps a non-lawyer being quizzed by Katie Couric about SCOTUS cases should throw caution to the wind and start rattling off names and holdings, dimly remembered or otherwise, of cases. And maybe she should have expected everyone to be as forgiving of her if she mixed two cases up, or muffed a name, in the same way that everyone ended up just laughing and saying, "Good old Joe!" when lawyer and con-law teacher Joe Biden preposterously told 70 million people on Thursday night that Article I of the Constitution is all about the Executive Branch.

But on the other hand, the great big TV networks and newspapers like the NYT made a big deal when Gov. Palin merely flubbed a general's rather unusual name during the Veep debate. It seems reasonably certain that they would have similarly exploited any mistake by Gov. Palin in a pre-debate discussion of SCOTUS precedents. Perhaps she should have overcome her concerns anyway, but based on what's actually happened since then, it's impossible to say that Gov. Palin's concerns didn't even exist at the time of the Couric interviews, and that she's just fabricated them later to cover for ignorance.

Moreover, it's entirely likely that as a former mayor and then governor of Alaska, she would know and have strong views about these three cases in particular. Now, I suppose it's possible that the handlers not only had to inject knowledge of these cases into her mushy brain, but also had to pick cases that she might plausibly have had occasion to learn of. And if we're going to suppose that without any proof, then it's certainly easy to further suppose that someone whispered all of these answers into Gov. Palin's ear just before her interview with Carl Cameron.

Indeed, if we're going that far, why not go ahead and presume that Gov. Palin had a hidden ear-piece during the Cameron interview, and that Karl Rove was next door with a walkie-talkie, like in "Mission: Impossible"? Once we're comfortably settled into a sort of Matthew "I'll believe absolutely anything (so long as it's bad) about Sarah Palin" Yglesias mode, there's just no limit to the unflattering things we can suppose about Gov. Palin.

But why get into that mode?

After a solid two weeks in which we read in the NYT and heard on the CBS Evening News that Gov. Palin is a complete ditz who can't string together two complete sentences, especially under pressure and on-camera, we saw those propositions dramatically disproved on national TV.

If I'm going to start drawing unsupported inferences, friends and neighbors, I prefer to do so based on what I've seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears during the unfiltered debate — not some narrative that NYT or CBS News has been peddling in close synchronization with the Hard Left and Gov. Palin's political opponents. I prefer reasonable inferences, consistent with a popular and effective state governor's objective record of accomplishments, over wild and insulting speculation which, even if true, would still leave unexplained how Gov. Palin could perform at anything remotely like the level we watched on Thursday.

How about you?

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 08:09 PM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Did someone feed Palin answers to give Cameron for the questions from Couric which she'd ducked? and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) DRJ made the following comment | Oct 4, 2008 9:23:11 PM | Permalink

You're right on this one, Beldar.

(2) Carol Herman made the following comment | Oct 6, 2008 9:00:21 PM | Permalink

I remember when Nancy Reagan said "she always thought up clever answers, after the fact. Usually, when she was in her tub, taking a bath.

The other day, Palin got in the story of Ayres, by saying "she read this in the New York Times."

As to Couric's interview; until I know what got cut and dropped. In other words edited out, I don't really have an opinion. Other than Katie Couric scored "GOT'CHA."

Got'cha isn't worth all that much.

"What did you read last year," is about on par with "what did you have for dinner last night." Oddly enough, unless your dinner gave you a terrible bellyache, or a bout of gas, you'd be hard pressed to remember.

I read a lot. And, I read a lot on the Internet. Which means I even read articles from the NY Times that get posted up on sites. For some reason or another.

But I have no clue the last time I actually spent a quarter on the paper. (As a matter of fact, you could tell me the paper costs more than a quarter these days, and I'd just shrug.)

More than a dozen years ago, it was not uncommon to go outside in the morning, to pick up my copy of the daily screed. Well, I stopped.

Now? When I'm up early I see very few newspapers in people's driveways. The old habit of "getting a paper delivered to your shrubbery" has disappeared. Maybe, because kids prefer scooters to bikes?

Maybe, because kids wouldn't even earn minimum wage anymore, delivering newspapers to people's doors?

Heck, the world of Black & White TV's ... also changed.

And, I'm all for change, ya know.

(3) Carol Herman made the following comment | Oct 6, 2008 9:09:46 PM | Permalink

Wait a minute! Wait a minute!

I think I see a set-up trick!

Sarah Palin doesn't believe in abortion. That's obvious. When she was told, during her last pregnancy, that she was carrying a retarded child, she opted to have him! You don't get more proof than that ... that people really do have choices.

Wasn't the question more to the effect ... that it could go something like this?

Wouldn't you like to smoke grass? Don't you think laws against marijuana are stupid?

And, while you're at it: When did you stop beating your wife?

The question regarding "case law you don't like" ... is meant to make Sarah Palin a law breaker. Or at least one who'd wink at ya if you broke "some" law.

Well? We all broke the law of driving at 55 miles an hour! Remember that one?

By the way, IF Obama wins? It means people have a vested interest in Roe V. Wade. And, it could, or would mean that Obama gets to be president because most people aren't loooking for "conservatives" to fill the bench up at the Supreme Court? I could be wrong.

But among Bush's errors, you still have Harriet Meirs sticking out as one of those decisions Bush made, where he didn't look so good.

And, Andy Card had to go to Harriet Meirs 3 times, asking her to withdraw! She didn't want to! And, she didn't even believe Andy Card, when he told her she'd be turned into laughing stock IF she went up to the Hill and tried to get confirmed.

Whew. At least no one is asking Sarah Palin about Harriet Meirs where-abouts.

By the way, if McCain wins? But Congress still sits with a dominance of democrats? How far does he get trying to fullfil the right wing's agenda?

Sarah Palin could'a said, "rather than answering that question, let me tell ya, Sandra Day O'Connor figured out the politics, before she tried to cross Roe V Wade off the books.

Wise up.

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