Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Bush Doctrine
Mike Rappaport

So Charlie Gibson asks Palin whether she agrees with the Bush Doctrine, without defining it.  Palin responds, in which respect?  And then Gibson, after letting her give an answer, makes it seem like she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was.  He says: "The Bush Doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory defense. We have the right to preemptively strike any other country that we believe is going to attack us."

Bad form and bad journalism on Gibson's part.  When Gibson asked the question, I wasn't sure exactly what the Bush Doctrine was.  There were a couple of different notions associated with it and I wasn't sure there was a single one that was the Bush Doctrine.  I assumed that I was just ignorant, and that Gibson was trying to trip up Palin.

But I am not sure that is right.  I took a quick look at Wikipedia's entry under the Bush Doctrine, which states:

The Bush Doctrine is a phrase used to describe various related foreign policy principles of United States President George W. Bush, enunciated in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The phrase initially described the policy that the United States had the right to treat countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups as terrorists themselves, which was used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan.[1]Later it came to include additional elements, including the controversial policy of preventive war, which held that the United States should depose foreign regimes that represented threat to the security of the United States, even if that threat was not immediate (used to justify the invasion of Iraq), a policy of supporting democracy around the world, especially in the Middle East, as a strategy for combating the spread of terrorism, and a willingness to pursue U.S. military interests in a unilateral way.[2][3][4] Some of these policies were codified in a National Security Council text entitled the National Security Strategy of the United States published on September 20, 2002.[5]   

So, according to Wikipedia at least, I had been right.  It was associated with several different notions.  And more importantly, Sarah Palin was correct to ask Gibson, which aspect of the doctrine?  If Wikipedia is correct, Gibson owes Palin another apology. 

What is going on with Gibson?  My guess is that there are at least two reasons for his hostility.  First, he cares about his peers in the MSM and they want him to be harsh to Palin.  He is trying his best, and that involves some inaccurate and unfair questioning.  Second, he was chosen to interview Palin, and that makes him suspect with the others.  To show that he really is no pushover, he needs to be harsher than he should be.

Of course, there are boobs out there who don't realize the tricks that are being played.  For example, Andrew Sullivan thinks Palin should have known what the Bush Doctrine was, but doesn't that suggest he is misinformed about it?   The rest of Sullivan's post has similarly weak points, including his claim that she doesn't know what the presidential oath says.   

Update: More peculiar behavior from the press.  Dan Froomkin acknowledges that there are at least 6 Bush Doctrines, yet writes "Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's evident cluelessness when asked in an interview yesterday if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine is appropriately being seen as emblematic of her ignorance of foreign policy."  The cluelessness is Charlie Gibson, who got it wrong when he had the time to research it.  What is it about Sarah Palin that makes liberals sound so stupid?  We should have a name for this effect.  I suppose we have one already -- Palin Derangement Syndrome.

Further Update:  I see that I was channelling Charles Krauthammer on this.  We make the same points, including the reference to Wikipedia.  Of course, Charles can claim to have been the first person to use the term "Bush Doctrine."  In any event, another reason why Krauthammer is my favorite columnist.  We so often agree!

| Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Sarah Palin and the Bush Doctrine
Mike Rappaport


I've read quite a lot about pre-emption and imminence issues, and I'd never heard "Bush Doctrine" applied to Bush's views on them. I'd always thought the Bush Doctrine was about not distinguishing between terrorists and those who harbor them. (That's why we invaded Afghanistan, even though the Taliban didn't attack us itself.) And Gibson doesn't capture anything distinctive about Bush's view on pre-emption anyway--the only difference Bush made on that was to relax his understanding of the imminence requirement in light of new technology. *All* genuinely *defensive* force--i.e., force justified by defending against an attack, rather than merely retaliating against one--is "anticipatory" in the sense Gibson describes. Even if someone has hit us once, we're not justified on *defensive* grounds in hitting him back unless we anticipate future strikes. Hitting back against someone out of bullets or the like is only retaliation (i.e., an action in pursuit of justice or law enforcement, not self-defense as such).

Posted by: Chris | Sep 12, 2008 5:13:56 AM


Preemption isn't a factor of the Bush Doctrine because it's already implicit in the Doctrine of Self Defense.

IMO Gibson has lost a lot of credibility in this.

Posted by: memomachine | Sep 12, 2008 6:59:14 AM

I, too, am familiar with the concept of pre-emption, although I wasn't aware it was a doctrine, nor that it was Bush's.

Was it the FDR Doctrine when he provided weapons and other material support to the allies and denie exports of key raw materials to Germany and Japan prior to our entry into WWII? Or when we sank a Japanese submarine the day before Pearl Harbor?

Was it the Truman Doctrine when he sent troops to the Yalu River in North Korea, provoking the Chinese into the conflict.

Was it the JFK Doctrine during the Bay of Pigs invasion?

Was it the LBJ Doctrine when he sent the 82nd Airborne into the Dominican Republic and the Marines into South Vietnam in 1965?

Posted by: jblog | Sep 12, 2008 11:27:07 AM

I think the criticism of Palin is fair even though Gibson also deserves criticism for his framing of the question. If Palin knew there were multiple versions of the Bush doctrine she would have (or at least should have) laid into Gibson for his patronizing lecture. Can you imagine how devastating that would have been: "Charlie, I don't need you to talk to me like in a school girl in your high school civics class, especially since you don't seem to understand that the Bush Doctrine has also been described as . . ."

She didn't say that, which, in conjunction with her body language, leads me to the pretty strong conclusion that she didn't know more than that the Bush Doctrine relates to foreign policy. Doesn't let Gibson off the hook, but it shouldn't let Palin off the hook either.

Posted by: djk | Sep 12, 2008 3:45:52 PM

This lady will eat you alive without any grimace. Thank the Lord for living in such interesting times!
To me it shows she has the right "wiring" for the job. She sensed bs from Gibson and reacted correctly. A real leader will have the time to check with her advisors later on. There is no need to overreact to Gibson's question. I do think she is a product of affirmative action (otherwise she would not be a VP candidate) but boy do I love this affirmative action case. Even my wife who was buying Obama's bs for the last several months is reconsidering her vote. I may even become religious in view of such miracle as Palin beating up on leftist snobs.

Posted by: George | Sep 12, 2008 4:48:27 PM