September 18, 2008

Sarah Palin, the Interview & the Controversy

by Chelsea Ritchie

The interview between the infamous anchorman Charlie Gibson of ABC News and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin sparked loads of controversy. The interview aired September 11 from Palin’s living room in her town of Wasilla, Alaska. Humble, looking terrific and perky, Palin answered the questions of Gibson with poise and assertiveness. At least, she tried.

The three main points that created the controversy were over her answers on the Russian invasion of Georgia, the Bush Doctrine and her viewpoint on who is involved in the Georgian conflict.

Her answers on the Russian-Georgian conflict seemed indirect at the least. And then she gave conflicting signals about Russia.

PALIN: “And, Charlie, you’re in Alaska. We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia. They are our next-door neighbors. We need to have a good relationship with them. They’re very, very important to us and they are our next-door neighbor.”

Many wondered what Palin meant with her comments concerning relations with Russia. She was condemning the actions of Russia but also trying to maintain good relations with them. However, the real controversy was over whether Palin, the governor of Alaska, plans to help the Georgians whilst maintaining good relations with our neighbor (Russia) for fear of starting another Cold War.

The other big topic was over the Bush Doctrine. Gibson asked, “Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?”

Palin's response: "In what respect, Charlie?"

Palin said several times that she agrees with how the president does his job and that they (Palin and Republican presidential candidate John McCain) have the job to defend the American people. When asked again by Gibson if she supports the right of nations to use anticipatory self-defense Palin merely responded, “the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.”

Does Palin actually understand the Bush Doctrine because she never fully answered the question? Later, TV commentators said that there are probably very few voters (some mentioned “hockey moms”) who could explain the Bush Doctrine. The fact is that the American people know what the duty of the president is, and I believe that is why we have these debates or interviews, because it is essential to giving the country a fuller picture of those we choose for a higher job. “In what respect, Charlie?” does not cut it.

Palin was criticized severely for her indirect answers. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert said, “For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on American Idol.”

The Washington Post said: “Ms. Palin's responses were disappointingly shallow.”

Saturday Night Live aired a skit depicting Palin and Democratic Senator Hilary Clinton this past weekend. Former SNL cast member Tina Fey came back for the skit that made a comical mockery of Palin as a shallow, beautiful pageant-sashed MILF, just a heartbeat away from the presidency, and the idea that anyone could become president. The comical aspect came into play when Palin's political opposite Hilary Clinton (played by Amy Poehler) standing next to Palin (as played by Fey), appeared so close to the candidacy, and was mocked as ugly and smart.

Anchorman Gibson also got several responses about his interview. He was seen as aggressive towards the politician. He was criticized by Washington Post columnist Tom Shales as "shoddy," "despicable," and "prosecutorial" in the Democratic debates between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and his interview with Palin got the same feedback. United Press International said Gibson “was out for blood” and “was out to embarrass Palin and expose her presumed ignorance from the word go.” Palin seemed surprised at Gibson’s aggression and despite her efforts to be assertive in her answers, fell short on camera.

What I took away from this interview is that clearly Palin is not ready for any vice presidential role anytime soon. I agree with Bob Herbert of The New York Times. He said that Palin’s major problem “is not about agreeing or disagreeing. She doesn’t appear to understand some of the most important issues.” She dodged most of the questions and as most politicians do, brought the focus back to her history in politics, her earmarking requests, or to her hockey mom image. Gibson may have been criticized for being too aggressive, but I believe someone needed to ask those critical questions. After watching her speech at the Republican National Convention, I left feeling “great speaker, but what is she going to do on the economy and national security?” I certainly agree that Palin was capable of being a mayor to a small town, yet having that small government out for the interest of the American family is much more difficult considering the issues of the 301,139,947 Americans in the United States.

(The photo of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is from 2007 and is by Tricia Ward; it is used through a GNU Free Documentation License. To see the Saturday Night Live skit satirizing Palin and Sen. Hillary Clinton, please check below.)

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