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In Defense Of Sarah Palin

[ Posted Monday, September 29th, 2008 – 16:19 PDT ]

While this will be a shock to anyone who has read just about any other column I've written, I speak today in defense of Sarah Palin.

Now, my true feelings about Palin and what is going to happen in Thursday night's vice presidential debate can be found at the end of this column (which -- I promise! -- will cheer up regular readers), but I have to defend what Sarah Palin said about Putin and Russia; because she is being made out to be some sort of incoherent idiot as a result. She may well be incoherent, and I would also venture to suggest that the jury's still out on her idiocy as well, but I haven't seen anyone give her the benefit of the doubt and attempt to explain what she was actually trying to say.

Here is the key section of the interview transcript, from the second of two nights of interviews with Katie Couric of CBS News.

KATIE COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

SARAH PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It's funny that a comment like that was kinda made to … I don't know, you know … reporters.

COURIC: Mocked?

PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

COURIC: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

COURIC: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

Now, it absolutely cannot be denied that that was incredibly inarticulate. But there are plenty of other successful politicians that can be downright inarticulate at times, and largely get away with it. Our current occupant of the Oval Office immediately springs to mind.

[Ahem.]

But that last answer -- although astoundingly inarticulate -- was not complete gibberish. And, I must admit, I feel kind of sorry for Palin because she is being painted as some species of idiot for her answer. She has evenly been openly mocked for her answer (OK, it's a funny graphic, I have to admit). But the point she was trying to make is actually a valid one, which would have (if she had coherently made it) bolstered her "foreign policy credentials."

Here's what she may have been thinking, or what she would have said if she had had a speechwriter to help her out:

"Being Governor of Alaska gives you more national security experience than any other governor in the United States. Because, ever since the Cold War began, the Russians send military flights up to do exploratory missions that come very close to -- and indeed even at times invade -- the airspace of the United States, over Alaskan skies. They send bomber flights, or fighter missions, streaking towards the Alaskan/Russian airspace border all the time -- just to test our response rate and readiness. Interceptors have to scramble from Alaskan military bases and rise up to meet this threat, and we have consistently and bravely done so -- even before we became a state. We in Alaska were on the front lines of the Cold War like no other state in America, and we know what it is like to share a border with a country we cannot trust. Now that Putin has resumed this testing of American military resolve, Alaskans continue to proudly patrol the airspace near our border -- to let Putin know that if he rears his head, we will be there to meet him."

Of course, she didn't say that. Sarah Palin didn't even manage to make it clear that it was military flights -- or even airplanes -- that she was talking about. Or trying to talk about, at any rate.

But because I consider myself a fair (if occasionally unbalanced) reporter, I have to at least try to defend the point she was (so badly) trying to make. Alaska was on the front lines of the Cold War. It's a valid point, especially with a newly-resurgent and newly-belligerent Russia. Being governor in Alaska gives you more foreign policy experience than being governor of Arkansas, for example.

Now, having said all of that, I must admit I'm already mentally popping popcorn, in eager anticipation of this Thursday night's vice presidential debate -- because when it's over, I fully expect Joe Biden to be standing next to tiny pieces of Sarah Palin's credibility, scattered all over the stage.

And he won't even have to attack her himself, it seems. She's going to do it to herself, all on her very own.

Because in that transcript excerpt I provided earlier, the first answer Palin gives is actually her worst. She couldn't even finish her sentence... instead trailing off with a dismissive "... reporters..." complete with a derogatory shake of her head. Her inability to even complete a thought in this example has even staunch conservatives publicly hand-wringing over how she's going to do Thursday night.

Worry they might -- because although she has risen to lead a state (a test which one would assume requires a basic level of political competence), she seems woefully unready for the task at hand.

People have been worrying since John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate whether Joe Biden could "get rough" with her during the debate, since she's a woman and all. He couldn't be seen (the thinking went) to be "beating up on her" too badly, because that would somehow trigger some knee-jerk sympathy for her.

But Joe Biden has been freed from this conundrum, as the rest of the Couric interview so painfully makes obvious.

Because all Joe's going to have to do is stand back and let Gwen Ifill tie Palin up into knots. And the whole country's going to be watching when it happens. While Palin's been fairly adept at memorizing the talking points being fed to her right now (you can almost see her visualize the three-by-five cards in her mind while she talks), she memorizes these slogans so perfectly that it becomes painfully obvious that she's just read the Cliff's Notes -- especially when she starts to repeat herself. Because she really seems not to know what she's saying. She's like a student who has crammed for the big test and knows the "book answer" to the question... but doesn't really know what the answer means, when you ask her to explain it in context.

My guess: independent and uncommitted voters are not going to be impressed with what they see from Palin, no matter how low "media expectations" are set beforehand. And Obama's poll numbers will continue to rise as a direct result.

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

13 Comments on “In Defense Of Sarah Palin”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Kudos to your fairness to Palin..

    It will be interesting to see in the debate if Palin can live up to the complete and utter dumbness that most Democrats try to paint her as...

    The Democrats have really stepped on their wee-wees in their portrayal of Palin..

    By hysterically trying to paint her as a barbie doll, a bimbo or worthless (none of that was on here, to be fair) the Democrats have lowered the expectations of the American Public..

    The other theory is that Palin and her handlers have watched the episode of SPIN CITY that introduced Caitlin Moore (Heather Locklear)...

    It will be interesting to see the fallout of the debate... :D

    Michale.....

  2. [2] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I am trying to keep an open mind and see how she does against Sen. Biden in the debate. Gov. Palin must have something going on in her brain since she not only ran for state office but won. However, even if she shows herself to be smart I don't think she can convince me to agree with her on the issues.

    ...Stan

  3. [3] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Biden must be careful not to fall into the conservative narrative of Democrats as elitists. That's the only way I could see Palin winning the debate. If somehow, it appears as if he is looking down on her.

    (I know. I know. The whole elitist argument is a made up piece of Republican propaganda. I mean, c'mon. I know a lot of liberals and here's what they do, they make $30-50K a year as teachers if they're lucky. They don't rule Washington. But the narrative has a great deal of power nonetheless. Look how effective making fun of Bush's idiocy was.)

    Just be careful, Joe. That's all I'm sayin'.

  4. [4] 
    Michael Gass wrote:

    Chris,

    It is simple. Either you are ready for prime time or you aren't. She isn't.

    People need to quit trying to "explain". If a person cannot be coherent during an interview, wtf is the person going to do on the world stage? Stutter? Be incoherent at the UN? Have to have some spinmeister say, "but, she MEANT to say"?

    She's out of her league. She's BEEN out of her league from day 1. And ANYONE... ANYONE... who tries to defend her being brought to prime time and not being ready needs to go sit down and hang their head.

    I don't give a damn if the person is white, black or purple with polkadots. I don't care if they are Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist. I don't care if they are male, female, or had surgery to change sexes.

    When you get put on the national stage, you damn well better be able to handle it without excuses.

  5. [5] 
    Michael Gass wrote:

    Oh... and btw... the GOP meme is "it's politics"...

    So why the hell are they now whining that it's "gotcha" politics, that questions are "unfair", that because she's a woman it is "sexist"?

    Why?

    Because they are whiners.

    They can't win on merit... they whine.. they cry... and I've seen enough of it.

  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michael Gass -

    I fully agree that she may prove to be not ready for prime time -- even right-wingers are saying this now, and that she should be dropped from the ticket.

    I just felt that IN THIS ONE INSTANCE she was being treated a little bit unfairly. It actually pained me to stand up for Sarah Palin, but my motto is "reality-based politics" and I have to stick to it no matter what the response.

    But, as I said in the rest of the article, I think she's going to look completely out of her league Thursday night.

    One of the commenters over at HuffPost came up with a funny line -- it seems to be the "Grand Old Pity Party" when it comes to Palin. Heh. Same commenter also came up with a gem -- "Palintology." Boy, there's a great term begging for an amusing definition!

    -CW

  7. [7] 
    Michael Gass wrote:

    Chris,

    Yessss... but, treated unfairly? NO.

    We aren't talking about... anything... other than a person who could be entrusted to the safe-keeping of our entire nation.

    As much as many rail against hardcore politicians, and I am one of them, I want my nation entrusted to a person READY to take control... who will make GOOD decisions.

    And to defend anyone seeking that post who isn't ready for it... is just, to me, wrong.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    @MG

    The simple fact is, if Obama had been treated like Palin had been treated, Democrats would have gone ballistic.

    Oh wait..

    Obama WAS treated that unfairly..

    And Democrats DID go ballistic..

    During the primaries, it was ALL whining Democrats, ALL the time.. Hillary Democrats where whining and crying about the treatment from Obama.. Obama Democrats where whining and crying about the treatment from Hillary..

    Secondly, the treatment from the Media and Democrats against Palin was horrendous. You have DEMOCRATS claiming that a woman with 5 kids should be staying at home to take care of the kids, not out in the political arena. DEMOCRATS were saying this!!

    You have Democrats going on and on about the evils of pre-marital sex and dragging a child into the political arena with vicious personal attacks.. DEMOCRATS!!

    CW is absolutely right about pointing out this one small unfairness. Truth be told, he didn't go far enough.

    It's funny how Democrats will whine and cry about every imagined slight.. Yet, when Democrats make the most disgusting racial and personal/family attacks possible and are called on it, they shrug their shoulders and pooh-pooh it away as, "this is politics"...

    This is EXACTLY why my enthusiasm for Obama has waned so much in the last weeks and months... Almost to the point where I am undecided again.. At the beginning of the GE, he was all about hope and change and being a different kind of politician...

    Now, I am beginning to believe that was all just PR bullshit and he is nothing more than an inexperienced and run of the mill junior politician..

    As far as Palin herself, I think Democrats are making the same mistake with Palin that they have made with Bush the last 8-9 years are so.

    Democrats are so blinded by partisan hatred and bigotry that they wrote off Bush as a moron, an idiot, the devil himself, etc etc..

    They are doing the same thing with Palin. She is Governor of the largest state in the country, that is in a unique position, geographically, politically, historically and ecologically. She has enjoyed an 80% approval rating amongst her constituents.

    The simple fact is, an insecure, neurotic ignoramus (as Democrats like to paint Palin) could simply NOT have risen to such prominence.

    So, my advice to Democrats is to TRY and forget politically bigotry and look at things logically and rationally...

    Or else, this will be 2000 and 2004 all over again and the Democrats will surely snatch defeat from the jaws of victory... AGAIN...

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    Michael Gass wrote:

    Michale,

    You'd think after the last few times you'd think before posting...

    The simple fact is, if Obama had been treated like Palin had been treated, Democrats would have gone ballistic.

    Oh wait..

    Obama WAS treated that unfairly..

    And Democrats DID go ballistic..

    So, lets look at this.

    Obama gets slammed for being a Muslim (a lie), for being too white (racial), too black (racial), and for being "uppity" (racial).

    Ummm.. YES.. there WAS an outcry. The GOP was race baiting. Period. Get over it unless you think that was acceptable.

    Palin gets slammed for not taking interviews, for being clueless during them, for contradicting her own platform front runner... and...

    You know what... bring something that MEANS something.

    Secondly, the treatment from the Media and Democrats against Palin was horrendous. You have DEMOCRATS claiming that a woman with 5 kids should be staying at home to take care of the kids, not out in the political arena. DEMOCRATS were saying this!!

    That's right. It was SOOO unfair to follow up on just HOW being able to SEE Russia gave her foreign policy experience. It was SOOO wrong that she is running on a Pro-Life platform, but, gave her 17 year old pregnant daughter a CHOICE. It was SOOOO wrong for her to be called what she is, AFTER they tried to get the debates dumbed down; NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME.

    It's funny how Democrats will whine and cry about every imagined slight.. Yet, when Democrats make the most disgusting racial and personal/family attacks possible and are called on it, they shrug their shoulders and pooh-pooh it away as, "this is politics"…

    First of all, that line "it is just politics" came from George Bush after they smeared John McCain in South Carolina, not from Democrats. So, you already look like an idiot for even bringing it up without researching it.

    "Or, as George W. Bush, once told a rightly outraged John McCain--whose wife and daughter Bush's minions had smeared--"It's just politics."

    And... back to your tried and true, "blind hatred", "bigotry" (?)...

    You want bigotry? Racism? Look to Michelle Malkin from the GOP. Hatred of Bush... yes... and rightfully so. You want me to apologize for hating Bush for his torture? for invading a country based on lies? for outing a CIA op? for letting our country slump into a crisis so bad without hundreds of billions in bailout we revisit the Great Depression? Fuck you. I hate Bush. Just as I'd hate ANY President that gave us that. Suck on it.

    They are doing the same thing with Palin. She is Governor of the largest state in the country, that is in a unique position, geographically, politically, historically and ecologically. She has enjoyed an 80% approval rating amongst her constituents.

    The simple fact is, an insecure, neurotic ignoramus (as Democrats like to paint Palin) could simply NOT have risen to such prominence.

    Ok... I've called you stupid... and you again prove it.

    So... a person COULDN'T rise to be mayor... or even GOVERNOR... unless they were QUALIFIED? I give you George Bush. Which makes you... STUPID. MONEY funds campaigns... and campaign PERCEPTION wins votes.

    And again you rail at bigotry... look to the GOP for it:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/05/AR2006100501548.html

    As for logical and rational?

    Who in their logical and rational mind wants a person to be one bullet, one heart attack, away from leading this country whose main qualification is she won a beauty pageant, killed a moose, ran a town millions into debt as mayor, and then abused her position as governor... only to hit the national stage a clueless idiot... who has to be coddled?

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    @MG


    Ummm.. YES.. there WAS an outcry. The GOP was race baiting. Period. Get over it unless you think that was acceptable.

    Assuming for the moment you are correct. That the GOP was race baiting, I'll use YOUR response..

    "Eh, that's just politics.. Get over it."

    You see my point??

    Why is it OK for Democrats to be nasty and lie and all and it's NOT OK for the GOP??

    Sounds like hypocrisy to me..


    That's right. It was SOOO unfair to follow up on just HOW being able to SEE Russia gave her foreign policy experience.

    Hmmmmmmm I really don't see ANYTHING about Russia in what I posted.. So why bring it up??

    But, since you have brought it up, let's examine it.

    How is that any different than Obama claiming that being a 5 year old in Indonesia constitutes Foreign Policy experience??

    Truth be told, being in such close proximity to Russia is a LOT more Foreign Policy Experience (as CW pointed out) then being a 5 yr old in Indonesia..


    First of all, that line "it is just politics" came from George Bush after they smeared John McCain in South Carolina, not from Democrats.

    The LINE may have come from Bush, but the ATTITUDE came from you...

    The rest of your insults and such simply prove my point..

    When it comes to bigotry and hatred and such, there really isn't any difference between the hysterical Republicans and the hysterical Democrats..

    Your entire post simply goes on and on about how bad the Republicans are. Fine.. We agree.. But what YOU just can't seem to comprehend is that, as you have so aptly PROVEN, Democrats are just as bad...

    As YOU would say... "suck on it".. :D

    Have a happy.. :D

    Michale.....

  11. [11] 
    loslobo wrote:

    @ Michael Gass

    Thanks for bitch slapping the blowhard, I get so tired off it

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    These are the Democrats of today, as represented by Gass and loslobo...

    They think that by being more insulting and despicable than Republicans, that makes them right..

    {{{{{sigh}}}}}

    Yet, they simply cannot see that they have become the monsters that they claim to fight...

    Sad, really..

    Michale.....

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    What ya'all just can't seem to comprehend is by making all these senseless attacks on Palin, ya'all are actually making her MORE attractive to John Q Public..

    Seriously, think about it... Ya'all are internet savvy and political savvy or else you wouldn't be here.

    But ya'all are not the quintessential undecided voter. The quintessential undecided voter is Joe Sixpack whose biggest worry is that bowling night doesn't interfere with CSI.. Joe can't name any Supreme Court Justices and doesn't know the name of the paper he reads... Joe knows that Russians are the bad guys and any state that borders Russia is a "front line"...

    So, ya'alls attacks on Palin makes as much sense as the Obama campaign's attacks on seniors and disabled people. It's going to backfire..

    As to the debates, Democrats are already realizing their mistake on that. Dems have ridiculed Palin so much that she just has to SHOW UP to the debate and she will win..

    When it comes to being as negative and mud-slinging as Republicans, today's Democrats are their own worst enemies..

    Has there EVER been so much hysteria over a VICE PRESIDENTIAL candidate??

    I don't think so... Even McGovern's pick of Terry Eagleton didn't generate this much hoopla...

    OK, ya all think that Palin is unqualified.. I get that..

    If she is as bad as ya'all say, why all the hysteria?? Why all the disgusting and pathetic personal attacks?? If she is really so much unqualified to even be a human being, let alone a mother or a VP, then surely it's obvious to all.. Right??

    So, why all the hysteria coming from the Left??

    But methinks ya'all doth protest TOO much.

    Michale.....

    crossposted to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant/in-defense-of-sarah-palin_b_130405.html
    Let's see how long it stays.. :D

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