Sunday, September 14, 2008

On Bush Doctrines

There's been a lot of chatter these days, to which I reluctantly add, about Sarah Palin's obvious confusion and alleged ignorance when confronted by Charles Gibson about the "Bush Doctrine" during an ABC interview. This interview has met with almost breathless expressions of horror and undisappointed shock  from many, not only here in the Ivory Tower, who seem to be pleased at Mrs. Palin's ignorance, as if it confirmed some suspicions they already didn't doubt.

The most important fact about this controversy, however, was that "Charlie" is wrong. As Krauthammer has pointed out, four different ideas have been referred to as the "Bush Doctrine," and the most common use of the term is not exactly what Mr. Gibson pointed out. This Foreign Devil is somewhat of a Palin supporter, although not so much that I would feel the need to rush to defend her honor. The interesting thing in this interview is not Mrs. Palin or anything she said, but rather what Gibson's attitudes reveal about the American Left, of whom I think he can be taken as a representative.

"Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?" he asks, and pursing his lips, closing his eyes, and turning down his face in the manner of a disappointed grandfather, he awaits her answer. Her first response is reasonable, and the second not understandably seems to grasping for straws. But when Mr. Gibson condescends to educate this vice-presidential candidate, things get particularly revealing.

It is a shame, really, that the cameraman does not give us a shot of the lecturing Gibson, as he explains "the Bush Doctrine, as I understand it." Instead we may only look at Mrs. Palin's face, and it is the face of a person who is convinced she has slipped up. Even she, a professed opponent of the worldview embraced by the "media elites" (and no one has a better claim to be a media elite than Charles Gibson, who also sits on the board of trustees at Princeton); even she expects that Gibson knows the truth of the matter. On this she and Gibson agree: that Gibson probably knows best. This seems to be an almost universal belief in America. Whether or not he believes the Left to be morally superior, the average American, red or blue, assumes liberals are more cultured, more educated than their counterparts on the Right.

As soon as Palin opens her mouth, and speaks in an accent not learned in any classroom, she has already lost credibility to a certain degree. So it is an irony we can all enjoy when the pompous and measured tones of Gibson setting her up to fail are in fact themselves mistaken. It is a classic case of image vs. reality, perhaps the predominant theme in this election.

On a related note, a friend has enjoined upon me to read The Audacity of Hope, some reflections on which book I plan to post, as I think of them.

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