If you missed the first installment of the Sarah Palin interviews on ABC like I did, you can catch up with the transcripts from ABC News. It would be interesting to hear the intonations and see the body language on this whole interview. There are a couple video clips available which help to lend context to the words.
The interview starts with questions about her experience. Does she have the chops for the job? The reality is we don’t and won’t know. She doesn’t know either. Clearly she doesn’t have a resume that screams she’s been preparing a lifetime for this job. But how many do? Government and the private sector are both rife with examples of ideal candidates failing miserably, and people who, based on their history, shouldn’t be able to find the coffee pot as being stellar performers. One this is clear though. She does not lack for self confidence, and that’s unarguably a leadership trait. She’s also a quick study. I can’t say how much she understands or whether or not she can apply the knowledge, but her brain has to feel like 10 pounds of hockey equipment stuffed in a 5 pound bag. She also exhibits poise and charisma on camera. All of these are to her credit.
Then they moved on to the religion topic. She danced the fence well. I personally think she’s rationalizing her words and trying to tame them into something less scary to the populace. Is that lying? Minimally, that’s politics. I do wonder how, in her own mind, she reconciles her faith’s God-first world view with her backpedaling explanations that could be viewed as disingenuous to her Pentecostal philosophy. But there’s no way to really get to that. It’s just a curiosity. What is in evidence from the video, and more than a little interesting, is that when they are questioning her about her statement on the war being a “task from God” she’s almost glowing with energy. I’ll be curious to see if that same passion ignites when she speaks on non-religious topics.
I would really like someone to ask her if hypothetically she could support a proposal which had majority support in the population and yet went against her beliefs. The root question being, is democracy above her faith? Do the people really have self determination, or does God’s law always prevail? And if the latter, what is God’s law, and who interprets that? And no, I don’t seriously think anyone will get to ask that, and if they did, I’m sure there would not be a useful answer.
But I digress. Meanwhile, back at the interview, the topic moved to national security and international relations. I thought this was the most telling, and to me the scariest part of what she had to say. Sure, there were comical moments like when she trotted out the Rose and Orange Revolutions like she was giving an oral essay in her social studies final, but she used them correctly, so kudos to her coach.
Take a look back at the discussion on Georgia, Russia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and terrorists. Over and over she draws clean bright lines between good and evil, friends and enemies. Russia is the aggressor, Georgia is the victim. She dances around her willingness to back a war with Russia, but her desire to get Georgia under NATO’s protection with the reasonable possibility that would lead to war with Russia is pointed out to her, and she seems to find that an acceptable risk because it’s the right thing to do. Iran is bad. Israel is a friend. We will support Israel in whatever they want to do. We will go after terrorists wherever they are, sovereign borders be damned. She wouldn’t explicitly endorse the Bush Doctrine (nor did she know what it was; bet she gets assigned an essay on that tonight). However, in the end she did basically endorse the idea of preemption.
There are a couple of important points here. First and foremost, the world political arena is a really complicated place. Very little is black and white. Most of GW’s failings in foreign policy are a direct result of this simplistic world view that Sarah Palin shares. Successful negotiators are able to see both sides from many angles and cope with this complexity and nuance. She gave no indication she even recognizes this, much less is capable of it. As a simple and illustrative question, I’d like to know why Russia is so clearly in the wrong for invading Georgia, but we are not wrong for invading Iraq on a premise that has been widely debunked.
Secondly, I’d like to know what the limits of her concept of preemption are. It’s apparently okay to invade a nation if you can make a compelling case that they are building up the capability to do you harm (Iraq or Iran in the interview discussion). What if the harm is not violent? If we had irrefutable evidence the Chinese were developing computer viruses capable of controlling our financial markets. What then? What if we had evidence the Mexican government planned to support illegal emigration to the US as a way of diverting wealth to their own country and depressing American wages? Is the bar set at capability or is the intent to use it required? What is the appropriate response? Is it always in kind, or could we bomb the Chinese “Silicon Valley” as a response to above scenario? And is there a slippery slope to domestic law? Is capacity to commit or planning to commit a crime itself a crime?
I doubt that she, or any politician, has direct and succinct answers to the above. But I do think the way in which they answer is telling about their world views and their decision making processes. Do they understand the implications of their actions? Do they comprehend or at least respect the degree of complexity and interrelatedness of the world? Are they thinkers, or do they play from the gut?
Sarah’s answers so far indicate she’s a rule book toting gut player. McCain has a similar bent. If that’s what you want in a leader, then I think you’ve found your ticket.