Charles Gibson threw fastballs –fair, but hard fastballs– and Sarah Palin connected on every one save the Bush Doctrine and even there she recovered nicely, demonstrating a poise that will serve her very well in the next 54 days.
Gibson’s job is to press (and would that anyone in MSM had conducted as remotely a focused interview with Obama, complete with interruptions and three or four follow-ups on some subjects), and McCain-Palin backers should cheer such interviews. Pointed questions about serious subjects provide her an opportunity to shine, which she frequently did in the portions shown tonight. Some of the assumptions behind Gibson’s questions –that meeting foreign leaders is itself an important credential–are widely shared among Manhattan-Beltway media elites even though they fail to impress middle America, and Palin has to display a comfortable disregard for the sneer of the political elite when such assumptions surface. She did just that in the interview. Good for her. Her defense of her comments on God’s plan was perfect pitch. Every evangelical in the U.S. and most other people who have ever heard a prayer for the troops understood immediately what she was saying on the tape from her church and what she said tonight. And not only understood, but approved.
Palin’s sincere pride in her son’s choice to serve the country is the defining exchange, the one that will resonate far and wide. Gibson’s major misstep was his assertion that he “got lost in a blizzard of words,” when Palin avoided the very sort of provocative declaration about Pakistan that seasoned diplomats always avoid. Palin was demonstrating the very sort of careful choice of words that Obama would have benefitted from before bringing up lipstick. My mail shows a lot of hostility to Gibson, but I think that is misplaced. We want tough interviews of all four candidates. We just want them of both tickets, with the same abruptness when Obama filibusters and stammers.
ABC did make a serious misjudgment by presented the choppily edited, rushed tape instead of the real-time exchange. If the “first major interview” matters, then show us the interview, not media elites’ version of what they deem important. Though I suspect this was done in the interest of ratings –compress and tease– many in the audience will think it was fundamentally unfair to the governor who, having granted an exclusive of huge importance to the network, saw it sliced and diced.
Bottom line, though, is that Palin again defied expectations and managed a very tough interview on foreign affairs very easily while demonstrating again the charisma she has brought to the campaign. I’d say we saw a lot of raw talent tonight, except it isn’t really raw, but very very practiced on some very difficult subjects –energy, for example– and only just now digging into some other areas.
What matters most is her capacity to absorb new information and the established judgment to analyze and act on it wisely. Her ability to communicate was already established, and each one of these exchanges will make her better and better. The GOP has every right to be happy –again– and the Dems still knotted up over their own team’s terrible week, and the growing recognition that Obumble’s presentation skills are getting weaker not stronger as the days go by. They are reduced to hoping their surrogates in MSM can land a knock-down punch on Palin. They got none tonight. Just the opposite in fact.
UPDATE: John Podhoretz notes a serious error by Gibson, one that I had missed. I don’t think Gibson would have misquoted Obama to Obama on a subject that had excited the outrage of the right.