Charlie Gibson's Gaffee

  1. Charlie Gibson's Gaffee

    Charlie Gibson's Gaffee
    Charles Krauthammer
    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    "Ms. Palin most visibly stumbled when she was asked by Mr. Gibson if she agreed with the Bush doctrine. Ms. Palin did not seem to know what he was talking about. Mr. Gibson, sounding like an impatient teacher, informed her that it meant the right of `anticipatory self-defense.'" -- New York Times, Sept. 12

    WASHINGTON -- Informed her? Rubbish.

    The Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.

    There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration -- and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today.

    He asked Palin, "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"

    She responded, quite sensibly to a question that is ambiguous, "In what respect, Charlie?"

    Sensing his "gotcha" moment, Gibson refused to tell her. After making her fish for the answer, he grudgingly explained to the moose-hunting rube that the Bush doctrine "is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense."


    I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard titled, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism," I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

    Then came 9/11, and that notion was immediately superseded by the advent of the war on terror. In his address to Congress nine days later, Bush declared: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." This "with us or against us" policy regarding terror -- first deployed against Pakistan when Secretary of State Colin Powell gave President Musharraf that seven-point ultimatum to end support for the Taliban and support our attack on Afghanistan -- became the essence of the Bush Doctrine.

    Until Iraq. A year later, when the Iraq War was looming, Bush offered his major justification by enunciating a doctrine of pre-emptive war. This is the one Charlie Gibson thinks is the Bush doctrine.

    It's not. It's the third in a series and was superseded by the fourth and current definition of the Bush doctrine, the most sweeping formulation of Bush foreign policy and the one that most distinctively defines it: the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world. It was most dramatically enunciated in Bush's second inaugural address: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

    This declaration of a sweeping, universal American freedom agenda was consciously meant to echo John Kennedy's pledge that the United States "shall pay any price, bear any burden ... to assure the survival and the success of liberty." It draws also from the Truman doctrine of March 1947 and from Wilson's 14 points.

    If I were in any public foreign policy debate today, and my adversary were to raise the Bush doctrine, both I and the audience would assume -- unless my interlocutor annotated the reference otherwise -- that he was speaking about Bush's grandly proclaimed (and widely attacked) freedom agenda.

    Not the Gibson doctrine of pre-emption.

    Not the "with us or against us" no-neutrality-is-permitted policy of the immediate post-9/11 days.

    Not the unilateralism that characterized the pre-9/11 first year of the Bush administration.

    Presidential doctrines are inherently malleable and difficult to define. The only fixed "doctrines" in American history are the Monroe and the Truman doctrines, which came out of single presidential statements during administrations where there were few conflicting foreign policy crosscurrents.

    Such is not the case with the Bush doctrine.

    Yes, Palin didn't know what it is. But neither does Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the phenom who presumes to play on their stage.
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  2. That's right, blame the person asking the questions. The fact is she isn't all that and slowly but surely, it will come to light.


  3. Quote Originally Posted by Fastone View Post
    That's right, blame the person asking the questions. The fact is she isn't all that and slowly but surely, it will come to light.

    Kinda how it's working out for Obama huh?

  4. This is an unfortunate article. Even the most staunch McCain supporters could have seen Palin's flustered demeanor, inability to answer in a detailed fashion, and frustration beginning to come to fruition.

    That being said, her best asset is her spontaneous and grounded responses in respects to normative values; those who support her, most likely support her for this reason. However, if I was the McCain campaign, I would work fervently with her to improve her knowledge in every single aspect of policy.

  5. Since there is no written Bush Doctrine Mullet, just how would you go about it? That question is so open ended there are several right (or wrong) answers just depending on what the person asking the question believes the right answer to be.

    I'm really trying to be impartial on this one even though I lean pretty far right on most issues. I thought the answer was "Your either with us or against us" until I did some real digging and came up with several possible answers.

    And this is the same guy who helped Obama out when he made an obvious mistake and said "My muslim faith" instead of "My Christian faith" (and I even realized he made an honest error here, although I knew he was going to take a beating for it)

  6. Quote Originally Posted by Rugger View Post
    Kinda how it's working out for Obama huh?
    In your opinion


  7. It became a non issue as soon as he directed her with what he meant. Had he only kept answering her question with 'Bush Doctrine", I could see the point in the article. However, he told her what he meant.

    Regardless, it's still fun to watch all the political activists lose their minds when their team isn't the clear winner.

  8. Quote Originally Posted by RedwolfWV View Post
    Since there is no written Bush Doctrine Mullet, just how would you go about it? That question is so open ended there are several right (or wrong) answers just depending on what the person asking the question believes the right answer to be.
    How is it open-ended? At one point he asked, "What are the three specific things you would change about the Bush Economic Policy?". In respects to the "Bush Doctrine", there was antecedent discussion about exactly which respects he was speaking about. If you saw both parts of the interview (I YouTube'd the first portion today), it was very clear.


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