Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine? It's not a hard question. As this biting ad shows, it's one McCain's been expected to answer on more than one occasion. Now granted, the Bush Doctrine has always been a steaming pile of self-rationalizing crap.
As Philip D. Zelikow, who helped craft the so-called Bush Doctrine, said "I actually never thought there was a Bush doctrine. Indeed, I believe the assertion that there is such a doctrine lends greater coherence to the administration's policies than they deserve."
And that's exactly right. There never was a Bush Doctrine; not in the traditional sense, anyhow. There was no grand new path the Bushies were setting America on. These people had tunnel-vision goals with short-term marketing strategies and no real thought was put into any of it. It wasn't about preventive war, or the March of Democracy, or fighting terrorists or anything. Those were the sales pitches. And they only lasted as long as they were useful and no longer.
The reality is that, for as much as there really was a "Bush Doctrine," it involved saying whatever needed to be said in order to get as much as they could possibly get. But of course, that didn't really originate with Bush. And call me crazy, but I kind of suspect that both Sarah Palin and John McCain fully believe in that Bush Doctrine.
The Schizophrenic Doctrine
And it becomes obvious that the whole Bush Doctrine was a huge pile of nothing when one looks through the writings of the once proud Bush supporters at RedState. Here's a commenter who has become so disillusioned by Bush's failures that he denies the very existence of a Bush Doctrine: "The question was loaded because Charlie knew that "Bush Doctrine" is a derisive, divisive, derogatory term, intended to be received by much if not most of his audience as such. If he genuinely wanted to ask her some specifics about her positions relative to some aspects of the [multifaceted] Bush Doctrine, he would have done it in a professional manner."
That's right, a term that Whitehouse Press Secretary Dana Perino just gave a multi-part definition to while saying that Bush agrees with her, is "a derisive, divisive, derogatory term" that is so loaded that it's unprofessional to even ask someone if they agree with it. That, my friends, is how thoroughly destroyed the Bush Presidency is. Even the freaks at RedState hate the damn thing.
But it wasn't always that way. Oh no. Here's a post from October 2006 titled Why We Fight by BrianGarst who explains the Bush Doctrine thusly: "The Bush Doctrine is the belief that the establishment of representative governments with personal and economic freedom provides our best chance to achieve this goal."
And that puts BrianGarst in the Freeance Peeance column. Yet RedState writer Leon H. Wolf wrote just today "Anyway, if you had asked me as of yesterday, point blank, to identify the "Bush Doctrine," I would have responded, "We will make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them." I was slightly puzzled to learn that apparently it refers to authorizing pre-emptive strikes against enemies that threaten America - I mean, I know Bush believes in that, but that's not what I identify as the "Bush Doctrine."
And I guess that means Wolfy wasn't reading RedState in July 2004, when JayReding approvingly quotes Bush saying "we must not wait for the threats to come to us before taking action," and then writes "The Bush Doctrine is a necessary doctrine, and it is easy to defend. Again, if one were to ask any American whether we should passively wait for attack or do whatever is necessary to prevent another attack, the answer is obvious."
Of course, that describes preventive war, not pre-emptive war; but let's not quibble. As I said before, there never was a Bush Doctrine. It was rationalizing gibberish and these guys all heard whatever it was they wanted to hear. But that doesn't excuse Governor Palin from not understanding the term. The guys at RedState have known definitions of the word for many years now, and if Palin was savvy enough to understand that the concept was gibberish (which McCain clearly didn't), then she could have said so.
And hey, if she didn't know which definition he meant, she could even have picked any of these definitions and said "If by that you mean (fill in blank)," that would be perfectly acceptable. But no. The question was "Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine" and all she could do was ask "In what respect, Charlie?" Scary stuff.
No Correct Answers
And what's really funny is seeing Palin's supporters trying to rationalize this blunder. Is the problem that Palin's a small-time player who wasn't ready for primetime? Of course not. The problem was the media, for asking her an easy question that completely baffled her. They're convinced this was all a trick to "get" Palin. As Leon H. Wolf at RedState says "But in any case, let's be clear: there was no correct answer to this question." Adding "Obama's sycophants in the press are not the least bit interested in learning Sarah Palin's views on anything; they are interested merely in playing gotcha and giving the Obama campaign new talking points..."
Fellow RedStater Brian Faughnan is up in arms because Joe Klein called Palin "a joke" and "an embarrassment" for not being able to answer the question. Somehow, Faughnan's fevered imagination rewrote Klein's quickie post so that it said that the Bush Doctrine involved pre-emptive war. But it didn't. Klein didn't define the Bush Doctrine at all. Yet Faughnan goes ahead and writes a post slamming Klein for having once given a different definition of the doctrine, as well as slamming Obama for giving a different one. But again, all Klein did was mock Palin for not being able to answer the question; not for having answered it incorrectly.
And what's funny is that these people are obsessed with a question that Gibson didn't ask. And that, in fact, Gibson assumed never needed to be asked. He asked if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine. Conservatives, unwilling to admit that Palin is clueless on foreign policy, reimagined the question to be one asking her to define what the term means. And then, whammo! Whatever answer she gave, they'd pretend the correct answer was something else.
Charlie Gibson's Lunch
Yet...Gibson didn't ask her to define the term. Gibson asked her if she agreed with it. And, furious Palin-loving spin aside, she didn't seem to have a clue what Gibson was even talking about. It wasn't just that she couldn't define it. It was that she didn't even grasp where to begin on answering the question. Gibson might as well have asked "Do you enjoy farfinuge with your sprotzham?" and she'd have had about the same answer.
And I strongly believe that we're going to see a lot more of this from Palin. She was a moderately sized fish in a very small and isolated pond, and never really got in-depth with any of these national issues. My impression of Palin is that she's a moderately intelligent schemer who was able to fake her way into the Governor's Mansion, but really couldn't hold her own against somebody who actually knows what they're doing.
And it's sad to see that even the hand-picked Charlie Gibson was already too much of a match for her. Without hardly trying, he was able to embarrass her so much that her admirers now consider him to be an Obama thug intent on trapping and disgracing her; which, if true, would make McCain's team entirely incompetent for allowing him to interview her. Perhaps I'm just too much of the optimist, but I suspect this is the beginning of a long trend for Palin. She can toss out the quickie talking point and sure can read other people's words from a teleprompter, but the more she tries to fool the media, the more delight they'll take in exposing her. I can't wait!