Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin Doesn't Know the Bush Doctrine

In her first interview to the national media on ABC yesterday, Sarah Palin fumbled, regained her footing, and prevailed.

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?
PALIN: His world view.
GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war ...
GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?
PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

Palin thought that the Bush Doctrine is the Bush Worldview. Incredible, true, and typical. This is the guttural politics as we have seen in the last eight years. Trust the guy, and you can trust his decisions. Nevermind geopolitics, forget strategy. Forget even "conditions on the round" (better read as "The Real World"). Just know the guy's worldview and you're all set. Yes the complex panopoly of US foreign policy can be understood through a cliff notes biography of the president.

[And by the way, the Bush Doctrine does not require that a threat to the American people be "imminent," only that it is credible in the foreseeable future, where "credible" and "foreseeable" are loosely defined.]

Cognitive heuristics - they are the bane of American politics. A cue here and a clue there is all we need these days to make the most important civic decision as Americans: vote for our president. Nevermind what the candidates' policies are; just know who they are as people. If he's a good guy, that's a good enough cue for us to vote for him. My chum in the White House. He'll take care of me, right?

Personalities, worldviews - these are cues; shortcuts for doing the hard political homework of scrutinizing exactly what McCain and Obama are promising us these days. Palin exemplifies a genuine belief that the responsibilities of citizenship are minimal. Just love your guy ("my guy" as she put it in her nomination acceptance speech), love your country and all will be good. She is the perfect political spouse!

Watch the video and notice her gingerly clenched fists initially, when she was fumbling to even understand Gibson's question. And then notice how tightly they were clenched as she found her footing. It was as if her body language was saying that "I may have slipped a little in the intellectual part of your question (the dreary part that dealt with facts and arguments), but I can more then compensate in kind with heart and conviction."

Why is this bad for democracy? Because good intentions aren't good enough. But then to someone who disagrees with me, there is a sense in which we are beyond reconciliation. For I prefer to speak in the publicly falsifiable language of arguments, while others prefer the inscrutable, but politically potent language of conviction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's good to see an Asian/Asian American holding forth on politics.

However, I feel the few posts I've read are too closely tied to the news cycle. You take every little thing so seriously. Celebrity charge - a huge deal. Lipstick - a huge deal. Kindergarten sex ed, presumably, though you haven't written about it as far as I've seen - a huge deal.

I don't think so. I think if the attack is sustained and unanswered, that becomes a big deal, both in the substance of the allegation as well as what it says about the candidate's willingness to fight. I think most of the things above are temporary fodder for the press. Most news outlets are reporting on the criticism of all the charges made by McCain in his ads, for example. So it doesn't stick, I think.

No, pretty soon, this will boil down to an Obama vs. McCain duel. Who has the capacity for transformation. Who is seen as a capable, trustworthy leader. Who has the policies desired.