Juan Cole: Palin on World Affairs ... Just not Ready for Prime Time

Roundup: Historians' Take

Sarah Palin revealed herself in the Charlie Gibson interview on ABC to be nervous,uninformed, green and generally not ready for prime time. The interview was full of stock phrases she was made to memorize, and which she repeated over and over again when stumped. She knows nothing about how Iran is run, or about Pakistan, or about al-Qaeda, and even is ignorant of the Bush doctrine of preemptive warfare. It was a shockingly bad performance.

She had the hubris to suggest that her lack of knowledge and experience is a virtue. Why Americans, practical people, would fall for this line is beyond me. Would you want your car to be worked on by an inexperienced and ignorant mechanic? Would you want a plumber messing around with your pipes who did not know his way around wrenches?

I'm tired of her trumpeting being from a small town as if that is qualification for high office. It isn't where you are from that matters. My parents are from Star Tannery, Va. and Winchester, Va., respectively, and I was born in Albuquerque, NM (not then a big city) and grew up mostly on army bases or in small places like Fuquay Springs, NC (near Ft. Bragg). These were not exactly Manhattan. We did not have a lot of money when I was growing up and I went to Northwestern on a scholarship. My background isn't so different from hers. But Palin futzed around at this campus and that, at one point switching from the University of Hawaii because the campus was on the rainy side of Oahu. How frivolous! She isn't well educated and doesn't appear to have thought it was important to become so. She has never shown any interest in the world at large, which she now wants to run. She is clearly ambitious, but nothing is more dangerous than ambition with no qualifications.

The scariest thing in the was this exchange:

'When Gibson said if under the NATO treaty, the United States would have to go to war if Russia again invaded Georgia,

Palin responded:"Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

"And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable," she told Gibson. '

She went on later to talk about providing economic and other help and to back off seeming to threaten Russia with war.

But look at the video below. It is the alacrity with which she says"perhaps so" that is so alarming. He asked her specifically about having to go to war with Russia over Georgia and she said,"perhaps so!" As though a war with a nuclear power was just the most natural and expected thing in the world. I think the San Francisco Chronicle entitled their article correctly.


As I count it, McCain Palin plans to keep us in Iraq for 100 years, to invade Pakistan, and to fight a war with Russia over Georgia, all at once. They won't just need a draft, they'll need gulags to pull that off!

More excerpts from the ABC Palin interview :

' GIBSON: Let me turn to Iran. Do you consider a nuclear Iran to be an existential threat to Israel?

PALIN: I believe that under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, nuclear weapons in the hands of his government are extremely dangerous to everyone on this globe, yes.

GIBSON: So what should we do about a nuclear Iran?

PALIN: We have got to make sure that these weapons of mass destruction, that nuclear weapons are not given to those hands of Ahmadinejad, not that he would use them, but that he would allow terrorists to be able to use them.So we have got to put the pressure on Iran.'

Cole: Actually, Mahmud Ahmadinejad is not the commander in chief of the Iranian armed forces and is not in charge of national security or nuclear matters. Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is. Moreover, Ahmadinejad cannot serve past 2013, and Iran cannot get nukes by then even if it was trying to do so, which the National Intelligence Estimate of December 2007 says it is not. If the reason to be afraid of the Iranian civilian nuclear energy research program is that Ahmadinejad is the president, she can relax. The idea that the Iranian government would give a nuclear bomb that could be traced back to Iran to a terrorist group is ridiculous, just another fear-mongering fantasy.

'GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

PALIN: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don't think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.

GIBSON: So if we wouldn't second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that.

PALIN: I don't think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.

PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.'

Cole: She doesn't seem to understand that our troops (including shortly, her son) are in striking distance from Iran and that a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran would have consequences for the United States. That is why Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff was sent to Israel by Bush to read them the riot act and instruct them that they are not to attack Iran. Palin's"anything goes" attitude to Israeli actions in the Middle East could get a lot of Americans killed.

'GIBSON: We talk on the anniversary of 9/11. Why do you think those hijackers attacked? Why did they want to hurt us?

PALIN: You know, there is a very small percentage of Islamic believers who are extreme and they are violent and they do not believe in American ideals, and they attacked us and now we are at a point here seven years later, on the anniversary, in this post-9/11 world, where we're able to commit to never again. They see that the only option for them is to become a suicide bomber, to get caught up in this evil, in this terror. They need to be provided the hope that all Americans have instilled in us, because we're a democratic, we are a free, and we are a free-thinking society.'

Cole: Well at least she knows that the radicals in the Muslim world are a tiny group. But she gives no sign of understanding what is going on in the Muslim world, and just parrots a lot of slogans about evil and democratization.

'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.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

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.'

Unbelievable. She not only had no idea what the Bush doctrine was, she tried to BS her way through the question instead of being honest about not having heard of it. It is one thing to be ignorant about something, another not to be willing to admit it. The whole interview is painful for the narrow-minded and ill-informed view of the world it displays, but this is the nadir. And remember, McCain could have chosen Kay Bailey Hutchison if he wanted a woman on the ticket.

I commented on the Bush doctrine as soon as W. enunciated it and warned how dangerous it was as an international precedent. I'm just a midwest college professor and I was following it. Shouldn't a political junkie know these things? I mean, are her horizons that narrow? If so, why should we want her a heartbeat away from the presidency? Haven't we already had 8 years of Crawford small town foreign policy? Has it been pretty?

'GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we're going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.

GIBSON: But, Governor, I'm asking you: We have the right, in your mind, to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government.

PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.

GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes? That you think we have the right to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, to go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?

PALIN: I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table.'

Sounds like she has the Obama position on this one, not the McCain position. Too bad, since this is one area where McCain's is the wiser.

Part 1 of the Gibson interview:

And Part 2:

Read entire article at Informed Comment (Blog run by Juan Cole)

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More Comments:

Lorraine Paul - 10/8/2008

I cringed every time she said it, which was often, during the debate.

Do you know that one die-hard republican actually defended Bush's mis-pronunciation as 'an alternative'!!! LOL...you have to admire blind loyalty!

Lorraine Paul - 10/8/2008

I quite agree with you Mr Garcia. Look at George W Bush, who not only grew up in a political millieu but whose father was once President of the United States.

One would think that with this background he would have made decisions which could only lead to the enhancement of America's standing in the world, and have brought about a domestic policy that would even be the envy of countries such as Sweden, Germany, Poland and Australia.

Unfortunately, the man has turned out to be an ill-informed buffoon wide open to manipulation by vested interests and little interested in anything beyond his Texas ranch.

You and I (apart from my living in Australia) would have done a better job as president. <sigh>

I must say that McCain and Palin do seem to be cast in the same ill-informed and incurious mould as Bush.

Raul A Garcia - 9/18/2008

All too cute, even the know-it-all professors. Politics seems to excel in mediocrity but there is something too Ivory Tower when some view the common people as complete buffoons, some very enlightened people have time and again demonstrated no common sense on many issues, and many who were deemed experts also failed miserably in politics.

Robert Lee Gaston - 9/13/2008

Very cute. Who would dare ask the same questions of Mr. Obama in the same tone?

As of now we have one candidate in four that has answered serious questions. Never mind that they were asked in a gotcha manner.

christian mrosko - 9/12/2008

Oh No...another one who mispronounces nuclear......