Larison (and various emailers) think I'm mis-using the term:

When someone at a restaurant asked Palin a question about Pakistan that generated some controversy because it seemed to contradict McCain's previous statement at the debate, the McCain campaign dubbed it "gotcha journalism" and right away when Gibson stumped Palin with his Bush Doctrine question there was a great hue and cry about the "gotcha" nature of this question.  Apparently the questions on her reading habits and Court rulings has also been defined as a "gotcha" question by Palin supporters, even though it is as certain as the sun rising that journalists will ask nominees their views on judicial philosophy and Court rulings.  It seems to me that we are redefining what "gotcha" means from the sort of Russertian exegesis that involved laying careful ambushes for smooth, evasive pols as a way of pinning down their positions to any question that candidates have trouble answering.  In other words, the "gotcha" is no longer an ambush-it can include any question to which the candidate really should have an answer.

Fair points all. A better term for the sort of queries I had in mind might be "pop quiz" questions: They're perfectly fair questions to ask; what makes them distinctive is that they probably wouldn't be asked of a candidate who wasn't already viewed as unprepared (and thus vulnerable to being shown up by an interviewer). But if I seemed to imply that it's unreasonable or unjust to ask vice-presidential candidate to name Supreme Court cases they disagree with, or to express an opinion about the Bush Doctrine, then I retract that implication. All I meant to suggest is that a more skillful interviewee than Sarah Palin would have done a better job deflecting, say, the Supreme Court question, or the question about John McCain's past attempts (or lack thereof) to regulate Wall Street, even if she didn't have answer - and that the inability to deflect as well as the inability to answer has been part of Palin's self-presentation problem in her interviews.

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