who don't like sports can't do that. It's not so much that they can't
identify the names -- they've heard of Armstrong -- but they've never
bothered to follow the flow of debate. I like sports -- and politics
and tech and other topics -- so I like joining these debates. On a wide range of other topics -- fashion, antique furniture, the world of restaurants
and fine dining, or (blush) opera -- I have not been interested enough to learn anything I can add to the discussion. So I embarrass myself if I have to express a view.
What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough
in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many
people in our great land might have difficulty defining the "Bush
Doctrine" exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of
attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven
Two details in Charles Gibson's posing of the question
were particularly telling. One was the potentially confusing way in
which he first asked it. On the page, "the Bush Doctrine" looks
different from "the Bush doctrine." But when hearing the question Palin
might not have known whether Gibson was referring to the general
sweep of Administration policy -- doctrine with small d -- or the rationale that connected 9/11 with the need to invade Iraq, the capital-D
Doctrine. So initial confusion would be understandable -- as if a
sports host asked about Favre's chances and you weren't sure if he
meant previously with the Packers or with the Jets. Once Gibson
clarified the question, a person familiar with the issue would have
said, "Oh, if we're talking about the strategy that the President and
Condoleezza Rice began laying out in 2002...." There was no such flash
The other was Gibson's own minor mis-statement. American foreign policy has long recognized the concept of preemptive
action: if you know somebody is just about to attack you, there's no
debate about the legitimacy of acting first. (This is like "shooting in
self-defense.") The more controversial part of The Bush Doctrine was
the idea of preventive war: acting before a threat had fully emerged, on the theory that waiting until it was fully evident would mean acting too late.
Gibson used the word "preemptively" -- but if a knowledgeable person had pushed back on that point ("Well, preemption was what John F. Kennedy had in mind in acting against the imminent threat of Soviet missiles in Cuba"), Gibson would certainly have come back to explain the novelty of the "preventive war" point. Because he knows the issue, a minor mis-choice of words wouldn't get in the way of his real intent.
Sarah Palin did not know this issue, or any part of it. The view she actually expressed -- an endorsement of "preemptive" action -- was fine on its own merits. But it is not the stated doctrine of the Bush Administration, it is not the policy her running mate has endorsed, and it is not the concept under which her own son is going off to Iraq.