I don’t normally pollute Candleblog with my political opinions but I’m not seeing this particular point being made elsewhere on the internets so I’m going to make it here.
Yesterday, John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, sat down with Katie Couric (again — I think they LOVE her) and talked about, among other things, Palin’s recent remarks to a grad student in Philadelphia who’d had the temerity to ask the governor her opinion on Pakistan. In her response, Palin “absolutely” endorsed a not unreasonable position, stating that if the safety of the US was at stake and if it was the only way to stop the terrorists, she would send US troops across the Pakistani border.
The comment was remarkable for two reasons. First, it’s the same position held by Barack Obama on the matter and denounced by John McCain, who claims he will “follow Osama Bin Laden to the gates of Hell,” as long as those gates are not inside the borders of a “sovereign nation.” The other reason it’s remarkable is that of the several highly publicized policy responses that Governor Palin has given when responding to direct questions, this is the only one that’s in any way coherent. And before my dozens of conservative readers start claiming I only think this answer is “coherent” because it’s one that Obama agrees with, I’ll point out that this is also the position that the Bush administration has essentially endorsed, and it’s not necessarily one that I myself agree with. Still, it at least makes basic sense, given the official US position on international terrorism up until now, and the stated goals of both of the major candidates for president.
But because what Palin said is at odds with what McCain has said on the subject, the two candidates have done some awkward maneuvering to explain the discrepancy. Steve Benen writes…
On Sunday, McCain said Palin’s answer didn’t count because it wasn’t “a definitive policy statement.” Last night, McCain and Palin sat down together with CBS’s Katie Couric — yes, again — and came up with a new excuse.
“[L]ook, I understand this day and age ‘gotcha’ journalism,” McCain said. “Is that a pizza place? In a conversation with someone who you didn’t hear — the question very well, you don’t know the context of the conversation. Grab a phrase. Governor Palin and agree that you don’t announce that you’re going to attack another country.”
When Couric asked if Palin was sorry she had made the statement, McCain again jumped in before Palin could answer. “Wait a minute,” he said. “Before you say, ‘is she sorry she said it,’ this was a ‘gotcha’ sound bite that, look, no, she was in a conversation with a group of people and talking back and forth….”
What is wrong with the McCain campaign? Are they so used to lying that it has become the knee jerk response to every question? This was a tremendous opportunity for the McCain/Palin camp. Palin’s answer to Couric should have been, “yes, this is an area where John and I respectfully disagree. Obviously he is at the top of the ticket and when he becomes president he’ll be the one making that call, but I was asked my opinion on the matter and I answered honestly.”
An answer like that would have done several good things for the McCain camp. It would have been newsworthy, diverting some attention away from some of the other damaging narratives at work in the media right now. It would have made Palin seem like her own woman — and not so cloistered by the McCain campaign as we have been led to believe. It would have made her sound like she has thought about important foreign policy matters and drawn her own conclusions. And frankly, her answer was better than McCain’s and they must know that, and the media certainly knows that. Her credibility as a candidate would have improved a bit.
Would it have been such a bad thing to let her disagree with McCain? As it is he changes his own mind on key policy positions with the slightest breeze. For all we know, what Palin said to the grad student in Philadelphia will actually be McCain’s position in another week or two.
Why am I giving the McCain campaign advice??? Maybe that’s their ploy: to look so unbelievably incompetent and crazy that we take pity on them and pat them on the head and say “good try! Next time try something like this!”