Several excerpts from Katie Couric’s interview with Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, which will air in full tonight on CBS, have been released on the internet. During the interview, Palin appeared to consistently repeat talking points and express vague generalities without much evidence or justification for her claims. Palin’s flawed preparation was so obvious that Couric, considered a fairly reputable and non-partisan news anchor since departing the three-hour playdate known as “The Today Show”, explicitly pointed out her gaffes on CBS’ own morning news program. Even the Kansas City Star ran a front-page article saying, “Couric Carves Up Palin.” When local newspapers in the reddest of the red states use language like that, you know it didn’t go well.
The Alaskan Governor’s almost complete lack of knowledge on issues like the economy and the distinctions between the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, while disheartening, did not upset many Republicans a month ago, when she was pulled out of thin air by the McCain campaign to join the ticket. Palin had little to no economic or foreign policy experience as the governor of a sparsely populated non-continental state, but she was resolute and confident in her socially conservative rhetoric. Republicans were galvanized by her Reagan-esque fire and assumed that by the time the debates rolled around, she would be a steamroller for McCain. But now that some time has passed and that has clearly not happened, one is left to wonder what has happened since that fateful night in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Upon examination of this latest interview, of which there have been few and far between, the only thing that has changed from the Republican National Convention is that now Palin looks like a deer in the headlights. When pressed by Couric on the controversy over McCain adviser Rick Davis’ ties to Freddie/Fannie Mac, Palin began the stumbling that would persist throughout the interview. Palin did not know whether it was “a year or two” since Davis had last received funds from the troubled loan giants and looked visibly upset that she could not answer the question more appropriately. At one point, Palin paused for several seconds and broke eye contact with Couric, unable to find her words. In all fairness to Palin, I’m not sure what anyone could honestly say about this clear conflict of interest, but she should have at least been ready for such an obvious question.
The vice-presidential candidate’s confusion did not end there, as Couric pushed for details on the $700 billion economic bailout plan working its way through Congress. Following her statement that another Great Depression was “a road that American may find itself on,” Palin’s ineptitude, not as a person, but as someone trying to retain the second-highest office in the United States Federal Government, became nothing less than obvious. Here is a transcription of what followed:
Couric: Would you support a moratorium on foreclosures to help average Americans keep their homes?
Palin: That’s something that John McCain and I have both been discussing – whether that … is part of the solution or not. You know, it’s going to be a multi-faceted solution that has to be found here.
Couric: So you haven’t decided whether you’ll support it or not?
Palin: I have not.
Couric: What are the pros and cons of it do you think?
Palin: Oh, well, some decisions that have been made poorly should not be rewarded, of course.
Couric: By consumers, you’re saying?
Palin: Consumers – and those who were predator lenders also. That’s, you know, that has to be considered also. But again, it’s got to be a comprehensive, long-term solution found … for this problem that America is facing today. As I say, we are getting into crisis mode here.
It’s one thing to not know whether to support a complicated economic stimulus package, but it is entirely another to be unable to recite even the basic pros and cons of the debate. Saying “multi-faceted” does not indicate you know what those multiple facets are, which Palin clearly did not. Oh, and by the way Sarah, it’s “predatory lending”, not “predator lenders”. You aren’t – in fact – hunting large game.
The most perceptually embarrassing moment, unfortunately for Palin, was still to come. Couric, becoming visibly annoyed at Palin’s inability to respond in a satisfactory way (much like Charlie Gibson’s “angry professor” moment over Palin’s inabiity to provide a definition of the Bush Doctrine), started to repeat her questions. Once again, the transcription tells the story better than I:
Couric: You’ve said, quote, “John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business.” Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?
Palin: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie – that, that’s paramount. That’s more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.
Couric: But he’s been in Congress for 26 years. He’s been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.
Palin: He’s also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he’s been talking about – the need to reform government.
Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you’ve said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?
Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.
Couric: I’m just going to ask you one more time – not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.
Palin: I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you.
In another clip from the interview, released early this morning, Palin responded to Couric’s questions about Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ll spare you all the transcription for this one, but suffice it to say that Palin’s understanding of the two conflicts is tantamount to skimming a Rand McNally atlas.
Palin has had weeks to review and prepare the Republican case, so her inability to respond to these basic questions has got to be troubling for her once faithful Republican-backers. Especially considering the dearth of materials probably put together for her by Steve Schmidt, McCain’s top campaign advisor. A high school debater that was given flash cards to study would have had better answers for Couric than Palin did. Literally – I debated in high school for four years and I promise you that we had a better understanding than Palin on every single issue. Despite what some Democrats may say, the Republicans do actually have arguments that can be sustained with proper justification. There is logic, albeit flawed, behind the free-market non-regulatory paradigm that has shaped Wall Street and the various conflicts that the United States is engaged in abroad. There are legitimate sounding answers to these questions and I was quite nervous about Palin spouting them out. I’m not that worried anymore.
So, Couric’s interview forces the question: what is the deal with Sarah Palin?
What is becoming clear is that Palin simply cannot understand what is going on. There are clearly too many voices coming from the McCain camp – telling her what to say, do, and think – for her to know up from down. Her “Thanks, but no thanks” line about the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, which she relied on over and over again in her pubic speechs, has become the subject of cultural mockery. Palin appears on the verge of collapse. To her comfort, so does John McCain.
I’m starting to think the “next Great Depression” won’t refer to the American economy, but McCain and Palin’s sad walk into obscurity and irrelevance.