Try­ing for a prime time put down

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Sarah Palin’s rep­u­ta­tion sur­vived her in­ter­view with ABC News’ Char­lie Gib­son. The same can­not be said for Char­lie Gib­son. On my ra­dio show last week, I twice de­fended Barack Obama. Once, against those con­ser­va­tives who took a com­ment made by Mr. Obama in an in­ter­view with Ge­orge Stephanopou­los out of con­text and sug­gested that Mr. Obama had in­ad­ver­tently ad­mit­ted he was a Mus­lim. And again, when I con­tended that Mr. Obama did not im­ply that Mrs. Palin was a pig in his now fa­mous “lip­stick on a pig” ref­er­ence.

I men­tion this only be­cause I want to as­sume that peo­ple of good will on both sides can still be hon­est about what tran­spires po­lit­i­cally. And in this in­stance what tran­spired was that Mr. Gib­son in­tended to hu­mil­i­ate Mrs. Palin.

It wasn’t even sub­tle. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing Mr. Gib­son did and vir­tu­ally ev­ery ques­tion he posed was de­signed to trap, or trick, or de­mean Gov. Palin. There are views of his face that so reek of con­tempt that any­one shown pho­tos of his look would im­me­di­ately iden­tify it as con­temp­tu­ous.

But one se­ries of ques­tions, in par­tic­u­lar, blew any cover of im­par­tial­ity and re­vealed Mr. Gib­son’s aim to hu­mil­i­ate Mrs. Palin.

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 world­view? Gib­son: No, the Bush doc­trine, enun­ci­ated Septem­ber 2002, be­fore the Iraq war.

When he asked Mrs. Palin whether she agreed with the Bush Doc­trine without defin­ing it, he gave the game away. He lost any pre­tense of fair­ness. Ask­ing the same unan­swer­able ques­tion three times had one pur­pose — to hu­mil­i­ate the woman. That was not merely par­ti­san. It was mean.

I couldn’t an­swer it — and I have been steeped in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs since I was a Fel­low at the Columbia Uni­ver­sity School of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs in the 1970s. I have since been to 82 coun­tries, and have lec­tured in Rus­sian in Rus­sia and in He­brew in Is­rael. Most Amer­i­cans would con­sider a can­di­date for na­tional of­fice who had such a re­sume qual­i­fied as re­gards in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions. Yet I had no clue how to an­swer Mr. Gib­son’s ques­tion.

I had no clue be­cause there is no right an­swer. There are at least four doc­trines that are called “Bush Doc­trine,” which means that there is no “Bush Doc­trine.” It is a term bereft of mean­ing, as be­came abun­dantly clear when Mr. Gib­son fi­nally ex­plained what he was re­fer­ring to:

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 — the right to pre­emp- tive at­tack of a coun­try that was plan­ning an at­tack on Amer­ica?

That’s the Bush Doc­trine? “The right to pre­emp­tive at­tack of a coun­try that was plan­ning an at­tack on Amer­ica?”

Isn’t that just com­mon sense? What coun­try in his­tory has thought it did not have the right to at­tack those plan­ning to at­tack it? I learned the “Bush Doc­trine” when I was a stu­dent at yeshiva in the fourth grade, when I was taught a fa­mous Tal­mu­dic dic­tum from about 1,800 years ago: “If some­one is com­ing to kill you, rise early and kill him.”

And pre­emp­tive at­tack is ex­actly what hap­pened in June 1967, when Is­rael at­tacked Egypt and Syria be­cause those coun­tries were plan­ning to at­tack Is­rael. Would any Amer­i­can pres­i­dent be­fore Ge­orge W. Bush have acted dif­fer­ently than Is­rael did? Of course not. Did they all be­lieve in the Bush Doc­trine?

That is how Mr. Gib­son added fool­ish­ness to his mean­ness.

All the in­ter­view did was re­con­firm that Repub­li­cans run- ning for of­fice run against both their Demo­cratic op­po­nent and the main­stream news me­dia.

This year it is more ob­vi­ous than ever. The press’s be­at­i­fi­ca­tion of Mr. Obama is so ob­vi­ous, so con­stant (how many cov­ers of Newsweek and Time has Mr. Obama been on?) that me­dia cred­i­bil­ity even among many non-con­ser­va­tives has been hurt.

Let me put this an­other way. Char­lie Gib­son showed far greater hos­til­ity to­ward the Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date than Dan Rather did in his in­ter­view with Sad­dam Hus­sein or Mike Wal­lace did in his in­ter­view with Iran’s Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad.

Which re­minds me of an­other Tal­mu­dic dic­tum: “Those who are mer­ci­ful to the cruel will be cruel to the mer­ci­ful.”

We might call it the me­dia’s Gib­son Doc­trine: Con­front Repub­li­cans, act ob­se­quious to­ward tyrants.

Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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