How can it be that some people still pretend that Sarah Palin is suited for high office? This country has never seen someone so comprehensively unprepared for the vice presidency; Dan Quayle was Metternich by comparison.
I’ve watched Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric three times, and my astonishment does not diminish. Her nonsensical answer about Russia has deservedly been highlighted, but let me focus on another question, this one concerning the export of democracy. Couric asked, "What happens if the goal of democracy doesn’t produce the desired outcome? In Gaza, the U.S. pushed hard for elections and Hamas won." Palin’s answer, in full, was this: "Yeah, well especially in that region, though, we have to protect those who do seek democracy and support those who seek protections for the people who live there. What we’re seeing in the last couple of days here in New York is a President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, who would come on our soil and express such disdain for one of our closest allies and friends, Israel … and we’re hearing the evil that he speaks and if hearing him doesn’t allow Americans to commit more solidly to protecting the friends and allies that we need, especially there in the Mideast, then nothing will." The issue here is not that Palin didn’t know the answer. There are many possible answers to this question, some of which are right and some of which are wrong. The issue here is that she didn’t know the question.
Because she was apparently ignorant of the subject, she endorsed Hamas’ victory, and, in essence, called for the U.S. to "protect" Islamists who seek to use democratic elections to lever themselves into power. And, of course, Ahmadinejad came to power in a more-or-less democratic election. Palin’s answer was truly remarkable. A person who could be President of the United States has shown herself to be completely ignorant of one of the most vexing and important foreign policy questions of the day. Freshman congressmen know how to answer this question. Here’s one possible Republican response: "Yes, Katie, it’s true that if you push for democracy, sometimes you get an outcome that you don’t want. This happened in Gaza with Hamas, and I think the Bush Administration was as surprised as everyone else. So the lesson here is that you have be careful when you try to export democracy. But I still believe that, over the long-term, democracy is the best antidote to terrorism that we have. What we have to do, though, is know when to push, and know when not to push. And every day, we have to do the hard work of advocating for press freedom, and the rule of law, and for all those things that build a civil society." See? Not that hard. Unless you don’t: a) Know what happened in Gaza; b) Know where Gaza is; c) Know who rules Gaza today; d) Care. I want to wait and see Palin on Thursday night in her debate with Joe Biden; perhaps her performance in the Couric interview was abnormally bad. But I have a terrible feeling that John McCain has placed this country – and, of lesser importance, his campaign – in an untenable position.
[This is cross-posted from Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic blog, which we think is great, and you should visit often]