In an interview last night, Charles Gibson BUSHwhacked Sarah Palin with a loaded question. Not surprisingly, Ms. Palin answer was sputtered and confused. (YouTube Video.)
The loaded question was "Do you agree with 'The Bush Doctrine'?"
The question is loaded because there really isn't such a thing a "The Bush Doctrine." The term "doctrine" is a term used by Bush critics to deride Bush's strategy for engaging in terrorism. To understand the attack one needs to know the subtle distinction between doctrine and strategy. A doctrine is the organizing principles behind a strategy. For those who know game theory, the biggest difference between a strategy and doctrine is that one never shows all their cards in a strategy.
Notable doctrines include the Monroe Doctrine, the Truman Docrine and the Powell Doctrine.
The attack used by Charles Gibson in his interview is to state a partisan version of the justification for invading Iraq as if it were the organizing principle behind our foreign policy.
There is some value in this type of speculative exercise in a poly-sci class. Practicing politicians, however, need to know real doctrines and not fantasy doctrines.
Palin should have called out the loaded question. Instead she took the tact of trying to support Bush's strategy. I sympathize with her answer. She was confronted with a term that came from a Dungeons and Dragon style fantasy analysis of the Iraq war. Working politicians need to know real doctrines and not fantasy doctrines.
Pundits pulled the same trick on Bill Clinton. Clinton mumbled something in a statement about why he didn't want to take pre-emptive actions in Rwanda and why he was ignoring WMD strikes that Saddam Hussein took against his own people. Pundits use the term "The Clinton Doctrine" to describe the thinking that kept us from intervening in Rwanda.
Imagine the uproar if the Bill O'Reilly asked Obama the loaded question: "Do you agree with 'The Clinton Doctrine' that we should turn our back to genocide?"
Clinton did not know that he was ignoring genocide.
Quite frankly, I think Gibson showed himself as a second rate partisan reporter with his loaded question. The question was on par with "Did you stop beating your wife?"
Although I dislike Bush, I do not attribute the growing partisan divide that is killing our nation to Bush. The partisan divide is coming from divisive tricks that come from partisan schools and partisan press.
I would have liked a hard hitting question about Palin's view on the apropriate use of force. Loading the question as Gibson did destroyed the ability to get a good answer. I think Gibson would have actually done his party a better service if he asked Palin's view on the use of pre-emptive force. She probably would have hung herself. Using backhanded wording really undermined the interview.
The techiques were developed by the left. The partisan noise comes from both left and reactionary right. We can't resolve the issues that are tearing us apart with an election. It can only be solved with education. But quality education can't happen when the schools are closely held by a partisan group.
Wikipedia (extracted 9/11/2009) notes that both the Bush Doctrine and The Clinton Doctrine are simply phrases used by opponents of Bush to describe their version of Bush's strategy. Apparently some people call the National Security Strategy of the United States of 2002 the "Bush Doctrine." These wanks are upset that the strategy keeps changings...which is as it should be. A strategy, afterall, is not a docrtine. Strategies should change with the changing conditions.
PS: I didn't watch the full O'Reilly/Obama interview as Mr. O'Reilly talked over Obama. There is no point to interviews when the questions are bait.