ABC’s Gibson Interview of Palin – The Bush Doctrine Question – Gibson got it Wrong Again

Charles Krauthammer, the Columnist credited with coining the term “Bush Doctrine” says Gibson got it wrong again!

FOX News – September 12, 2008 – By Bill Samon

ABC News’ Charles Gibson, who is being credited with stumping Sarah Palin on the definition of the “Bush Doctrine,” has himself defined the nebulous phrase in a variety of ways, including one that mirrored Palin’s disputed explanation.

Gibson and his colleagues have been all over the map in defining the Bush Doctrine over the last seven years. In 2001, Gibson himself defined it as “a promise that all terrorists organizations with global reach will be found, stopped and defeated.”

But when Palin tried to give a similar definition on Thursday, Gibson corrected her.

“I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation,” Palin said in her first interview since being nominated as the GOP’s vice presidential candidate.

Gibson countered: “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.”

Much has been made of the fact that Palin had to ask for clarification when Gibson inquired: “Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?”

“In what respect, Charlie?” the Alaska governor said.

“The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?” Gibson challenged.

“His world view?” Palin queried.

“No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war,” Gibson said.

That’s when Palin talked of ridding the world of “Islamic extremism,” prompting Gibson to define the Bush Doctrine instead as preemption.

The term “Bush Doctrine” was first coined by columnist Charles Krauthammer three months before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and has undergone profound changes as the war against terror has evolved.

There is no single meaning of the Bush Doctrine,” Krauthammer noted in a forthcoming column. “In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration — and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today. It is utterly different.”

Richard Starr, managing editor of the Weekly Standard, agreed.

Gibson should of course have said in the first place what he understood the Bush Doctrine to be–and specified that he was asking a question about preemption,” Starr observed. “Palin was well within bounds to have asked him to be more specific. Because, as it happens, the doctrine has no universally acknowledged single meaning.”

Starr pointed out that other ABC journalists, including George Stephanolous, George Will and the late Peter Jennings, have defined the Bush Doctrine on the air in a variety of ways.

Ben Smith of the Politico said the Bush Doctrine exchange was “not a great moment” for Palin. But he conceded that critics are unfairly “pouncing on Sarah Palin’s apparent unfamiliarity with the Bush Doctrine as last night’s gaffe.”

This isn’t an easy question,” Smith noted. “Commentators have offered a range of meanings for the phrase, from the principle that countries that harbor terrorists are responsible for their actions to broader statements about the spread of freedom.”

Starr added: “Preemptive war; American unilateralism; the overthrow of regimes that harbor and abet terrorists–all of these things and more have been described as the ‘Bush Doctrine.’ It was a bit of a sham on Gibson’s part to have pretended that there’s such a thing as ‘the’ Bush Doctrine, much less that it was enunciated in September 2002.”

Bill Sammon is Washington Deputy Managing Editor for FOX News.

BLOGGERS NOTE:This writer will post a BLOG tomorrow on this topic. To add to this confusion – their have actually been 2 separate “Bush Doctrines” – the second superseded the first – that version has undergone at least 4 revisions as noted above. The Bush doctrine contains 4 separate components  1). Military Action / Terrorism, 2) Political – Spreading Democracy, 3) Economic and 4) Post War Recovery and the roll of Democracies. The complicated Doctrine borrows from both the Truman Doctrine and the Monroe Doctrine. 

Gibson’s definition was not incorrect it was simply incomplete. Governor Palin’s request for more detail wasn’t surprising. The Governor’s response was equally correct but incomplete. A complete correct answer was impossible in the format – the interview was only 1 hour long.

3 Responses

  1. I’ve lost all respect for Charlie Gibson.

  2. hats off to bill sammon

  3. I lost respect for Charles Gibson over twenty years ago. Is anyone really surprised at his behavior?

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