Vice Presidents Collage

A Debate Coach for Palin?

Reviews of Sarah Palin’s performance in her interview by Charlie Gibson have been split, pretty much as would be expected. Those who did not care for Palin thought she appeared uncertain or ignorant of international affairs. Those who liked Palin praised her and called Gibson condescending. In that vein, the formidable Ruth Wedgewood (a leading scholar of international law and professor at SAIS) writes in National Review Online:

Most women, even now, are quite familiar with being talked over and not so subtly demeaned when they venture an opinion. It happens at dinner parties, in Washington and New York, where Gibson reigns as a network anchor, and even in educational classrooms.

It can happen to students who venture to Ivy League colleges without the benefit of a private preparatory school. They may never have heard about a “Nash equilibrium” or “Pareto optimality.” It doesn’t mean they are stupid or without cunning.

There was no evident need to demand of Palin three times in a row how she could consider herself to have the necessary qualifications for the vice presidency.

But Prof. Wedgewood goes beyond issues of style and takes Gibson to task on his badgering Palin to define the Bush doctrine:

But Gibson is wrong to suppose that the right of anticipatory self-defense began with George Bush. Indeed, it was put forward early in the history of the American republic, by Secretary of State Daniel Webster, in the so-called “Caroline affair” in 1837.

And strangely enough, this doctrine was carved out in the frozen North. In the middle of winter, American sympathizers crossed the Niagara River to help Canadians in their rebellion against the British Crown. The British burned their boat and sent one man to his death over the falls. Daniel Webster conceded that the British were permitted to use force because the “necessity of that self-defence” was “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”

It would have been delicious if Governor Palin had responded with the name Daniel Webster. But she had the idea, and one may excuse even a national television anchor for not knowing the doctrine’s real origin.

Delicious indeed – is Wedgewood applying to be Palin’s debate coach? The McCain campaign could do far worse.

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