Everyone seems to be taking a shot as coming up with questions that Charlie Gibson should ask Sarah Palin. The Anchorage Daily News has a list of questions today, most of which are centered a tad too much on Alaskan politics. That's fine, but probably not what Gibson, as the first national correspondent to question her, is interested in. I agree with Jack Shafer of Slate that Gibson is not going to play gotcha politics by quizzing her on the leaders of various countries.
I don't think the gotcha questions are the ones that would be most revealing of her abilities. And she's reportedly a smart woman who can study up on the McCain position on most foreign policy areas and deliver a smooth enough answer to questions about hot points in the world today. What I would want Gibson to do is try to dig deeper on some of those policy issues that are basically insoluble and which present no good answers. If she adopts McCain's tough position on Russia's invasion of Georgia, I'd keep pressing her. What can we do seeing that we don't have the full support of our European allies and Russia has a chokehold through its use of oil against the west? What about Iran? There is no good answer there, yet politicians can't say that. What does she think a McCain administration would do if Israel attacked Iran's nuclear facilities and Iran then shut down the Straits of Hormuz? Would she support using our navy to break up such a blockade? I'd try to make her go beyond the slogans of what the McCain position might be and explore all the bad outcomes that might result from whichever action we took.
The McCain/Palin team was quite clever in scheduling the Gibson interview on 9/11 and on the day her son is leaving for Iraq. They're also smart in scheduling the interview to take place in Alaska. That requires that Gibson use some of his time covering her farewell to her son and how she understands what her son is going off to fight for. They'll have to do some questions on her background in Alaska and history in politics. They can bring up some of the matters that have emerged about her record. If she's half the politician that she's been touted as, she should be able to hit those questions out of the park.
On domestic questions, I'd want to hear how she and John McCain really expect to change how Washington gets things done. How can they change the fairly immutable ways in which the House and Senate work? How can they get any of their policies through a Congress controlled by the other party? Aren't all those promises of reform going to evaporate just as they have for every president who has been promising the same thing since Jimmy Carter? She can talk about the value of the bully pulpit and the veto pen, but when it comes right down to it, there are so many institutional obstacles in Congress and the throughout the bureaucracy to true reform. Perhaps a President McCain can make some changes around the edges, but they're bound to be disappointed as are the American people if we truly expect that partisan atmosphere in Washington. Does she truly believe that the Democrats are going to be any more willing to work with McCain if he defeats their anointed one? Especially after the Democrats and several in the the media will have told us that he only won because we're a racist people?
And she should be well prepared to answer any questions about her family. Though I bet that Gibson won't go much beyond asking her perhaps how she can handle her responsibilities as a candidate and vice president. She has several great answers to that about how she's handled those responsibilities in her past. What I've been curious about is that she's handled her family responsibilities before because she has had the help of her parents and sisters as well as her husband and older children. Now she won't have any of those except her husband. And will Todd Palin really be happy living as the Second Dude in Washington, D.C. after his life as a commercial fisherman and snowmobiler? It just doesn't seem like a change he'd sincerely enjoy and that would put stress on their relationship. But that's all none of our business and it's the choice they're apparently willing to make. I don't expect any sort of answer to that but it has been something I've wondered about.
And I think it's totally legitimate for Gibson to try to get her to answer why she's been avoiding questions from the press. We all suspect that they reason she's been delaying is because she's been spending that time studying and getting ready. But she can't say that. Her team better have an answer for that.
She should avoid any whining about intrusive questions from the media or how she's being treated differently from how a man would be treated. She criticized Hillary Clinton for whining and she should be savvy enough to know how unappealing that is. Instead she should just laugh it off and avoid that trap. Let people get angry on her behalf, but she should demonstrate that she has a cheerful ability to shrug off the personal attacks. She can just say that she'd prefer to focus on the friendly response she's gotten from the public and that she's more concerned about how voters perceive her than the press or her enemies.
My prediction is that Gibson will do a reasonable job in questioning her and she will do a good job on answering his questions. We probably won't learn all that much about policies or how she personally approaches questions on defense and foreign policy. She'll be well enough prepared to give the McCain position on a whole variety of issues. Gibson would be well-advised to try to focus in on those answers and see if he can move her beyond the prepared answers. That would give us a bit of a better idea of how she thinks and what she knows.
The one who really has his reputation on the line is Charlie Gibson. If he's not tough on her, the liberal side of the blogosphere will erupt with fury and contrast that with his questions in the ABC debate when he and George Stephanopolous dared to ask a few tough questions of Barack Obama. If he's seen as asking inappropriately personal questions about her family, conservatives will castigate him. He's just got to focus on getting answers to the questions people have about her as well as trying to press her to get beyond the short-answer responses that she's been preparing for the past two weeks.