Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave her first interview to CNN Tuesday, and it is hard to say which was the bigger disappointment:
CNN called the interview “wide ranging,” but I would call it rambling, with Palin driving the bus while Griffin looked on, nodding and smiling for the most part.
Here was the money moment: “Is Barack Obama a socialist?” Griffin asked. Palin said:
“I'm not going to call him a socialist. But as Joe the plumber has suggested, in fact he came right out and said it, it sounds like socialism to him. And he speaks for so many Americans who are quite concerned now after hearing finally what Barack Obama's true intentions are with his tax and economic plan.”CNN has done exemplary campaign reporting since December, better than any other news division on TV at times, but this interview was not one of its better moments.
In some ways, in fact, it served as a reminder of how focused and forceful ABC’s Charles Gibson and CBS’s Katie Couric were in controlling their time with Palin and helping American voters get a measure of the candidate.
Palin was allowed to launch into a long talking point about how Obama’s statement about “redistributing the wealth” is the very definition of socialism.
At least, it’s the definition according to Joe the Plumber, the plumber without a plumbing license who doesn’t pay taxes and has suddenly become an expert on socialism.
And the CNN correspondent did little to rein her in.
Typical of the kind of soft, take-it-run-with-it questions that Griffin served up was this one on experience: “You are the only person in the race with executive experience….”
“That’s a good point about experience,” Palin replied brightly. We don’t like to toot our own horns…but I do have more executive experience that Barack Obama does.” And off she was on all the great things she has done as mayor and governor.
She was also given plenty of room to bash her vice presidential opponent, Joe Biden, for comments he made that Obama might be tested internationally in the early days of his presidency.
Although she did wind up using the rope to hang herself when she spun out a strange scenario in which she imagined Obama sitting down to talk with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and suddenly we are faced with an international crisis.
But she recovered well enough to use the moment to issue a challenge.
“Ask your bosses,” she commanded of Griffin, “Why does Joe Biden get such a pass? …. If I’d a said that (what he said about Obama possibly being tested), you guys would have clobbered me.”
“You’re right,” Griffin said, essentially agreeing with her complaint that the press was treating her unfairly.
To be fair, Griffin did ask her about comments she made saying some parts of the country are “more American” than others.
Her response: “I certainly don't want that interpreted as one area being more patriotic or more American than another. If that's the way it has come across, I apologize.”
The non-apology apology – apologizing for any misunderstanding not what she said.
Griffin also queried her on a recent ethics finding that went against her in Alaska. And he did try to very gently point out a contradiction or two in Palin’s comments.
After she got through pounding away at the evils of “big government” and urging “government to get out of the way and let the private sector do what it does best,” the CNN reporter did point out that McCain supports most of the government intervention in the marketplace now being pushed by the Bush administration.
But Palin, ignoring the contradiction in her comments, replied, “I beg to differ with that.” And then, she was given a wide open field to say that while McCain has supported the “crisis” infusion of cash, he is not for spending more money the way the “Democrats are.”
Unlike Couric or Gibson, Griffin did nothing to try and force her back to the points of contradiction. At one point, he asked her if she felt frustrated at the way some in the press “mocked” her and made it hard for her to get her message out.
“I’m getting my message out right now,” she said.
Indeed, she was -- allowed to simultaneously try to link Obama to socialism and then act like she was taking the high road with Joe the Plumber doing the dirty work for her while CNN’s correspondent looked on.
Thursday, October 23, 2008