The first aired part of ABC’s Charles Gibson interview with Sarah Palin had the air of an interrogation, taking aim at her experience and foreign policy knowledge.
For Palin’s part, as Politico also opines, she “appears to have held her own” and got through an aggressive line of questioning without any gaffes, stayed on message, and was able to articulate on her weaker points and put them under a positive light. To some very specific questions she was general in response, which avoids impressing as it avoids failing. In this respect, the times she gave generalized answers are no different than responses given by any candidate on various issues in any campaign.
For Gibson’s part, his aggressive tone and mannerisms likely were to the delight of Obama supporters looking for blood in the water and angering to McCain supporters who may see blood on Gibson’s hands. The questions asked, and the often smug expressions and mannerisms accompanying them, were at times unprofessional and condescending. Had Bill O’Reilly conducted his interview with Barack Obama in the same manner, Obama supporters would have been rightly upset. At several points, it seemed the only aspect that separated Gibson’s journalistic conduct from an outright shout-down were decibel levels.
The interview seems heavily and roughly edited in many places, with Palin’s responses either cut into or cut away from, leaving the viewer to wonder if they had heard the entire response.
Early in the interview, Gibson asked Palin if she could “look the country in the eye and say, ‘I have the experience, I have the ability, to be not just Vice President, but perhaps President’?” It’s a fair one to ask of any Vice Presidential candidate, if only it were. Palin handled the question well, but what followed was little short of a verbal assault.
After she answered that she was confident and ready, the next question seemed to be one to challenge the integrity of her answer. Gibson asked if Palin paused when John McCain asked her to take the number two spot on the ticket, and “for a moment, did you think ‘No’?” She did not, she said and then elaborated. Gibson jumped in, “And you didn’t say to yourself, ‘Am I experienced enough? Am I ready?” Again, she said she did not hesitate. And that’s when Gibson interrupted her mid-sentence and opined in the form of a question, “Doesn’t that take some hubris?”
Gibson seemed never satisfied with her answers that she did not hesitate to say yes and that she feels she is ready and confident. The tone did not change throughout the interview and carried with it an overriding tone of guilty until proven innocent.
It is impossible to watch the interview without coming away with an undeniable impression that the interviewer is opposed to the interviewee. A similar tack taken by Gibson in an interview with the other candidates would perhaps dampen that impression. But it’s not to be found. Such is the state of ‘hard’ news and journalism in America today.