Information Manipulation: Through the Media Fog
A serious media offense occurred in the Charlie Gibson interview of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin . Gibson seemed bound and determined to make Palin appear the fool, and while I have no problems with a candidate being approached critically, this stands in stark contrast to George Stephanopoulos' interview of Barack Obama a few days earlier. When Gibson asked Palin about the Bush doctrine, her request for clarification was ignored (Gibson: "Well, what do you - what do you interpret it to be?") whereas when Obama made a surprising gaffe and referred to "my Muslim faith," he was quickly and kindly corrected by Stephanopoulos (Stephanopoulos: "Christian faith.") . (Can we look forward to a book of Obamaisms ?)
Nor was Palin's request for clarification on the Bush doctrine in any way out of line - in fact, it was Gibson who erred . As Charles Krauthammer, the person who first used the term, has verified, the definition Gibson eventually gave Palin (quite condescendingly) was incorrect. The "Bush doctrine" has had four different definitions throughout the evolution of the current administration, and the present one refers to the spread of freedom throughout the world, not Gibson's definition of "right of anticipatory self-defense." In the rush to present Palin as an ignorant "average citizen" unacquainted with national politics, someone forgot to tell Gibson that unlike the Truman Doctrine or the Monroe Doctrine, the Bush doctrine lacks a fixed definition.
Perhaps equally disturbing is the way in which the Palin interview was edited . No doubt most interviews must be edited for length; however, ABC strategically cut out some of Palin's important responses. Just one blaring example is Gibson's questioning regarding the Iraq War; ABC cut both of Palin's statements regarding her disdain for war and removed Gibson's statement (after Palin's elaboration of her own words in connection with Abraham Lincoln), "I take your point about Lincoln's words." Fascinating! (Also fascinating is Gibson's preoccupation with grilling Palin on Israel - despite her stance being similar to that of Obama .)
I think that former Clinton strategist Mark Penn stated the problem very eloquently in an interview with CBS News:
"I think here the media is on very dangerous ground. I think that when you see them going through every single expense report that Governor Palin has ever filed, if they don't do that for all four of the candidates, they're on very dangerous ground. I think the media so far has been the biggest loser in this race. And they continue to have growing credibility problems. And I think that that's a real problem growing out of this election. The media now, all of the media - not just Fox News, that was perceived as highly partisan - but all of the media is now being viewed as partisan in one way or another. And that is an unfortunate development."
As Penn points out later, the media treatment of Palin could - and already has - backfired in some ways. So perhaps it would be to the benefit of all if in the future presidential and vice presidential debates, the media just sits back and respectfully lets the candidates speak - or asks probing questions of all, equally. The media should not confuse its role with the exciting and liberating life of a citizen, opinion blogger .