So far, the reaction to Sarah and Charlie’s big night seems to be that she didn’t do anything to embarrass herself. In short, no gaffes.
A gaffe, of course, is defined as an unintentional, embarrassing blunder—usually a quick, cringe-inducing, irrevocable verbal slip. It can be on a matter of substance (“Poland is free”) but usually isn’t. Gaffes make great sound bites, which is part of the reason why the media makes so much of them.
Here’s what Bill Sammon, Fox News’s Washington-based deputy managing editor, said this morning on Fox and Friends:
The gaffe issue is the most important test she could have passed. There are a lot of critiques out today or tomorrow nibbling around the edges What that tells you is that no major gaffes were made because we would be having a very different conversation if she screwed up.
I can’t disagree with that. If Palin had, say, fallen out of her chair, cried, called Obama “uppity,” or cursed, well, yes, we’d be having a very different conversation.
But it’s not like she didn’t give us enough to talk about.
She didn’t recognize the term “Bush Doctrine,” a key foundation of the administration’s justification to invade Iraq; nor was she able to explain its premise.
She suggested that Alaska’s proximity to Russia—so close that you can see!—gives her foreign policy cred. (I can see a film school from my desk window, so I’m expecting an offer from a Hollywood agent any day now.)
She circled back to repeated talking points at every opportunity, betraying a lack of substantial knowledge on any foreign policy issue she was asked about.
That’s the easy stuff, all of which can—and should—be pointed out without provoking debates about the soundness or wisdom of the answers she did give. Yes, Palin had to perform, but she also told us about the policies and perspectives she’s just learned she’ll be advocating for.
And on that front, there is a lot of ground for fruitful press discussion. Does Palin disagree with her running mate over the propriety of pursuing al-Qaeda members in Pakistan without that government’s approval? What exactly, is Palin’s understanding of the murky start of this summer’s Georgian-Russian war that leads her to state, unequivocally, that Russia’s invasion was unprovoked?
Add it all up, and it looked to me like a pretty disastrous outing for Palin. Gibson was firm and sensible, and didn’t dabble in the transparent gotcha. But he netted no gaffe. So what does that mean?
“She didn’t do anything that would hurt her cause or the McCain ticket,” said Ken Rudin, NPR’s political editor, on today’s Morning Edition.
That’s one way of looking at it.