This week, GOP strategists seem intent on replacing the image of Sarah Palin gazing knowingly onto Russia from her front porch with images of her having tête-à-têtes with Hamid Karzai and Henry Kissinger, all in an effort to dispel concerns about her foreign policy inexperience.
The press, barely privy to these proceedings and making do with what they’re given, were in a tricky spot, forced to turn photo-ops into news stories.
The Wall Street Journal slugged its story with the headline “Palin Uses U.N. Session to Bolster Her Resume.” Other outlets avoided such assertive verbs in their heds, treating the day more directly: “Palin gets an introduction to foreign policy,” said the L.A. Times; “Palin’s U.N. Crash Course,” reported CBS News. The Washington Post created a stark numerical juxtaposition using numbers with “Palin Sits Down With 2 Foreign Leaders” in the headline, and a mention of the 150+ leaders Biden has met in the article’s body.
But cleverness aside, Palin’s inexperience on the foreign policy stage is real and cannot be shored up by a few drop-in visits with heads of state, and the media ought to do a better job of pointing this out. Where’s the open skepticism? Where are the questions? The Wall Street Journal’s headline implies that Palin has a foreign-policy resume that can be “bolstered,” which she doesn’t.
Let’s be clear on something. Being able to make conversation with a head of state for one half hour does not equal foreign policy expertise. Since we don’t actually know what was said in these exchanges, (because reporters weren’t allowed in, and because Palin didn’t speak to reporters afterward), the press can’t run stories that allow the GOP to sell the idea that Palin can get up to speed with foreign policy with a some briefings and few handshakes. The fact is Palin’s foreign policy expertise remains unchanged from two days ago and any story that alleges otherwise is wrong.
The Associated Press came out strongly when reporting Palin’s around-the-world-in-three-hours:
Palin is studying foreign policy ahead of her one debate with Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, a senator with deep credentials on that front. More broadly, the Republican ticket is trying to counter questions exploited by Democrats about her qualifications to serve as vice president and step into the presidency at a moment’s notice if necessary.
There was no chance of putting such questions to rest with photo opportunities Tuesday.
More outlets need to follow the AP’s lead when reporting on Sarah Palin’s Excellent Foreign Policy Adventure. While the visuals might be convincing, we need thousands of words to dispel the story the pictures are telling.