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The Gibson-Palin Interview: How’d Charlie Do?

by Cally Carswell 


Tags: media, Sarah Palin, Charles Gibson, Gibson-Palin interview, campaign coverage, Slate, Washington Post, Real Clear Politics, Newsbusters, Crooks and Liars,

Gibson-Palin interviewSarah Palin’s performance on ABC last week has been extensively analyzed, but as the only journalist allowed access to the candidate since her announcement, how did Charles Gibson do?

Before the interview, speculation swirled about whether Gibson would go easy on Palin, and pundits and voters from around the country advised him on what to ask. Was he tough enough, too tough, and were your questions answered?

Jack Shafer at Slate gives Gibson high marks: “At every point in the Q&A, Gibson had the right follow-up questions to elicit more from Palin, including after he asked the Bush Doctrine cringe-maker.”

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz liked Gibson’s work, too: “What the ABC newsman conducted yesterday was a serious, professional interview that went right at the heart of what we want and need to know about the governor: Could she be president? Does she understand the nuances of international affairs? Does she have a world view?” (Thanks, TVNewser.)

Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics recaps reader responses as mixed: “Speaking of Gibson, some people thought he was fair, while others said he looked like set out to try and make Palin look bad. More than a few mentioned what they saw as his condescending attitude—a number described Gibson's demeanor in terms of a snobby professor delivering a pop quiz while looking down his nose at his subject.”

The conservative blog Newsbusters has no praise for Gibson: “But there was more than Charlie's sneering condescending tone, looking down over the rim of his glasses like some snobby intellectual that bothered me. Twisting her words into a fabrication feeding the fear of theocracy was utterly insulting.”

The liberal blog Crooks and Liars thinks Gibson did fine: “To his credit, Charlie Gibson actually did a pretty good job of grilling Sarah Palin in her first interview since accepting the Republican nomination.”

My two cents: I was glad to see him push her, but also thought he missed some follow-up questions. One that stuck out: When asked what special insight into Russia Alaska’s proximity to the country gave her, Palin responded that you can actually see Russia from Alaska. Gibson moved on.

cally carswell
9/17/2008 11:05:57 PM

I think your point is well taken that too much attention is being paid to the wrong things. But, the fact that we dislike the campaign's stonewalling doesn't change what's at stake: a person the public barely knows could be next in line for the presidency in less than two months. I don't think not covering her is an option. However, not covering lipstick/farm animal stories and sticking to those of substance certainly is. On that note, I read a good blog post at Political Animal today about the light coverage of troopergate and why it's puzzling that might interest folks: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_09/014766.php


morgan brooke
9/17/2008 7:08:31 PM

Thank you Emily--politicians beg for every moment of free media face time so media treatment of her pouty "no interviews" ploy as a big news story is working for her doubletime. Huge media face time and no questions or accountability. She doesn't want to answer questions or do interviews -- we heard that-- it isn't news. The next mention of her in any media outlet in any way should be when that changes. Stop giving free photo ops to the "hot VP" gal. It's not that kind of a contest. Morgan


mylene dufault
9/17/2008 5:06:56 PM

Is it not a well-known fact, at least in the media, that politicians and public personalities request a list of the questions to be asked to them or themes to be discussed BEFORE the interview??? I just object to this interview being presented like a "test" for Palin when it was most probably well rehearsed (on her part) with top consellors and spin doctors beforehand. The role of the journalist, no matter how intelligent and incisive, remains purely instrumental in such a well staged image creating operation.


diane_3
9/17/2008 2:31:27 PM

I totally disagree with jlk, unless the comments were made in sarcasm. The sex of the candidate has become way too big a focus. Let's get serious and look at qualifications, which in my opinion she does not have.


cb
9/17/2008 12:12:31 PM

I think Charles did a great job...he asked her what REALLY needed to be asked....like, is she ready to be REALLY ready to be President if something happens to McCain? What is her foreign policy experience? Where does she stand on X, Y, Z? I think the public NEEDS to know if she doesn't know how to answer these questions, if she doesn't know what the Bush Doctrine is, and if she thinks being able to "...see Russia from her house..." is what she considers to be sufficient "foreign policy experience". Yes, he asked her questions that he would have asked anybody. The difference is that a qualified candidate would be able to answer them without bullsh*tting and without repeating the same canned answer 4 times. Voters NEED to know who this woman is and how she answers questions and how inexperienced and unqualified she is. She claims to be VERY confident in her ability to be President of the United States, if needed, though she was bumbling along trying to keep her cool and keep up with the interview. If Charles Gibson was somewhat irritated, so be it. It is completely understandable if a person who can't answer the basic questions is the VP nominee. Her nomination is the MOST insanity I have ever seen in politics. Terrifying and completely insane. I'm REALLY hoping that the intelligent people of this country will come out on droves to vote, and will get Obama into office, where he belongs, and where this country **desperately** needs him to be, in these crucial times.


emily_2
9/17/2008 11:59:24 AM

We are taking the wrong approach to the Palin/McCain rejection of public/media access. Here's my prescription: stop following her every move until she allows questioning! CNN complains daily that she won't grant interview opportunities and yet Joe Biden does it all day long and we see no coverage of this, just clip after clip of Sarah Palin saying the same things over and over, and political strategists complaining about her. If you want her to TALK to the press, don't give her coverage until she DOES.


cally carswell
9/17/2008 10:22:42 AM

Jake, I agree, that SHOULD be the question. And I would hope voters would pressure the campaigns to be give reporters much more access to the candidates. However, given the shield of protection the McCain campaign has erected around Sarah Palin (and the fact that they don't seem to care much what people say about it), I also think the reporters who are granted access carry a huge amount of responsibility and it's important they are at the top of their game. What did people think of the second set of Gibson interviews? This post was written after the first set, and the second set, to me, seemed softer. Jack Shafer thought so too--he says Gibson went "limp." See his piece on the final interviews: http://www.slate.com/id/2200028/


jlk
9/16/2008 12:17:37 PM

yes, but if you say you want to ask this particular candidate tough questions, it's sexism. Duh, she's a woman, silly! she doesn't have to answer questions about her readiness...if you don't just ASSUME she's ready to be in the white house, you're obviously prejudiced.


jake mohan
9/16/2008 11:36:13 AM

Regardless of Gibson's performance, shouldn't the real question be: Why was he the only one "allowed" to speak with Sarah Palin? Shouldn't the media have considerably more access to the person who might one day be our president? This is just a continuation of the tightly-controlled PR machinery surrounding the Bush administration, with their stages Town Hall meetings and contemptuous attitude toward real, unscripted questions during press conferences.