23 September 2008

Palin’ in comparison: that slightly awkward interview

“I think the leader of the opposition forgets I have been in this job for five days”. These were the words of Gordon Brown when David Cameron asked him during his first Prime Minister’s Questions whether he planned to ban extremist group Hitz ut Tahrir. Despite the fact that Brown had been an MP since 1983, Shadow Chancellor since 1992, and a member of Cabinet since 1997, he was happy to admit that he did not have sufficient experience as the head of government to respond to Mr Cameron’s question.

Sarah Palin will make no such admission. In her first interview since becoming John McCain’s running mate, Palin fiercely defended the experience which she believes she has acquired during her time as Mayor of Wasilla and Governor of Alaska. She attempted to differentiate between the international shock at her sudden political ascent, and any shock she herself might have felt at being nominated by McCain. When Charles Gibson, her rather dismissive interviewee, asks her, “Haven’t you said to yourself at some point in the past two weeks, ‘Holy cow’?”, Palin touches his arm and smiles cautiously, stating that she has not “had time to think that yet”.

No doubt she has been a busy woman over the past two weeks. There has been a lot of national policy—past, present and future—to catch up on. Yet the interview is, at times, uncomfortable viewing. Palin could not afford to answer consistently in the negative (though she conceded, when pressed, that she had never met a foreign head of state); yet many of the questions were designed to force her into answering ‘no’. Though she squirmed her way through much of the interview with non-committal responses, she could not avoid reiterating her personal views on the divisive topics of abortion and guns.

Appearing on The View earlier this week, McCain faced boos from a section of the audience when he stated that Roe v Wade had been a bad decision. Because Gibson’s interview with Palin was one-on-one, she was spared any such reaction to her views on abortion.

Yet the aggressive interview technique of Charles Gibson (or, as Palin refers to him constantly during the interview, “Charlie”) was a force to be reckoned with for the pitbull-in-lipstick. She repeated the phrase “You can’t blink” twice within one twenty second period, yet she blinked sixteen times within this period. The average rate of blinking for a human adult is between ten and fifteen times per minute—was this just a nervous twitch, or a Freudian slip-up?

Palin did not live up to the dazzle of her convention speech, and the interview paled in comparison. The comparison is, of course, terribly unfair. Her convention speech was prepared and polished, steering away from any contentious ground. The interview was on-the-spot, wide-ranging and largely hostile. Nevertheless, with less than four months to go before Palin could be Vice-President, a competent, confident interview is not too much to ask for. Palin did well enough under the circumstances, and she remains likeable. It is clear, however, that she needs a lot more prepping before she faces Biden in the looming Veep debate. She has until 2nd October to know all there is to know about absolutely everything.

By Robert Black

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