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Friday, Sep 12, 2008, 9:53 am

“In What Respect, Charlie?”

By Brian Cook
Never one to pass up a chance to say "I told you so" (I can be pretty insufferable that way), Sarah Palin's demonstration last night in front of a national TV audience of her total unfamiliarity with the Bush Doctrine (you know, the guiding framework of our nation's foreign policy for the past six years) was pretty much exactly what I was worried about. James Fallows spells it out clearly:

Each of us has areas we care about, and areas we don't. If we are interested in a topic, we follow its development over the years. And because we have followed its development, we're able to talk and think about it in a "rounded" way. We can say: Most people think X, but I really think Y. Or: most people used to think P, but now they think Q. Or: the point most people miss is Z. Or: the question I'd really like to hear answered is A.

Here's the most obvious example in daily life: Sports Talk radio.

Mention a name or theme -- Brett Favre, the Patriots under Belichick, Lance Armstrong's comeback, Venus and Serena -- and anyone who cares about sports can have a very sophisticated discussion about the ins and outs and myth and realities and arguments and rebuttals.

People who don't like sports can't do that. It's not so much that they can't identify the names -- they've heard of Armstrong -- but they've never bothered to follow the flow of debate. I like sports -- and politics and tech and other topics -- so I like joining these debates. On a wide range of other topics -- fashion, antique furniture, the world of restaurants and fine dining, or (blush) opera -- I have not been interested enough to learn anything I can add to the discussion. So I embarrass myself if I have to express a view.

What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues.


And you know what? In general, this isn't a big deal. It's not a big deal if some people don't like sports; and given how poisonous and wrong-headed it is, I think it's not a big deal if some people have never heard of the Bush Doctrine. Hell, it may even be a net-plus.

BUT...when you're running for the Vice Presidency of the United States, alongside a man in his 70s with all sorts of health issues, who himself supports the Bush Doctrine, in a political party that itself supports the Bush Doctrine...well, then this sort of ignorance should be disqualifying, if that political party were in any way, shape, or form serious about the problems we face. Luckily for Sarah Palin, the GOP isn't.

Brian Cook was an editor at In These Times from 2003 to 2009. He now works on the editorial staff of Playboy magazine.

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