After reading all the criticism of Charlie Gibson on his Sarah Palin interviews, wherein Gibson was seen as being too hard on Palin or too partisan, I was reminded of Barack Obama’s decision to do an interview with Bill O’Reilly and how it was critiqued afterward. Oddly enough, nobody really criticized Bill O’Reilly for being Bill O’Reilly. He asked tough questions, most with a conservative slant, and flatly called Obama out on anything he said that seemed too stumpy or too liberal. He was not just critical — sometimes he was downright patronizing. But Obama did the interview and he did pretty well, even though in no universe would anyone argue that O’Reilly was being nice, respectful, or deferencial. And even if at the end you didn’t agree with Obama’s policies, at least you had a better grasp on what they really were because O’Reilly actually asked about them.
When you contrast that with Sarah Palin, who went on one of the regular networks and got a middle-of-the-road anchor who, granted, asked her some tough questions and called her out when she went off base, people want to howl about how unfair it is and how mean he was and how he “just wasn’t respectful.” Excuse me, but what the hell? The purpose of the interview was not for you to get a warm and fuzzy feeling about Sarah Palin. If you want that, pick up a copy of Us magazine and check out all the pictures of her adorable children. They are seriously adorable. This interview however, which at least attempted to be a piece of serious journalism, was geared to learning more about her policies, her record, and to get clarification she’s said on some things that have raised eyebrows. Allowing her to skate when she clearly didn’t understand the question being asked or attempted to answer a question with rhetoric that in no way, shape or form addressed the question would have defeated the very purpose of the interview — which is to learn about Palin, not party rhetoric which we’re all pretty familiar with. It was not disrespectful or unfair. These questions are relevant to her leadership, and she will be asked these questions over and over again should she become vice president.
Sarah Palin is a grown woman with an education, a career, and a position of leadership that is just about as high up as you can go in this country, if not in the world. As a politician, she has chosen a path in life where criticism is the rule, not the exception. She knew going into this that she would be asked difficult questions, that she would be criticized, and that at some point, there would be people who disliked her. To argue that somehow she should be shielded from that criticism or that somehow the criticism she receives is unfair is ignoring the fact that criticism is probably the only given in her line of work, regardless of gender or any other factor. She is a politician. Criticism is to be expected. Skepticism is to be expected. Being able to answer tough questions from people who do not trust you, who do not like you, and who do not agree with you is a must. Sarah Palin knows this, too, because she’s made statements saying as much herself.
So to all of you out there who want to argue that this interview was unfair — stop. Think for a second about what Palin is, which is not a small town hockey mom, but a woman who picked a tough career, with high stakes and great responsibility, and believes she can take on the world. If that is the case, let her. Don’t try to shield her from a single skeptic, because right behind that one are millions more, and to most of them, she owes them proof of her ability to lead in a way that benefits them. If you are not skeptical, that is fine, but asking Sarah Palin not to deal with skeptics is asking her not to do her job. Trying to make it seem as if there is no resistance in her line of work will only make it that much more difficult for her when she finally encounters it on the job.
Sarah Palin is, first and foremost, a politician. Being a woman, a wife, a mother, and a Christian are all secondary to the fact that her first responsibility as Vice President will be to the American people, and she will be accountable to all of us.