The highs and lows of Sarah Palin's first interview

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If the scrutiny in front of 37 million Americans last week wasn't enough for Sarah Palin, she's under the microscope again, and this time the reviews aren't as glowing. Or are they?

The Alaska Governor did her first serious one-on-one interview yesterday with ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson. Gibson was under scrutiny as well. He appears to have passed the "I'm not People magazine" test and removed himself from any hot-seat.

So that leaves the moose-shooting hockey mom - Sarah Palin.

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The feedback from her interview is mixed. There seems to be a consensus that when questioned about the Bush Doctrine, she whiffed. But how much of a whiff it was is the question. Was it a foul ball? A foul tip? A complete strikeout?

Keeping the baseball analogies up, there were no Bill Buckner or Steve Bartman moments. There wasn't a Kirk Gibson either.

The New York Times's Alessandra Stanley called it an "unnerving first interview." She said Palin looked good but seemed a bit programmed.

"Ms. Palin didn’t look rattled or lose her cool in her first interview with Mr. Gibson, the network anchor, on Thursday night, but she skittered through with general answers, sticking to talking points that flowed out quickly and spiritedly, a little too much by rote to satisfy her interviewer that she was giving his questions serious consideration," Stanley wrote.

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz appears to agree, saying that she looked fine but was short on substance.

"Even Palin's critics should admit that, in terms of demeanor, she handled herself well for someone who three years ago was worried about the books in the Wasilla library. She projected confidence and was not openly rattled."

UPI's Martin Sieff was more gracious, saying she may have stumbled but got up quick.

"Palin's assessment of foreign policy was competent and not embarrassing. Although she initially exhibited ignorance of the Bush Doctrine on pre-emptive strikes that has been a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she recovered quickly and then made the case clearly."

The review from Bloomberg's Jeremy Gerard is like that one guy at the barbecue who speculates about carbon sequestration when the conversation is about the Pittsburgh Steelers game.

"Palin may not have blinked when John McCain asked her to be his running mate. Last night, however, found her frozen in the Klieg lights as the dogged interlocutor set his sights on his visitor."

The reviews from the Boston Globe weren't too bad acknowledging what everyone else had acknowledged.  

"[Palin] presented a confident face in what was considered an important early test of her knowledge of foreign affairs. She answered most questions by repeating McCain's view of the world, but also made some missteps, at one point seeming unfamiliar with the 'Bush doctrine' of preemptive war while under repeated questioning from ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson."

Some would say Bonnie Erbe over at U.S. News and World Report was auditioning for a job at MSNBC with her blistering review of Palin's interview entitled, "Sarah Palin displays a world-class ignorance of foreign affairs, but her supporters won't care."

"Sarah Palin's debut interview in a widely-touted exclusive on World News with Charles Gibson showed she has little knowledge of foreign policy and needs to study up on what she, herself, has said in the recent past. Will her fans care? Not a whit."

In Dan Froomkin's column today at the Washington Post, he cuts Palin some slack on her struggle to identify the Bush Doctrine. "What is the Bush doctrine anyway?" he asks. "I'm not sure anyone is entirely clear on what the Bush Doctrine is at this particular moment," writes Froomkin, who later references Jacob Weisberg's book which identifies six Bush doctrines.

Erbe's colleague at U.S. News & World Report, Robert Schlesinger, goes down the same path as Froomkin, but doesn't give Palin as much of a free pass:

"For the record, Charles Gibson didn't get the Bush Doctrine right either. But at least, unlike Sarah Palin, he had an idea of what he was talking about (a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy for the last six years)."

David Brody over at The Christian Broadcast Network set up his review like she was going before an executioner in his column, "Palin survives Gibson."

"I thought she struggled somewhat on the Bush Doctrine question but it wasn't a flub," he wrote.  "She made her way through it but it wasn't as decisive an answer right away that she probably should have given."

How about this?  CBS went as far as bringing on a "body language expert" (apparently that's a job) to review the Palin-Gibson interview.

"She's not erect," said the body language expert.  "Most people look at body posture as being a sign of credibility, or professionalism. The way she's hunched over, it also shows a bit of insecurity and a lack of confidence."

Finally, former Clinton strategist Mark Penn said the media needs to be careful with Palin or there could be real backlash.

"Well, I think that the media is doing the kinds of stories on Palin that they're not doing on the other candidates. And that's going to subject them to people concluding that they're giving her a tougher time. Now, the media defense would be, 'Yeah, we looked at these other candidates who have been in public life at an earlier time.'

"What happened here very clearly is that the controversy over Palin led to 37 million Americans tuning into a vice-presidential speech, something that is unprecedented, because they wanted to see for themselves. This is an election in which the voters are going to decide for themselves. The media has lost credibility with them."

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