Shovel, Please!

Some of Sarah Palin’s replies to Charlie Gibson reminded me of a bit that the brilliant comedian Robert Klein used to do, recalling how he’d pile on the bullshit in high school. “Shovel, please!” he’d cry, as he began to answer an essay question on a history exam.

The only difference is that Palin didn’t necessarily understand the questions, let alone provide plausible answers. It was obvious, for instance, that she had no idea what the ABC newsman meant when he asked her opinion of “the Bush doctrine.”

But rather than simply say so, in keeping with her honest “everywoman” persona, Palin clumsily pretended to know by parrying with questions:

“Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?”

“In what respect, Charlie?”

“What do you interpret it to be?”

“His world view?”

“No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.”

She had no idea what he was talking about – even after he spelled out the most significant departure from traditional American foreign policy and international norms since the end of the Cold War.

“We don’t have to stand” for an Iranian nuclear program, she declared. We shouldn’t “second guess” Israel if the Jewish state decides to attack. And so on. Her ignorance is matched only by her bluster and pandering. It is difficult to say which bodes worst for the nation’s future if she gets anywhere near the Oval Office.

Fascinating as she is, not unlike a gruesome auto wreck, her personality is a distraction from the real issue – which remains the breathtaking fecklessness of the elderly politician who picked her as his running mate. John McCain’s casual disregard for the nation’s security is not only a judgment on him but on every politician, pundit and expert who pretends that nominating her was perfectly reasonable. Politico provides a roster of reactions, including those from the egregious Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, who insists she knocked it “out of the park,” and Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings, who assures us “she handled the discussion of the ‘Bush doctrine’ fine.”

If you wonder how we entered this period of decline, remember that O’Hanlon is a very prominent example of what passes for an intellectual in Washington today.

Shovel, Please!