Not having watched the interview, and only having heard some indirect chatter about Gov. Palin hesitating about the "Bush Doctrine," it was irresistable to want to avoid studiously following any more of the chatter until having the chance to go through the exercise of how one would have answered that question if asked.
The first thing, of course is to know what the "Bush Doctrine" actually is. Palin is being talked about as though she is some sort of class dunce for giving the appearance of not knowing what it is. But is it really all that easy? Off the top of one's head, there are at least a couple of choices:
1. Pre-emptive strikes on terrorists who might attack America -- i.e. "fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here." One can agree with that, applied judiciously.
2. Proactively deposing hostile regimes in other countries and replacing them with ones that are more democratic, on the theory that creating stable democracies in previously hostile countries will decrease the chances of future aggression against the U.S. -- in terror or otherwise. i.e. the kind of nation-building that Bush said in 2000 that he wouldn't engage in. Not good, we would humbly submit.
Maybe both of these would fail a purist's test, and maybe it means something even more. Readers can write MH and critique these impromptu definitions.
But suffice it to say that Bush's foreign policy -- not to mention the perceptions and portrayals of that policy (to which Gibson could just as easily have been referring) -- is complex and multifaceted enough that it would be foolish simply to say categorically that one rejects or embraces it. It would be best, especially when being interviewed by someone like Charlie Gibson, who is himself not a foreign policy expert, to ask for a more precise question. Which is pretty much what Palin apparently did.
Palin's reported hesitation in answering that question is actually relieving to this conservative. Leaving aside the fact that it is never wise to commit to any theoretical doctrine, not knowing exactly where real-world circumstances will logically lead that doctrine, what exactly would Palin have been saying yes or no to in answering that question? Given the expansive reading that has been given to the Bush doctrine by some overly-enthusiastic neoconservatives, it is relieving that that Palin would demur from giving it carte blanche, even while generally speaking in support of the need to be aggressive in the war on terror.
There are parts of the Bush foreign policy that are rational and have probably made us safer -- there are parts that have been very ill-advised and that, if pushed to logical conclusions, could lead us to disastrous over-reach and to being militarily embroiled in every politically unstable hell-hole around the planet. Sarah Palin surely knows it, and in light of that, she gave the right and cautious response. That hesitation to give a broad, sweeping foreign policy pronouncment is actually about what one would expect from the conservative governor of a libertarian-minded state.
Note: Now, having taken the time to look around a little, the sense that the "Bush Doctrine" is complex and means different things to different people is confirmed. This piece gives a nice summary of the various pillars and facets of the "Bush Doctrine," demonstrating that it can't be summarized in one sentence. Gibson only was asking about one facet of that doctrine.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as Gibson showed at that point in the interview.
Update: Charles Krauthammer (who knows a thing or two about the term "Bush Doctrine," since he was the first to use it) basically backs up the above MH analysis of this question and why Palin's response was the correct one. We would disagree with Krauthammer, one suspects, on whether the most expansive, democracy spreading, form of the doctrine is something that is good foreign policy. But he is spot-on in his analysis of that moment between Palin and Gibson:
Yes, Sarah Palin didn't know what it is. But neither does Charlie Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, sighing and "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted.
In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the mother of five who presumes to play on their stage.