Dennis Prager’s Contempt For ABC Anchor Charles Gibson

Dennis says on his radio show today: "My contempt for Charlie Gibson is deep."

"Charlie Gibson reinforced the belief that Republicans are running against Democrats and the news media.

"This was not an interview. It was an attempt to get her, to catch her. The Bush Doctrine was an example.

"I was a fellow at Columbia’s graduate program for international affairs. I am steeped in international relations. I had no idea what the Bush Doctrine neither do any of you listening nor does Charlie Gibson.

"The notion that you attack those who are about to attack us is not the Bush Doctrine. It is common sense.

"If somebody is getting ready to kill you, you get up earlier and kill him first. (Talmud) Is that the Bush Doctrine that was enunciated by the rabbis 2,000 years ago?

"Bush doesn’t know what the Bush Doctrine is."

"You idiot… Mr Gibson it is so transparent."

"You saw the way he did it? Smirking, with his glasses down his nose? He lost my respect."

"There was no attempt to understand what she thinks on anything. It was all gotcha."

"He wanted to show his fellow members of the Fourth Estate that he was going to be tough on this lady. They live in this tiny ghetto. It is all liberal. It is intellectually vapid."

Liberal columnist Timothy Noah writes:

Sarah Palin says lots of dumb and untruthful things in her interviews with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson. But on one point, she is being mocked unfairly. I refer to the purported howler of her not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is. As many commentators (including Slate‘s Jack Shafer) have pointed out, when Gibson asked Palin’s opinion of the Bush Doctrine, the vice-presidential candidate flailed around like a C student nailed by a sadistic schoolmarm. She clearly had no idea what Gibson was talking about:

Q: Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?

A: In what respect, Charlie?

Q: The Bush—well, what do you—what do you interpret it to be?

A: His worldview.

Q: No, the Bush Doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

A: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that’s the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

Q: The Bush Doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a pre-emptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

This was painful to watch, in large part because I searched my memory in vain to remember which of the various rigid nostrums articulated by President Bush over the past eight years had become enshrined as the defining principle of his foreign policy. When Gibson identified the Bush Doctrine as the doctrine of preventive war ("the right of anticipatory self-defense" is not quite right) as laid out in the Bush White House’s famous National Security Strategy document of 2002, I felt humiliated. I’d always thought of that as … the doctrine of preventive war. That was what the New York Times had called it in an editorial published Sept. 12, 2004. And what Benjamin Barber had called it in a Los Angeles Times column published Dec. 3, 2003. And what Peter Baker, then White House correspondent for the Washington Post, had called it as recently as March 16, 2006. When did it become not just "a" Bush doctrine but "the" Bush Doctrine?

Charles Krauthammer writes:

"At times visibly nervous . . . Ms. Palin most visibly stumbled when she was asked by Mr. Gibson if she agreed with the Bush doctrine. Ms. Palin did not seem to know what he was talking about. Mr. Gibson, sounding like an impatient teacher, informed her that it meant the right of ‘anticipatory self-defense.’ "

New York Times, Sept. 12

Informed her? Rubbish.

The New York Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.

There is no single meaning of the Bush Doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration — and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today. It is utterly different.

He asked Palin, "Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?"

She responded, quite sensibly to a question that is ambiguous, "In what respect, Charlie?"

Sensing his "gotcha" moment, Gibson refused to tell her. After making her fish for the answer, Gibson grudgingly explained to the moose-hunting rube that the Bush doctrine "is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense."


I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush Doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of the Weekly Standard entitled, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism," I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush Doctrine.

Then came 9/11, and that notion was immediately superseded by the advent of the war on terror. In his address to the joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11, President Bush declared: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." This "with us or against us" policy regarding terror — first deployed against Pakistan when Secretary of State Colin Powell gave President Musharraf that seven-point ultimatum to end support for the Taliban and support our attack on Afghanistan — became the essence of the Bush Doctrine.

Until Iraq. A year later, when the Iraq war was looming, Bush offered his major justification by enunciating a doctrine of preemptive war. This is the one Charlie Gibson thinks is the Bush doctrine.

…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.

Dennis: There’s no depth to Barack Obama. Only a facile way with words, and not if he doesn’t have a teleprompter to read off.

Has the press ever asked Barack Obama if he was qualified to be president? If they did, they’d be called racist.

Charlie Gibson only asked one tough honest question — about attacking Pakistan.

I wanted hard questions. I didn’t want gotcha.

I never try to humiliate. He tried to humiliate her.

I’ve had big left-wing guests. I have never sought to humiliate them. In my religion, it is a deep sin to publicly humiliate a person.

Bumper: Dennis Prager says: "Do you want to hear me make liberals cry? Stick around."

Dennis: "Charlie Gibson will go down in history as a buffoon for this interview."

"He succeeded among those he wanted to impress."

Dennis talks about how he would’ve responded to Gibson. "He wouldn’t have interviewed me again. He would’ve given it over to a colleague."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Dennis Prager, Journalism, Sarah Palin and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.