It was almost like watching Sarah Palin refusing to tell CBS’ Katie Couric what she reads. Only this time, the interviewer was Bill O’Reilly, not exactly a member of the liberal media.
In her first appearance as a Fox News contributor, O’Reilly was asking Palin to respond to claims that she came across as clueless when being prepped for her vice presidential debate by John McCain’s presidential campaign staff. O’Reilly was running clips of John Heilemann, co-author of “Game Change,” on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
“She still didn’t really understand why there was a North Korea and a South Korea,” Heilemann said. “She was still regularly saying that Saddam Hussein had been behind 9/11. And literally the next day, her son was about to ship off to Iraq, and when they asked her who her son was going to fight, she couldn't explain that.”
The way to refute a false allegation is to counter with specifics about what did happen. O’Reilly kept pressing her to do that. Instead, Palin gave vague answers that came across as evasive.
“That’s pretty nasty, isn’t it?” O’Reilly said after playing the clip.
“Well, it’s pretty made up, too. I think that these reporters — who were not in any part of what I was doing there as a VP candidate, I think I explained a lot of this in ‘Going Rogue,’ in my book,” Palin said.
“Is he lying?” O’Reilly asked.
“They were not there,” Palin said
“Is this guy lying?” O’Reilly repeated. “He says you don’t know the difference between North and South Korea.”
“Yes, that surprised me,” Palin responded. “I hadn’t seen the ‘60 Minutes’ and I — I had been warned, you know, don’t — don’t watch. It’s a bunch of B.S. from Schmidt and those guys....” Palin was referring to Steve Schmidt, who ran the McCain campaign.
“Is that a lie, though?” O’Reilly said.
“Yes, that is a lie,” Palin finally said without elaborating.
“Was it a lie that you thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11?”
“You know what, on that, I did talk a lot to Steve Schmidt about the history of the war and about where, perhaps, the 9/11 terrorists came from and could there have been any connection to Saddam. ... So I admit that I have questions about it.”
O’Reilly asked whether she was blaming 9/11 on Saddam.
“No. No, no, no.”
“And the shipping out of your son to Iraq, you didn’t know why, that's a lie?” O’Reilly asked.
“See the — these reporters were not there. And I think that these are the political establishment reporters who love to gin up controversy and spin up gossip. The rest of America doesn't care about that kind of crap.”
Never saying what she did say on the subject, Palin went on about the unemployment rate. But O’Reilly returned to “60 Minutes” and Schmidt’s claims that Palin was “not focused, she was not engaged, she was really not participating in the prep.”
Palin said Schmidt told her after the debate with Joe Biden that he was overjoyed. But O’Reilly had to ask Palin again about Schmidt’s allegation.
“So is Schmidt lying or is somebody lying to him?” O’Reilly asked.
“I think he’s basing this on an anonymous source,” Palin said. “So all that kind of gossipy anonymous accusations, I really don’t pay it any mind, because, again, Bill, I know what’s important. I know what the priorities are...”
With a touch of impatience, O’Reilly pressed on.
“I know that, but you know, governor, the perception of you is that you’re not that smart,” O’Reilly said. “That’s why I want to clear this up. I’m asking you these questions, because the audience, I believe, ‘The Factor’ audience, likes you. They want you to be treated fairly. So I have to ask questions, is that a lie?”
As Palin again avoided his question and talked about Biden’s gaffes, O’Reilly explained that Palin has an opportunity on Fox News to “neutralize” “60 Minutes.” He asked if “60 Minutes” had asked her for comment, but Palin continued with her vague answers.
“I never heard of their call,” Palin said. “If they called any of the people around me, I didn’t. ...” Perhaps, she added, “they called somebody, but...”
“But they didn’t call you?”
“But I did not talk to ‘60 Minutes,’” Palin said.
In sum, Palin never gave a coherent rebuttal to the allegations and therefore gave credence to them. At the same time, her meandering responses showed she was just as unfocused as Schmidt claimed she was.
Until she decided to quit, Palin had an impressive record as governor. She is an articulate champion of conservative values. But based on her performance in a friendly forum, those who think Palin should run for president should think twice.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now
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