Gov. Sarah Palin and ABC’s Charlie Gibson yesterday

The Los Angeles Times was among the news outlets crying foul after ABC’s interview yesterday with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her first since Sen. John McCain named her his running mate.

The Times took Charlie Gibson to task for distorting statements Palin made about the Iraq war at her former Assemblies of God church in Wasilla, Alaska.

A well-circulated video shows Palin asking the congregation to pray that the nation’s leaders would send troops to Iraq “on a task that is from God.” But Gibson, apparently getting his information from an Associated Press story, frames the question with the assumption Palin is contending the U.S. was sending troops to Iraq on a mission from God.

“Are we fighting a holy war?” Gibson asked.

Palin disputed the characterization, pointing out she was paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, who said, “Let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.”

The Times said Gibson “went on to take a second part of her comments out of context. Palin had asked the group to pray ‘that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.'”

But Gibson dropped her reference to praying, the Times said, and instead quoted Palin as saying the war was God’s plan.

He asked if she believed the country was sending her son on a task from God.

“I don’t know if the task is from God, Charlie,” she responded, adding that she was proud of Track for “serving something greater than himself.”

New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley said that during the interview, Gibson, who “sat back in his chair, impatiently wriggling his foot,” had “the skeptical, annoyed tone of a university president who agrees to interview the daughter of a trustee but doesn’t believe she merits admission.”

The McCain campaign also criticized ABC’s characterization of Palin’s statements.

“Gov. Palin’s full statement was VERY different from the way Gibson characterized it,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a prepared statement.

“Gibson cut the quote — where she was clearly asking for the church TO PRAY THAT IT IS a task from God, not asserting that it is a task from God,” he said.

“Palin’s statement is an incredibly humble statement, a statement that this campaign stands by 100 percent, and a sentiment that any religious American will share,” Bounds wrote.

Much was made by many pundits of Palin’s apparent inability to recognize the term “Bush Doctrine.” But columnist Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post said he’s “not sure anyone is entirely clear on what the Bush Doctrine is at this particular moment.”

Mike Rappaport of the blog Right Coast called Gibson’s approach “bad form and bad journalism,” asking whether she agrees with the doctrine, without defining it. Rappaport pointed to Wikipedia’s entry on the Bush Doctrine, which documents that it’s a phrase associated with several different foreign policy positions and strategies.

When Palin asked Gibson what he meant by the Bush Doctrine, Gibson clarified: “The Bush Doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.”

Then, when Palin apparently needed further clarification, he said, “The Bush Doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?”

Palin’s replied: “If there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.”

Froomkin says Gibson made a “common error” and Palin “did not actually address what was so radical about Bush’s contribution to American foreign policy.”

“Preemption has in fact been a staple of our foreign policy for ages – and other countries’ as well,” the Post columnist writes. “The twist Bush put on it was embracing ‘preventive’ war: Taking action well before an attack was imminent – invading a country that was simply perceived as threatening.”

Scrabbling for evidence

ABC News played up Palin’s answers to how the U.S. should respond to Russian aggression with the headline, “Gov. Sarah Palin warns war may be necessary if Russia invades another country.” But Mark Hemingway at National Review’s blog The Corner noted her answer was not earthshaking at all. She simply was following NATO policy.

Asked if the U.S. would have to go to war if Russia again invaded Georgia, Palin responded: “Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help.

“And we’ve got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable,” she said.

Referring to the Russia discussion, Andrew Bolt of the Melbourne Herald-Sun in Australia said media have “scrabbled for evidence of fumbles, and evidence that a shootin’, cussin’ redneck is about to plunge the world into war.”

The Toronto Globe and Mail, he points out, ran the headline: “Shooting from the hip on foreign policy, Palin raises spectre of war with Russia.”

A commenter this morning, he noted, scoffed that a President Palin would have already started four wars, to judge by the interview, with Pakistan, Russia, Iran the Middle East enemies of Israel.

But Bolt cited interviews with Sen. Barack Obama in which the Democratic presidential candidate held to the same positions.

Meanwhile, Tom Blumer, writing for the Media Research Center’s blog Newsbusters, criticized the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut for crowing over an alleged gaffe by Palin in a speech yesterday to Iraq-bound soldiers, including her son.

In a front-page story, Kornblut rebuked Palin for linking the war in Iraq with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, telling the soldiers they would “defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.”

Kornblut writes, “The idea that Iraq shared responsibility with al-Qaida for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, once promoted by Bush administration officials, has since been rejected even by the president himself.”

But Blumer says Kornblut “must have missed the news that Saddam Hussein, who was in power in Iraq on 9/11, is not only not in power, but also quite dead – executed by the current, totally unrelated Iraqi government. ‘The war in Iraq’ morphed from an operation to overthrow Hussein and capture or neutralize his lieutenants to a war against an al- Qaida insurgency at least four years ago.”

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