Friday, September 12, 2008

Dissecting a media attack on Sarah Palin

Howard Kurtz, "reporting" on Charlie Gibson's "gotcha" on Sarah Palin in his interview on "20/20":

GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Are we fighting a holy war?

PALIN: You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote.

GIBSON: Exact words.

PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln's words when he said -- first, he suggested never presume to know what God's will is, and I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words.

On Fox, Newt Gingrich called this "a sad commentary on the growing anti-religious hostility of the news media." I would call it asking the governor about her own words.

Glenn Beck, who I'm normally not inclined to quote, addressed this canard before the interview:

There has been some hard-core journalistic malpractice on this one. The Associated Press ran this headline about a speech she gave at her church: "Palin: Iraq war 'a task that is from God'"

In the story, they omit the first part of the sentence they're quoting along with the entire previous sentence for good measure.

Here are her actual words: "Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan."

Palin is clearly praying that we're doing the right thing in Iraq, something sensible for an introspective woman of faith concerned about the lives of our troops to do. She's not saying that she just received a text message from heaven's BlackBerry ordering her to launch missiles. Sorry to disappoint you.

And for those of you who think politicians asking God for guidance is offensive, might I remind you of this famous politician's prayer:

"Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will." --Barack Obama

Indeed, Lincoln is reported to have said:

"Some time in the early part of the war a clergy man said in his presence that he "hoped the Lord was on our side.' "I am not at all concerned about that," replied Mr. Lincoln. 'For I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right, but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side.' "

To me, it's clear that Palin was channeling Lincoln's hope, not making an arrogant assertion. And Gibson's quote within his question was flagrantly out of context.

A final note: several sources have noted that Palin was at a disadvantage in an interview that could be (and was) aggressively edited by the network that aired it.

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