Reporter Jim Rutenberg made the front page Friday with his take on Sarah Palin's interview with ABC anchor Charles Gibson, her first television interview as John McCain's running mate. Rutenberg called unusual attention to Palin's "prepared answers" (as did other Times reporters) and appeared to misrepresent an alleged Palin gaffe on Iraq and Al Qaeda.
At times visibly nervous, at others appearing to hew so closely to prepared answers that she used the exact same phrases repeatedly, 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."
The text box: "A carefully prepped candidate fields a wide range of questions."
Other Times stories also emphasized Palin's careful preparation, as if it no other candidate in American history has had handlers. Katharine Seelye's blog post about the Gibson interview included the line:
Ms. Palin appeared as an eager student, someone who has crammed for an exam and was repeating talking points.
If the gaffe-prone Biden had responded in similar fashion, the media would probably be praising him for staying "on message."
Rutenberg's piece also misinterpreted a Palin quote by suggesting Palin was linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.
At a separate event on Thursday, a deployment ceremony for her son Track and thousands of other soldiers heading to Iraq from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Ms. Palin told them they would be fighting "the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans."
The comments sounded reminiscent of the disputed connections the Bush administration once made, but no longer does, between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks. But a senior McCain campaign aide said Ms. Palin did not believe Saddam Hussein played a role in the attacks.
As BillKristol argued at the Weekly Standard website about an even more misleading report on the front page of the Washington Post (by former New York Times reporter Anne Kornblut), Palin was probably talking about al Qaeda in Iraq.
Palin is evidently saying that American soldiers are going to Iraq to defend innocent Iraqis from al Qaeda in Iraq, a group that is related to al Qaeda, which did plan and carry out the Sept. 11 attacks.