The CBS Palin interview: B- for Palin, B+ for Couric

Sarah Palin faced off with Katie Couric in her CBS interview, and CBS has the complete video of it now on their website, along with partial transcripts. All Palin really needed to do was to survive this without any major gaffes, and she manages to do that. Couric needed to show that she could do a tough interview with Palin without getting condescending, or without going soft. Both succeed, but Couric probably achieved more in this exchange.

I like Sarah Palin and consider her a good choice for John McCain, but she comes across as nervous and somewhat flustered here — more so than with Charlie Gibson at ABC. That’s a bit ironic, as Couric handles the interview more objectively and with less hostility than Gibson did in his clips. Couric asks tough questions and stays focused on the question of McCain’s enthusiasm for regulation, which Palin boots to an extent:

Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you’ve said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?

Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.

Couric: I’m just going to ask you one more time – not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you.

The better answer here is that regulation isn’t always the answer, and in fact it was bad regulation — the Community Reinvestment Act and its associated regulatory actions — that helped create the financial mess. Couric got Palin to argue on bad ground, and Palin didn’t think quickly enough to challenge Couric’s assumptions.

That was the worst of the exchanges, though, and for the most part Palin made good points. She refused to get stampeded into a populist call for a moratorium on foreclosures, which would be a disaster for the credit markets at the moment. Palin talked repeatedly about “predatory lenders”, though, showing sympathy for homeowners who got in over their heads. For those of us who have poked fun at Barack Obama’s tendency to stammer through answers, Palin provides a modicum of the same in this interview, more so than with ABC, and her voice seems pitched higher — clearly signs of nervousness.

However, thanks to the constant drumbeat of her detractors, expectations were fairly low for Palin, and she exceeded them. She also avoided any idiotic statements — for instance, putting FDR in the White House and on TV in 1929, which her opponent managed to do with the same interviewer earlier this week. I’d give her a B-, but with a need for improvement, especially in the upcoming debate.

Couric did a good job in this interview. She kept to issues, pressed for deeper answers, but did so fairly without any kind of gotcha questions. Media interviews are supposed to probe, and Couric succeeded in doing that without sounding superior or nasty. Credit goes where credit’s due, and I’d give Couric at least a B+ for eschewing both attack and morning-show mentalities.