Like a lot of conservatives I was gnashing my teeth on two levels at the initial interview clip yesterday of Governor Palin, in response to a question from Katie Couric, not being able to name any examples of John McCain pushing for more regulation in his 26-year career – that’s like if somebody running with Joe Lieberman couldn’t name examples of him bucking his party. McCain may not be the knee-jerk hyper-regulator that many Democrats are, but he’s built an extensive track record of pushing for more regulation in numerous different areas (e.g., campaign finance, health care), much too often in fact for my taste, and while you’d expect Palin to have focused more on boning up on policy than on her running mate’s lengthy legislative record, it’s not that hard a question.
If you watch the full(er) clip, though (and from the choppy editing it’s still hard to tell how much ended up on the cutting room floor), you can see that what happened was that Palin was talking about a specific example of McCain pushing for more regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Couric pressed her for other examples from McCain’s legislative record specifically dealing with securities regulation:
H/T. Now as it happens, if you do your homework on this, it’s not hard to find such examples; McCain voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, and voted against the 1995 Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (one of only four Republicans to do so) and the 1998 Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act (which passed 79-21), for example, and joined with Carl Levin to propose that if companies “don’t account for their stock options as a cost in earnings reports, then they cannot claim them later as tax deductions.” Of course, I can tell you those things because I’m a securities lawyer and I have access to Google; I’m not sure McCain would have all those examples at his fingertips offhand, much less Palin (indeed, I often find that people even in my business are surprised to hear that he voted against the PSLRA, and obviously Couric couldn’t find them or she wouldn’t have falsely stated as fact that McCain “almost always sided with the, less regulation, not more”). In that context, it’s not much of a “gotcha” moment to demonstrate that Palin doesn’t know chapter and verse on one of the more arcane corners of McCain’s lengthy career. (Unlike, say, the time Barack Obama had to admit to a voter that he didn’t know anything about the Hanford Nuclear site, the largest nuclear waste dump in the Western Hemisphere and a decades-long ongoing controversy). That said, she does need to get better at the essential skill of how to not answer a question she doesn’t know the answer to.Of course, most conservatives would challenge Couric’s assumption that piling regulation on regulation is always a good thing, but Palin’s not the top of the ticket here; McCain is, and you don’t want to get off his message (the opposite problem bedeviled Mark Sanford earlier this summer when he got stumped trying to name ways in which McCain’s economic plan differs from Bush – I’m sure Sanford could think of examples but he was unable to name any without highlighting the fact that they’d be things Sanford opposes).
Finally, note that as edited, Couric opens with a question about money paid by Freddie Mac to the former employer of McCain campaign strategist Rick Davis, in which he may arguably still have some financial interest. This might be a reasonable line of inquiry if she explained why this matters, i.e., McCain’s much more extensive bill of particulars against Obama himself on this issue, but instead Couric presents the story as if the only issue is Rick Davis (the McCain camp’s full and formal response on the Davis story is here). Which is pretty much the argument in a nutshell for why people like Couric are not worth talking to at all.