Palin gets another crack at SCOTUS question

This time, Sarah Palin's able to recite a list of Supreme Court cases she disagrees with, but her reasoning still leaves something to be desired.

By Alex Koppelman
Published October 3, 2008 11:50PM (EDT)

Thank god for Fox News and Carl Cameron, huh? Without them, how would Sarah Palin have ever gotten to take a re-test on the questions she couldn't get right in her interviews with Katie Couric?

Fortunately, she has an explanation for why she screwed up in her previous interviews. (Though she did manage to flub an answer in this interview as well, as you'll see later in this post.) And no, the dog didn't eat her homework. But it did annoy her:

CAMERON: [L]ast night, when you were in the Spin Room and people came flowing in there. And one of the questions that a lot of folks said was, OK, where was the Governor Palin and Katie Couric interview that just debated and arguably defeated Joe Biden in a vice presidential debate.... What happened?

PALIN: Well, OK. I'll tell you. Honestly. The Sarah Palin in those interviews is a little bit annoyed. Because it's like, no matter what you say, you're going to get clobbered. If you cease to answer a question, you're going to get clobbered on the answer. If you choose to try to pivot and go on to another subject that you believe that Americans want to hear about, you get clobbered for that, too.

But, in the Katie Couric interviews, I did feel that there were a lot of things that she was missing, in terms of an opportunity to ask what a V.P. candidate stands for. What the values are represented in our ticket.

I wanted to talk about Barack Obama increasing taxes, which would lead to filling jobs. I wanted to talk about his proposal to increase government spending by another trillion dollars. (AUDIO GAP) that he's made about the war that I think make my world -- disqualify someone from consideration as the next commander in chief. Some of the comments that he's made about Afghanistan, what we're doing there, supposably, just air raiding villages and killing civilians. That's reckless and I want to talk about things like that.

So, I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed. But, that's also an indication of being outside of that Washington elite, outside of the media elite, also. And just getting to talk to Americans without the filters and let them know what we stand for.

(Fox's transcript of the interview is shockingly bad. My apologies for the errors in that excerpt and any in the one that follows as well; I didn't want to correct the errors as I don't have video to refer to in doing so, and so can't be sure of what was actually said.)

Yes, she was annoyed because she didn't get to talk about what she wanted to talk about -- namely, her campaign's talking points.

Then Cameron gave her a chance to re-answer some of the questions that had stumped her before. This time, she was able to list newspapers and magazines that she says she reads -- she named the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist.

Palin was also able to list a few Supreme Court cases she disagreed with. And though it certainly seemed like she was reciting back a list she'd been given to memorize, she still managed to screw up the actual legal argument underpinning what she said was her objection to one case. Palin said:

A recent one, Kennedy versus Louisiana, where the Supreme Court will tell a state that they can't impose the death penalty, even on heinous (ph) crime of repeat child rapists. That a state, it's rights are taken away by the Supreme Court and we would not be able to decide for ourselves whether the death penalty in a case like that should be implemented or not.

That one -- I'm certainly not a supporter of that decision.

The argument she makes is not the one conservatives made in opposing that decision; they argued against making judgments on what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment based in part on "evolving standards of decency," as the majority did in the case. Logically, Palin's objection makes no sense -- the Supreme Court tells the states what it can and can't do all the time. In Brown v. Board of Education, for example, the Court struck down state statutes.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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