The blogosphere and the punditocracy made much hay yesterday over Sarah Palin’s inability to name a Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade with which she disagreed. Does it bother me? Yes. But not as much as some of the hand-wringing critics who, unlike Palin, are lawyers with instant recall or commentators who make a living chattering about SCOTUS cases on the lecture/cocktail circuit. I would have loved it if Palin had been able to reel off Plessy or Kelo or Grutter or Bakke. I’m concerned that she blanked, but not ready to jump off a cliff. The Beltway/Manhattan crowd seems to have forgotten that her appeal to the base was not that she was a slick intellectual, but that she was one of them. Hockey moms aren’t going to be as upset about her non-answer answer as academics and think-tank dwellers.
All that said, I like reader David’s suggestion:
Here’s how I wish the Palin-Couric exchange would’ve went:
Couric: Can you name any other Supreme Court decisions you disagree with?
Palin: Off the top of my head, no. Roe v. Wade is clearly the one that stands out above the rest. But the average American out there isn’t worried about whether I can rattle off a bunch of Supreme Court decisions. They are worried about making their mortgage payments, keeping their jobs and sending their kids to college. They trust the Supreme Court to make those decisions. What they want from a President and Vice President is someone who will appoint Federal judges who fairly interpret the Constitution and adjudicate accordingly.
Now, let me ask you a question, Katie. You interviewed Senator Biden recently. So when you asked him this same question, would you care to share with me his answer?
Couric: Well, I didn’t ask him that question.
Palin: You didn’t? Why not? He’s a VP nominee. I’m a VP nominee. Don’t you want to know what Supreme Court decisions he disagrees with? Why are you only interested in my perspective on this?
Couric: …………. (Katie) Crickets chirping…..
I especially like the “Off the top of my head, no” part. Palin should remember tonight that it’s better to just acknowledge that she doesn’t have a ready answer if she doesn’t have one in response to gotcha questions like these. It avoids painful circumlocations and evasions — and makes clear to viewers that she’s not intimidated or insecure.
Update: Thanks to commenter DougT — Couric did ask Biden the SCOTUS case question. He named…a decision that overturned one of his pet pieces of legislation, the Violence Against Women Act.
And here’s how Joe “Mr. Judiciary Committee” Biden botched the Roe question.