What Campbell Brown doesn’t know about the National Guard

John McCain cancelled a scheduled interview today with Larry King, of CNN. Why? Word is that McCain campaign staffers believe an earlier CNN interview with spokesman Tucker Bounds signaled the wrong kind of attitude for a fair-handed interview. During her interview with Tucker Bounds yesterday (September 1, 2008), news anchor Campbell Brown pressed the McCain representative with questions about Governor Palin’s readiness for the VP slot, given her level of experience. Brown was especially energetic in her effort to get Bounds to name a single specific example of some decision or action of consequence by Sarah Palin as commander-in-chief of the National Guard in Alaska.

Bounds was, I think, caught off guard (unfortunate pun). He didn’t give a specific example. Instead he tried to describe the nature of a governor’s responsibilities vis-a-vis the National Guard. He remarked that governors have the authority to deploy the Guard in various circumstances. At that point, Campbell Brown challenged him and stated unequivocally that governors do not have that kind of authority. She flatly contradicted him about a factual matter.

Since Campbell Brown knew she was going to ask her question, and Tucker Bounds apparently did not, Brown seemed to be in the winner’s corner in this dispute. She was so insistent that Bounds answer the question that it seemed she knew the answer before she asked it. It looked as if Brown had set the trap for poor Tucker: state governors do not deploy the national guard. Brown suggested that governors play almost no role in determining the activities of the National Guard.

I suspect that TV viewers often give news anchors the benefit of doubt when they make factual claims that can be corroborated using a laptop and a link to Wikipedia. But Campbell goofed. She was wrong about the National Guard and wrong about the responsibilities of state governors. (For a helpful explanation of the complicated relationship between state governors and the president regarding deployment of the Guard, see Kavan Peterson’s article here.)

Tonight, Brown’s colleague Wolf Blitzer praised her handling of the interview. Brown and Blitzer described how dumbfounded they were that the McCain camp had cancelled Larry King. But Campbell Brown isn’t vindicated by the facts. So maybe a little self-examination is appropriate here. Maybe she should apologize for trying to corner her guest with a false statement that she probably believed was true.

What say you?

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

2 Responses to What Campbell Brown doesn’t know about the National Guard

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Bonnie,

    Great question! My point is that a state governor does have more authority than Campbell Brown seemed to suppose. I’m not claiming that Sarah Palin has exercised her authority to some significant degree. I agree with you about that.

    “Deployment” is a vague term. We’ve come to think of it strictly in terms of military deployment outside the U.S. But any time troops are commissioned to engage in some activity, at home or abroad, is a deployment. This makes sense especially in the case of the national guard, which exists primarily for state security purposes and at the behest of the governor.

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  2. bonniedavis says:

    I thought she asked him what thing she had done in the way of deploying the guard, and this person said “x” and she contradicted him. And then asserted (truthfully, according to the link you provide, which says that since 2005 the power to deploy the guard has gone to the President. So, what’s your point? She’s been governor of Alaska since 2006 and hasn’t done anything with them, nor does she have the authority TO “deploy” them anywhere. She knew this; he didn’t. End of story? Where’s the offence? McCain will use any chance to avoid the hard light of questions and direct answers that do not include “My friends …”.

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