Couric Studied With Anti-Palin Advisers Before Palin Interview

It’s still odd that someone would see a battle of wits between Katie Couric and Sarah Palin as a fight Couric would win. Jeff Bercovici of reported in a brief item that Couric revealed in a panel discussion that she boned up with anti-Palin foreign-policy advisors before interviewing the Alaska governor. Peter Kafka of All Things Digital featured this piece of the Bercovici report:

Couric shed some light on her preparation for the interviews: Beforehand, she sought advice from former senator Sam Nunn and Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haas [actually, it’s Haass]. They told her to draw Palin out on her geopolitical worldview and urged her to let the governor speak at length without interrupting her. Maybe she should bring them along with her when she takes over at Meet the Press?

That would be a sad day for substance on Meet the Press, if it ever happened. Sam Nunn, of course, is now leading the Obama transition team on defense policy, and Haass and was probably familiar to Couric through his appearances as an analyst on NBC. Haass was a top aide to Colin Powell in the first two years of the Bush administration, and remember, Powell endorsed Obama. Haass publicly expressed Vice President Palin would be way too inexperienced for the veep job.

Kafka noted that Bercovici's story was pulled – not because it was inaccurate, but because Portfolio sponsored the panel discussion with the media investment group Quadrangle, which insisted on a no-press policy. Did Couric's camp complain? Kafka thought the no-press policy was ironic for a panel stuffed with press:

Again, it’s Quadrangle’s conference, and they can run it however they’d like. But it seems particularly ironic that the one story that did get published, then pulled, was about a panel of professional communicators: CBS (CBS) news anchor Katie Couric, NBC anchor Brian Williams and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Maybe these top journalists only appeared with a no-press promise. On November 4, Felix Gillette of the New York Observer found that Couric declared that she’s been disappointed that a lot of interviewers have gone soft on their subjects. Does someone need to get Katie a highlight reel of her kissy-kissy interviews with Barack and especially Hillary? But on Palin, the Observer said wow, that was damaging:

"The interviews were important," said Ms. Couric. "I don’t mean to sound too self-congratulatory, because anytime a candidate does an interview, if it’s properly done, it should be revealing. Quite frankly, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of persistence I’ve seen in a lot of political interviews this season."

As part of the article's attempts to build up Katie's journalistic reputation as she keeps CBS solidly in third place, Katie’s executive producer Rick Kaplan – the informal Bill Clinton buddy and adviser – also touted how extraordinary Couric was:

"A lot of people interviewed Sarah Palin," said Mr. Kaplan, the executive producer. "The one they'll be talking about ten years from now is Katie's." Mr. Kaplan said he disagreed with recent suggestions that the impact of the interview was due, in part, to Ms. Couric and Ms. Palin's shared gender – what might be called the undermining sister theory of what tripped up Ms. Palin. "It didn't have anything to do with the whether Katie was a woman or a Martian," said Mr. Kaplan. "It had to do with the fact that the quality of Katie's questions were extraordinary, and the qualities of Sarah Palin's answers were controversial."

As for serious foreign-policy interviews, no one should forget Brent Baker's report on Katie dragging her foreign-policy advisors into an earlier interview with Condi Rice: "To quote my daughter, 'Who made us the boss of them?'"

Does anyone really think Couric would have been "extraordinary" if the roles were reversed and Palin was asking the questions and Couric was giving the answers?

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