11/01/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

It's Not "Gotcha" Journalism Just Because You Got Caught

Oh, the horror of being confronted in a Philadelphia cheese steak joint by a young man with a serious question about pressing foreign policy matters. How Sarah Palin will survive a day in Washington when she can't make it for five minutes in line for a sandwich is beyond me.

So a Temple graduate student named Michael Rovito comes up to Sarah Palin at Tony Luke's in Southern Philly on Saturday, and asked the good Governor what she planned to do about Pakistan. The exchange, per CNN, went like this:

"How about the Pakistan situation?" asked Rovito, who said he was not a Palin supporter. "What's your thoughts about that?"

"In Pakistan?" she asked, looking surprised.

"What's going on over there, like Waziristan?"

"It's working with [Pakistani president] Zardari to make sure that we're all working together to stop the guys from coming in over the border," she told him. "And we'll go from there."

Rovito wasn't finished. "Waziristan is blowing up!" he said.

"Yeah it is," Palin said, "and the economy there is blowing up too."

"So we do cross border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan you think?" Rovito asked.

"If that's what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should," Palin responded, before moving on to greet other voters.

This, as we all now know, was Barack Obama's much criticized position, which he has held since the early stages of the primary. And this was a problem for John McCain, who had criticized Obama's Pakistan position in Friday night's debate. Foot, meet mouth.

Sidebar: Why when asked a straightforward question does Sarah Palin always respond with "It's working with [insert nation here]" or "It's reforming [insert policy here]". Can you please be a little more specific with the "It" part? The kid asked you "What's going on in Waziristan" and you're answer is "It's working with [mispronounce Pakistani president's name]" to make sure we're working together. So, in short, it's "working together to make sure we're working together"? I'm sorry, Tina Fey as Sarah Palin made more sense than Sarah Palin as Sarah Palin.

So the McCain campaign has redefined "gotcha journalism" to suit their needs, with the top and bottom of the ticket sitting down with Katie Couric on Monday to clarify what happened. Notice, per Newsweek, how Palin's remembrance of the exchange differs from CNN's transcript above:

This was a voter, a constituent, hollering out a question from across an area asking, 'What are you gonna do about Pakistan? You better have an answer to Pakistan.' I said we're gonna do what we have to do to protect the United States of America," Palin told the "CBS Evening News" in an interview about her exchange with a voter Saturday at a Philadelphia restaurant.

Senator McCain also weighed in, claiming that he understands "the day and age of 'gotcha' journalism. ... In a conversation with someone who you didn't hear the question very well, you don't know the context of the conversation. Grab a phrase. Gov. Palin and I agree that you don't announce that you're going to attack another country."

Palin summarized, "This is all about "gotcha" journalism. A lot of it is. But that's OK, too."

Look, folks. Just because you get caught with your foot in your mouth doesn't make it "gotcha journalism." No one knew Sarah Palin was going to endorse the position of her opponent in a cheesesteak shop. The grad student wasn't some plant on CBS's payroll. And to further bolster the irony of the whole sequence of events, CBS was the media that caught Palin's gaffe, and McCain and Palin went right to CBS's Katie Couric to spin the whole thing.

The way the McCain campaign consistently bends the truth, creates exceptions, and warps the facts to create a world where nothing is their fault and Obama is to blame for all problems is beyond nauseating. Either they think we're all brainwashable or downright stupid. Either way, this is the worst episode of the "Twilight Zone" that I've ever seen.