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Much-Awaited Palin Interview Airs On ABC

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Much-Awaited Palin Interview Airs On ABC

Election 2008

Much-Awaited Palin Interview Airs On ABC

Much-Awaited Palin Interview Airs On ABC

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/94525290/94525863" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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ABC's Charles Gibson talks to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 11. i

This photo provided by ABC News shows Charles Gibson talking to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 11 in Fairbanks, Alaska. ABC will air the first segment of its exclusive interview with Palin on Sept. 11. Donna Svennevik/AP/ABC News hide caption

toggle caption Donna Svennevik/AP/ABC News
ABC's Charles Gibson talks to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 11.

This photo provided by ABC News shows Charles Gibson talking to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 11 in Fairbanks, Alaska. ABC will air the first segment of its exclusive interview with Palin on Sept. 11.

Donna Svennevik/AP/ABC News

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin took her first steps out of her protective anti-media cocoon Thursday, as the first of three interviews with news anchor Charles Gibson aired on ABC.

"On Jan. 20, when John McCain and I are sworn in — if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country — we'll be ready," she said. "I'm ready."

Palin said she backed NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, and when asked if the U.S. would enter a war if Russia invaded Georgia, she replied: "Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help."

High-Stakes Proposition

Here are a few things to watch for in the rest of the interview:

1. There are said to be no ground rules, no questions or topics explicitly off-limits, but each side is trying to game the logistics:

Gibson headed to Palin's home turf in Alaska where ABC crews taped her remarks at her son's National Guard unit deployment ceremony. (That's a two-fer for Palin.) The first interview was done Thursday in advance of ABC's World News, its evening newscast. The network posted clips online. Gibson did a second interview Thursday evening (Thursday afternoon Alaskan Time) and that footage will be used for Nightline Thursday night. On Friday, a segment on Good Morning America will incorporate tape from both and fold in reaction and fact-checking in response to her remarks. Oh, and the third interview will take place Friday for use on both World News and the primetime magazine program 20/20. The network is being highly restrictive of use of its videotape by other news outlets -– even though this is actual, real-life news.

All of which to say, when ABC got the exclusive -– and this is, for the moment, a true exclusive -– it moved to exploit it as much as possible. The Palin interviews will air on five separate ABC News shows.

2. ABC and Gibson were picked by the McCain/Palin campaign for a reason.

Gibson is from the same generation as McCain, so his presence will help accentuate Palin's youth, vigor and, yes, the distinctive nature of her gender. An interview with CBS's Katie Couric would not. And the McCain camp has waged war against NBC News. It has relentlessly criticized liberal talk show hosts Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews on cable sibling MSNBC. But it has also attacked some stories by NBC's own journalists, such as veteran reporter Andrea Mitchell. The hopes of Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News for landing the interview were probably a casualty of that dynamic.

3. Both Palin and Gibson have a lot riding on this.

Usually a running mate does a ton of interviews once she or he is named. The campaign hadn't leaked her name as a finalist -– and reportedly McCain didn't settle on her until a few days before the announcement -– so the press corps knew little about her or her brief record as Alaska's governor. And after questions were raised about her family life, senior McCain aides denied the press any access. Campaign manager Rick Davis said she wouldn't agree to interviews with journalists "until the point in time when she'll be treated with respect and deference."

Palin is a former local television sports anchor, and she's comfortable before television cameras. But the campaign has reportedly been prepping her intensely for this session with Gibson in hopes that it will serve to disarm any claims that her mastery of national issues is skimpy. If the campaign does this right, she'll dominate the news cycle entering a third straight week.

But Gibson and ABC are aware they have a lot at stake, too. Gibson hopes to avoid a repeat of his performance at a Democratic debate early this year, where as a moderator he seemingly adopted a straight Republican line on taxes and related issues.

But more centrally, Gibson has to show that journalists aren't merely asking questions because of prurient interest in matters of the Palin household, but because they are performing their constitutional role of holding public figures accountable.

The buildup has been tremendous. The network is going all out. Palin is a divisive, but appealing figure. And partisans on all sides are ready to pounce if they think the questions are too tough, too easy, too patronizing or too prosecutorial. And remember, she can walk out at any time.

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