Palin Interview Focuses On Foreign Policy Issues
SCOTT SIMON, host:
ABC News has finished its two-night Governor Sarah Palin extravaganza, spreading its exclusive interviews over six different shows. It's the first time journalists have had a chance to address direct questions to the governor since the Republican convention. NPR's Martin Kaste reviews what voters may have learned about the governor and what questions remain unanswered.
MARTIN KASTE: These weren't so much interviews as they were oral exams. And they started out with what is usually the weakest subject for any governor, foreign policy. ABC's Charlie Gibson pressed Palin on thorny issues such as whether the U.S. should support Israel if it ever attacked Iran. Palin often fell back on what sure sounded like rehearsed answers.
Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee): I don't think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take...We cannot second-guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.
KASTE: And when Gibson asked Palin her opinion of the Bush doctrine, she had to tread water until he finally explained that it was the president's doctrine of pre-emptive war which set the stage for the invasion of Iraq. But on Friday, when Gibson moved on to domestic issues, Palin regained some of that steely confidence that she displayed at the convention.
Governor PALIN: We need to put government back on the side of the people and make sure that it is not government solely looked at for all the solutions, for one.
KASTE: Less government spending is the key to fixing the economy, she said. But that raised another issue, a problematic claim that she's been making in her stump speech. She tells crowds that when it came to a 223-million-dollar federal earmark for the so-called bridge to nowhere in Ketchikan, she told the government, "Thanks, but no thanks." Gibson asked her if she wanted to change her version of that story.
Mr. CHARLES GIBSON (Reporter, ABC News): You were wearing a T-shirt of the 2006 campaign, showed your support for the bridge to nowhere.
Governor PALIN: I was wearing a T-shirt with the zip code of the community that was asking for that bridge.
KASTE: Everybody in Ketchikan knows about that T-shirt, and it's an unambiguous statement of support for the bridge. And there's plenty of evidence in the public record that Palin said "Thanks, but no thanks" only after Congress had already killed the earmark. But that's not something she acknowledged in this interview. And then there's Troopergate.
Governor PALIN: There's nothing to hide in this...
KASTE: She's talking about allegations that she fired Alaska's public safety commissioner Walt Monegan because he would not fire her sister's ex-husband from his job as a state trooper. In July, the legislature started a special investigation of the matter, and Palin said she'd cooperate. But since her nomination as McCain's running mate, she's been backing away from the legislature's probe. And she told Gibson that the matter should be looked at by somebody else.
Governor PALIN: Our state statute says if there is a question about actions of the governor, lieutenant governor, or attorney general, you go to the personnel board.
KASTE: But there are many in the legislature who don't think the personnel board is independent enough to look into an allegation of abuse of office by a sitting governor, especially one who's now running for vice president. The legislature has refused to back off its investigation. And just yesterday it authorized subpoenas for several of Palin's aides and her husband Todd, setting up the possibility of a legal showdown over jurisdiction. Gibson also asked Palin about the widely circulated story that she tried to ban books from the city library in Wasilla.
Governor PALIN: I never banned a book, never desired to ban a book. When I became mayor in our town, it was the issue of what if a parent came into our local public library and asked for a book to be taken off the shelf, what's the policy?
KASTE: It was just a hypothetical conversation she had with the librarian, she says. The only other person who can confirm this is that librarian, and she now lives in Fairbanks and has adamantly refused to talk about it publicly. Disagreements aside, Palin tried to strike a conciliatory tone with her interviewer, and through him, with her critics on the left.
Governor PALIN: You know, when you're running for office, your life is an open book, and you do owe it to Americans to talk about your personal opinion.
KASTE: That's quite a contrast with the way the McCain campaign has recently been slamming the media for trying to dig up dirt on Palin. But whether this attitude means any more interviews remains to be seen. Martin Kaste, NPR News, Fairbanks.
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