McCain Team Helps Palin Cram For TV Interview The latest polls show Sarah Palin has boosted John McCain's campaign. McCain now leads among white women, and Palin is more popular among men than among women. Palin will have her first interview with a network anchor Thursday, and the campaign and McCain himself are making sure she's prepared.

McCain Team Helps Palin Cram For TV Interview

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/94407496/94407462" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And now to political news. The latest polls show Sarah Palin has boosted John McCain's campaign. McCain now leads among white women, and Palin is more popular among men than among women. Sarah Palin will now be moving beyond the applause lines from her convention speech. She'll have her first interview with a network anchor on Thursday. Joining us to talk about the Palin phenomenon is NPR news analyst Juan Williams. Good morning.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Hi, Renee, good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, what is the McCain campaign doing to get Sarah Palin ready for the next eight weeks?

WILLIAMS: Well, she's spending lots of time with Senator McCain. In fact, they brought on two foreign policy experts really to make sure that she's up to speed on many issues, beginning with the war in Iraq, and Sunnis and Shia, and the like. But they've given her briefing books, brought on these experts. They've got Nicole Wallace, who used to work with President Bush, and Tucker Eskew, another Republican operative, trying to coach her. But what they find is that Senator McCain will say put down the briefing books, come and talk to me, and that gets her a sense of exactly where McCain is on the issues. Because remember, she's got to give voice to Senator McCain's positions.

She's also having some media-type training in case she gets what they call gotcha questions. And the idea there is that she'll be able to take a gotcha question about some strange foreign policy issue that she's unfamiliar with and turn it around and say it's a matter of judgment, not just a matter of knowing all the facts. You can't know all the facts at any one time.

MONTAGNE: Well, would it be possible in any event for a state governor who's been in office for less than two years to become an overnight expert on national and international issues?

WILLIAMS: I don't think it's possible in this short a period of time, Renee. But what she's going to try to do - and again, this is turning things around - and how they're trying to prepare her is just look at her as someone who has some experience, especially with energy and environmental issues from her time as governor of Alaska. And so what they'll do is they'll take most of the economic foreign policy national security issues and push it onto terrain that she's comfortable with, and make it a question she answers in terms of energy, gas pipelines, oil production, and making America oil independent. She's going to do it in that way.

But this really speaks, Renee, I think, to something that pops up in the polls, people asking does Sarah Palin have the necessary experience to be president? An ABC/Washington Post poll that was released earlier this week said 50 percent said she doesn't have the experience, 42 percent say that she does.

MONTAGNE: Now, some of the lines that Sarah Palin has used in speeches have run into trouble with fact checkers. I mean, for one, the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. When she ran for government - governor rather, in fact, she supported that Bridge to Nowhere, and only sort of stopped supporting it at a point in which it became untenable. Is it surprising that she keeps saying that - or repeating that she told Congress no thanks on that bridge?

WILLIAMS: Well, no - I mean, from the perspective of people who are running the McCain campaign, they want her image to be that of a reformer and to fit Senator McCain's image as the maverick and apart from the GOP. So, what they're emphasizing...

MONTAGNE: But even if it's not correct?

WILLIAMS: Well, what they're emphasizing is that she, you know, did eventually turn down the idea, without disclosing that earlier on she was, as you said, campaigning for it back in 2006. And what they want to emphasize again is that she took on Frank Murkowski, the former Republican governor, and others, and even supported ethics reform in the state government. So it's a matter of, you know, omission in their view.

MONTAGNE: In their view. We've also been hearing about comments Governor Palin made at her church. She talked about what she called God's will for a pipeline, and she spoke about the war in Iraq. And we've got a clip here.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee): Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right also for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan, and that that plan is God's plan.

MONTAGNE: Now, this isn't so out of line with what we've heard President Bush say in the past. But is this the sort of comment that will get possibly Sarah Palin in trouble, or the McCain campaign?

WILLIAMS: The campaign was quite upset about this yesterday because it was running on lots of the news channels. And the suggestion, of course, is that she has some messianic vision for why America has to be engaged in war. But what the campaign says is take it in its full context. She's simply praying that America is doing the right thing and that, you know, God views the mission as somewhat worthy. And again, this comes back - I think there's great concern now about her whole religious life. She'd been a member of a church called Assembly of God, a strong evangelical church, for most of her life. She now goes to a different church, Wasilla Bible. But she seeks advice from religious leaders in terms of how she should govern. And again, I think it makes her a very controversial figure, to say the least, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, Juan, we've just got about 30 seconds. But we saw a big spike in fundraising right after Governor Palin's speak last week from both - for both parties. Why is that?

WILLIAMS: Well, because she is so controversial. I mean, if you ask right now, 85 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of Sarah Palin. And they feel that she has been unfairly treated by the press, and they're rallying to support her. It's interesting, Renee, that 53 percent of independents also have a positive view of Sarah Palin, but only 24 percent of Democrats. So she's become a tremendous lightning rod, and it shows in terms of the fundraising.

MONTAGNE: Juan, thanks very much. NPR's Juan Williams.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.