Palin Tested On National Security By ABC's Gibson Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said she's ready to lead the country if needed, and she "didn't blink" when asked to join the McCain campaign. Palin spoke Thursday night with ABC's Charles Gibson in her first interview since John McCain named her to the ticket. The interview continues Friday night.

Palin Tested On National Security By ABC's Gibson

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Vice presidential Sarah Palin says she is ready to lead the country if needed. That statement came in an interview with ABC's Charles Gibson who followed up.

(Soundbite of ABC News interview)

Mr. CHARLES GIBSON (ABC News anchor): And you didn't say to yourself, am I experienced enough? Am I ready? Do I know enough about international affairs? Will I feel comfortable enough on the national stage to do this?

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska, Vice Presidential Candidate): You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on - reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink. So I didn't blink then, even, when asked to run as his running mate.

INSKEEP: John McCain's running mate. That was just the beginning of a conversation that ABC is spreading across two days of broadcasts. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik was watching and he joins us live.

David, good morning.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what did she say to back up the statement that she's ready?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, she talked about her experience as governor. She talked about work she had done in a variety of ways as a mayor, as a governor, thinking about issues for the people of Alaska, talking about common sense approaches to important issues.

You know, both Governor Palin and Charlie Gibson of ABC News are being judged and watched very carefully - he for how fairly he's doing his job and also for how tough he is in pressing for questions about this person seeking a high office. But also, you know, her of course, for whether or not she's up for the job and whether she's ready.

He plunged right into questions of national security, after asking about whether she felt she was qualified for the job. And specifically he pressed her about, you know, the two things that the McCain campaign cited in saying that she was ready on national security issues. That's her role as head of the Alaska National Guard and also Alaska's proximity to Russia.

He asked the question in a number of ways. She really gave the answer to a different question, ducking the questions he had asked, instead to tout her work on energy policy. Saying, you know, the question of energy independence is really a matter of national security. So it was a very interesting deflection of the first thrust of the interview.

INSKEEP: Well, you said that Gibson and Palin are being watched very carefully to be judged for how they did. Let's let people judge by playing a longer exchange of this interview. Charles Gibson here is asking about one of the major developments of the Bush administration - a so-called Bush doctrine, which is a willingness to make preemptive attacks on other nations.

(Soundbite of ABC News interview)

Mr. GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

Gov. PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

Mr. GIBSON: The Bush - well, what do you interpret it to be?

Gov. PALIN: His world view?

Mr. GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

Gov. PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

Mr. GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

Gov. PALIN: I agree that a president's job - when they swear, in their oath, to uphold our constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America.

INSKEEP: Sarah Palin on ABC News last night.

David Folkenflik, you and I are just two citizens here. What did you learn from that exchange?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's tough. You know, look, you know, many people might not know that doctrine by its name. Certainly the Bush administration's willingness to do things unilaterally and preemptively is a pretty significant policy shift.

Watching somebody aspiring to be vice president go through that give and take without a real sense of what the questioner is talking about is a real squirm-inducing moment for the viewer, and that's got to be a tough thing for Governor Palin.

You know, she also was taking a pretty hard line, if you listen to the substance of what she was saying. She says the United States has a right to do whatever's necessary. And she followed that up with a fairly hard line toward Russia, you know, in terms of thinking about the degree to which the state of Georgia gets to be independent.

INSKEEP: Just a couple of seconds here, but did she differ at all with John McCain on energy policy, which is seen as one of her qualifications for the job?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, she seemed much more at ease when she was talking a bit about - as she was walking along the Alaska pipeline and talking a bit about whether she still supported drilling, which she has as governor, in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge - or ANWR. She said she hoped to bring the senator around to her position on that. That she's sticking to her guns.

INSKEEP: David, thanks very much.


INSKEEP: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. And ABC is going to broadcast more of that Palin interview later today.

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