Palin sits down with ABC News

September 11, 2008 8:32:25 PM PDT
On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Gov. Sarah Palin took a hard-line approach on national security and said that war with Russia may be necessary if Georgia were to join NATO and be invaded by Russia.

In her first of three interviews with ABC News' Charles Gibson and the only interview since being picked by Sen. John McCain as his Republican vice presidential nominee, Palin categorized the Russian invasion of Georgia as "unacceptable" and warned of the threats from Islamic terrorists and a nuclear Iran.

See Excerpts of Charles Gibson's Interview With Sarah Palin HERE.

The governor advocated for the admittance of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.

When Gibson said if under the NATO treaty, the United States would have to go to war if Russia again invaded Georgia, Palin responded: "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.

"And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable," she told Gibson.

Palin, who obtained her first passport last year and who has served just two years as Alaska's governor, told Gibson that she was up to the challenge of being Sen. John McCain's vice president.

"I answered [McCain] 'yes,' because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink, 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."

"I thought yes right off the bat. & When he offered me the position as his running mate, the first thing I said to him was, 'Do you really think that I could help the ticket? Do you really think that I could help this country? Absolutely, I want to do this with you.'" Palin sat down with Gibson on a day that was filled with wrenching memories and solemn ceremonies for the nearly 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks seven years ago.

It was also the day that Palin, the mother of five, attended a deployment ceremony for her oldest son, Track, an Army infantryman whose Stryker unit is being shipped off to Iraq later this month.

Palin's military experience is limited to her gubernatorial role as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard, an organization with fewer members than there are citizens in the town she was mayor.

When Gibson asked her whether that experience was sufficient, Palin said the important experience she brought to the table concerned her work on energy independence.

"Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie, and that's with the energy independence that I've been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy, that I worked on as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, overseeing the oil and gas development in our state to produce more for the United States... but I want you to not lose sight of the fact that energy is a foundation of national security. It's that important. It's that significant," she said.

Palin said that she believed a nuclear Iran presented a threat to "everyone in the world" and that if Israel's existence was threatened by those weapons it had a right to defend itself.

"We have got to make sure that these weapons of mass destruction, that nuclear weapons are not given to those hands of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, not that he would use them, but that he would allow terrorists to be able to use them," she said.

"Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don't think that we should second-guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security."

When asked whether the United States should be able to invade Pakistan in pursuit of terrorists along the Afghanistan border, Palin demured.

"Is that a yes," asked Gibson. "That you think we have the right to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, to go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?"

Palin responded, saying: "I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table."

Palin defended a previous statement in which she reportedly characterized the war in Iraq as a "task from God."

Gibson quoted her as saying: "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God."

But Palin said she was referencing a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln.

"I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words. But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side."

When asked if she believed she was "sending [her] son on a task that is from God," Palin said: "I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer."

Palin agreed in principle to the "Bush doctrine," the idea that the United States has the right to preemptively strike those another country the U.S. think will attack first.

"Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

Sarah Palin Brings Surge of Support to McCain Campaign

Palin, 44, virtually unknown to the American public three weeks ago, has shaken up the race just as McCain hoped she would.

She has propelled the GOP ticket into a dead heat with Obama for the first time in the campaign.

The Republican surge in the polls is the result of her appeal to the party's conservative base and to a huge wave of white women voters.

That appeal comes not just from her gender and scrappy "hockey mom" personality -- she famously compared herself to a pitbull with lipstick during her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention -- but also from her deep religious faith, her opposition to liberal anthems like gay marriage and abortion rights, and her decision to give birth to her son despite prenatal warnings that he had Down syndrome.

Palin has trumpeted her battle with Republican mandarins of Alaska, and the cost-cutting measures she took, which included driving her own car and selling the governor's plane.

The first days of her candidacy were rocked by news that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter was pregnant and by questions of whether a mother of five could also be the vice president.

But critics quickly backed off under angry charges by the GOP as well as Democratic women that the questions were sexist.

Her fresh face and and claim to being a Washington outsider and party reformer has not only boosted McCain in the polls, but stolen the "change" mantra from Obama and put the Democratic ticket on the defensive.

And Democrats have been flummoxed over how to counter her appeal.

Sarah Palin Interview Seen as First Media Test of McCain VP Pick

Palin's willingness to sit down with Gibson was expected to be a crucial first test for Palin.

Her answers will be watched by the public -- and closely scrutinized by the Democrats -- because she has not been pressed on her knowledge of national security, the economy or foreign policy.

In fact, her international experience is so limited that she received her first passport this year for a trip to Kuwait and Germany.

Palin also has not had to explain some controversies that have swirled around her public record.

Among the professional revelations discovered after she was declared McCain's running mate was the news that Palin was under investigation into claims that she abused her office to get the Alaska public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, fired after he refused to dismiss her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper.

Given McCain's record on opposing pork barrell spending, Palin has yet to answer for her use of federal funds both as mayor and governor.

She initially supported using federal funds to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, which has 50 residents and a small airport.

It was not until the plan collapsed in Congress under a barrage of criticism that she withdrew her support. Critics contend she still supports using federal money to build a 3.4 mile Road to Nowhere on the island for $26 million -- from the funds for the bridge.

Palin has also recently come under fire for dismissing a librarian while she was mayor of Wasilla in 1996.

The librarian lost her jobs after telling Palin she would not remove books if the mayor deemed them offensive.


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