Palin Tries to Defend Qualifications in Interview

By: AP
By: AP

In her first televised interview since being named to the GOP ticket, Sarah Palin says she's ready to be president if called upon. However, she sidestepped questions on whether she had the national security credentials needed to be commander in chief.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain has defended his running mate's qualifications, citing her command of the Alaska National Guard and Alaska's proximity to Russia.

In the interview broadcast Thursday, Palin sought to defend her qualifications to assume one of the most powerful jobs in the world. But she struggled with foreign policy, unable to describe President Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive strikes against threatening nations and acknowledging she's never met a foreign head of state.

Pressed about what insights into recent Russian actions she gained by living in Alaska, Palin told Charles Gibson of ABC News, "They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."

Palin, 44, has been Alaska's governor for less than two years and before that was a small-town mayor. She was McCain's surprise selection for the No. 2 slot on the ticket, raising questions about her readiness to serve in the White House, particularly during wartime.

Asked whether those were sufficient credentials, Palin said: "It is about reform of government and it's about putting government back on the side of the people, and that has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues." She said she brings expertise in making the country energy independent as a former chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Palin said other than a trip to visit soldiers in Kuwait and Germany last year, her only other foreign travel was to Mexico and Canada. She also said she had never met a head of state and added: "If you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you."

Foreign policy questions dominated the first of three interviews Palin was giving Gibson over two days.

In the interview Thursday, Palin:

-Appeared unsure of the Bush doctrine - essentially that the United States must help spread democracy to stop terrorism and that the nation will act pre-emptively to stop potential foes.

Asked whether she agreed with that, Palin said: "In what respect, Charlie?" Gibson pressed her for an interpretation of it. She said: "His world view." That prompted Gibson to say "no, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war" and describe it to her.

"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," Palin said, though added "there have been mistakes made."

Pressed repeatedly on whether the United States could attack terrorist hideouts in Pakistan without the country's permission, she said: "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."

-Said nuclear weapons in Iran's hands are dangerous, and said "we've got to put the pressure on Iran." Asked three times what her position would be if Israel felt threatened enough to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, Palin repeatedly said the United States shouldn't "second guess" Israel's steps to secure itself.

-Called for Georgia and the Ukraine to be included in NATO, a treaty that requires the U.S. to defend them militarily. She also said Russia's attack into Georgia last month was "unprovoked." Asked to clarify that she'd support going to war over Georgia, she said: "Perhaps so."

Later, in the second interview, Palin said she broke from McCain on climate change and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. McCain has said humans have caused climate change and the federal government shouldn't permit drilling in the federally protected wildlife reserve.

Palin, however, said: "I believe that man's activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change. ... Regardless though of the reason for climate change, whether it's entirely, wholly caused by man's activities or is part of the cyclical nature of our planet - the warming and the cooling trends - regardless of that, John McCain and I agree that we gotta do something about it."

On ANWR, she said: "We'll agree to disagree but I'm gonna keep pushing that and I think eventually we're all gonna come together on that one."

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