EXCERPTS: Charlie Gibson Interviews Sarah Palin (September 11, 2008)
GIBSON: Governor, let me start by asking you a question that I asked John McCain about you, and it is really the central question. Can you look the country in the eye and say “I have the experience and I have the ability to be not just vice president, but perhaps president of the United States of America?”
PALIN: I do, Charlie, and on January 20, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, will be ready. I’m ready.
GIBSON: And you didn’t say to yourself, “Am I experienced enough? Am I ready? Do I know enough about international affairs? Do I — will I feel comfortable enough on the national stage to do this?”
PALIN: I didn’t hesitate, no.
GIBSON: Didn’t that take some hubris?
PALIN: I — I answered him 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.
So I didn’t blink then even when asked to run as his running mate.
GIBSON: But this is not just reforming a government. This is also running a government on the huge international stage in a very dangerous world. When I asked John McCain about your national security credentials, he cited the fact that you have commanded the Alaskan National Guard and that Alaska is close to Russia. Are those sufficient credentials?
PALIN: But 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 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.
GIBSON: I know. I’m just saying that national security is a whole lot more than energy.
PALIN: It is, 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.
GIBSON: Did you ever travel outside the country prior to your trip to Kuwait and Germany last year?
PALIN: Canada, Mexico, and then, yes, that trip, that was the trip of a lifetime to visit our troops in Kuwait and stop and visit our injured soldiers in Germany. That was the trip of a lifetime and it changed my life.
GIBSON: Have you ever met a foreign head of state?
PALIN: There in the state of Alaska, our international trade activities bring in many leaders of other countries.
GIBSON: And all governors deal with trade delegations.
GIBSON: Who act at the behest of their governments.
PALIN: Right, right.
GIBSON: I’m talking about somebody who’s a head of state, who can negotiate for that country. Ever met one?
PALIN: I have not and I think 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. But, Charlie, again, we’ve got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual and somebody’s big, fat resume maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state … these last couple of weeks … it has been overwhelming to me that confirmation of the message that Americans are getting sick and tired of that self-dealing and kind of that closed door, good old boy network that has been the Washington elite.
GIBSON: Let me ask you about some specific national security situations.
GIBSON: Let’s start, because we are near Russia, let’s start with Russia and Georgia.
The administration has said we’ve got to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?
PALIN: First off, we’re going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain’s running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. 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 and we have to keep…
GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.
PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there. I think it was unfortunate. That manifestation that we saw with that invasion of Georgia shows us some steps backwards that Russia has recently taken away from the race toward a more democratic nation with democratic ideals. That’s why we have to keep an eye on Russia.
And, Charlie, you’re in Alaska. We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia. They are our next door neighbors.We need to have a good relationship with them. They’re very, very important to us and they are our next door neighbor.
GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?
PALIN: They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
GIBSON: What insight does that give you into what they’re doing in Georgia?
PALIN: Well, I’m giving you that perspective of how small our world is and how important it is that we work with our allies to keep good relation with all of these countries, especially Russia. We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.
Sarah Palin on Russia:
We cannot repeat the Cold War. We are thankful that, under Reagan, we won the Cold War, without a shot fired, also. We’ve learned lessons from that in our relationship with Russia, previously the Soviet Union.
We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.
GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?
PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.
GIBSON: Because Putin has said he would not tolerate NATO incursion into the Caucasus.
PALIN: Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO.
Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but…
GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn’t we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?
PALIN: 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.
But NATO, I think, should include Ukraine, definitely, at this point and I think that we need to — especially with new leadership coming in on January 20, being sworn on, on either ticket, we have got to make sure that we strengthen our allies, our ties with each one of those NATO members.
We have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today.
GIBSON: And you think it would be worth it to the United States, Georgia is worth it to the United States to go to war if Russia were to invade.
PALIN: What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against. We have got to be cognizant of what the consequences are if a larger power is able to take over smaller democratic countries.
And we have got to be vigilant. We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to.
It doesn’t have to lead to war and it doesn’t have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War, but economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries.
His mission, if it is to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that’s a dangerous position for our world to be in, if we were to allow that to happen.
Sarah Palin on Iran and Israel:
GIBSON: Let me turn to Iran. Do you consider a nuclear Iran to be an existential threat to Israel?
PALIN: I believe that under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, nuclear weapons in the hands of his government are extremely dangerous to everyone on this globe, yes.
GIBSON: So what should we do about a nuclear Iran? John McCain said the only thing worse than a war with Iran would be a nuclear Iran. John Abizaid said we may have to live with a nuclear Iran. Who’s right?
PALIN: No, no. I agree with John McCain that nuclear weapons in the hands of those who would seek to destroy our allies, in this case, we’re talking about Israel, we’re talking about Ahmadinejad’s comment about Israel being the “stinking corpse, should be wiped off the face of the earth,” that’s atrocious. That’s unacceptable.
GIBSON: So what do you do about a nuclear Iran?
PALIN: We have got to make sure that these weapons of mass destruction, that nuclear weapons are not given to those hands of Ahmadinejad, not that he would use them, but that he would allow terrorists to be able to use them. So we have got to put the pressure on Iran and we have got to count on our allies to help us, diplomatic pressure.
GIBSON: But, Governor, we’ve threatened greater sanctions against Iran for a long time. It hasn’t done any good. It hasn’t stemmed their nuclear program.
PALIN: We need to pursue those and we need to implement those. We cannot back off. We cannot just concede that, oh, gee, maybe they’re going to have nuclear weapons, what can we do about it. No way, not Americans. We do not have to stand for that.
GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?
PALIN: 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.
GIBSON: So if we wouldn’t second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that.
PALIN: I don’t think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.
GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.
PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.
GIBSON: We talk on the anniversary of 9/11. Why do you think those hijackers attacked? Why did they want to hurt us?
PALIN: You know, there is a very small percentage of Islamic believers who are extreme and they are violent and they do not believe in American ideals, and they attacked us and now we are at a point here seven years later, on the anniversary, in this post-9/11 world, where we’re able to commit to never again. They see that the only option for them is to become a suicide bomber, to get caught up in this evil, in this terror. They need to be provided the hope that all Americans have instilled in us, because we’re a democratic, we are a free, and we are a free-thinking society.
GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?
PALIN: His world view.
GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
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.
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?
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.
I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.
GIBSON: Do we have a right to anticipatory self-defense? Do we have a right to make a preemptive strike again another country if we feel that country might strike us?
PALIN: 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.
GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?
PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we’re going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.
GIBSON: But, Governor, I’m asking you: We have the right, in your mind, to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government.
PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.
GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes? 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: 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.
Sarah Palin on God:
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?
PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.
PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words when he said — first, he suggested never presume to know what God’s will is, and 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.
That’s what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It’s an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms.
Charlie, those are freedoms that too many of us just take for granted. I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory, and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.
GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln’s words, but you went on and said, “There is a plan and it is God’s plan.”
PALIN: I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That, in my world view, is a grand — the grand plan.
GIBSON: But then are you sending your son on a task that is from God?
PALIN: 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.