September 12, 2008 – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, emerging from media silence for her first serious interview as the GOP vice presidential pick, said Thursday that the United States might have to go to war if Russia were to invade Georgia again.
And on the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, she appeared entirely unfamiliar with the Bush Doctrine, the central foreign policy tenet of the current administration, which asserts the right to wage preventive strikes in the aftermath of such terrorist attacks.
Palin made her statements during an interview with ABC “World News” anchor Charles Gibson in which she was pressed on her foreign policy credentials and knowledge. Additional Gibson interviews with Palin will be broadcast today on ABC.
Palin said she favors admitting Georgia and Ukraine to NATO. Asked if the United States would have to go to war if Russia again invaded Georgia when it was a NATO member, Palin said, “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. Russia invaded Georgia after the ex-Soviet republic invaded the separatist region of South Ossetia.
Palin said she had insights into U.S. relations with Russia because “they’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska … from an island in Alaska.”
During the interview in Fairbanks, Alaska, Palin acknowledged that she had never met a leader of a foreign country and that she had visited only Canada and Mexico before a trip to Kuwait and Germany to visit U.S. troops last year.
“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 that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state.”
‘Ready’ to serve
But she insisted she was ready to be Sen. John McCain’s vice president – and, if necessary, president of the United States.
“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,” she said.
Throughout the interview, Palin appeared prepared, though she stuck to carefully constructed talking points. In one segment, asked to explain what the country should do if Israel struck Iranian nuclear facilities, she repeated three times that the United States cannot “second-guess” what Israel must do to defend itself.
But she seemed off-balance when asked about the Bush Doctrine – which includes preventive war, spreading democracy to eliminate terrorism and brandishing power to force other countries into line.
Asked if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine, she asked, “In what respect, Charlie?”
Said Gibson: “What do you interpret it to be?”
Palin: “His worldview.”
Gibson: “No, the Bush Doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.”
Palin answered that she believed the president “has attempted … to rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our nation.”
After Gibson informed her of the doctrine’s definition of “anticipatory self-defense” against any country that might attack the United States, she replied: “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.”
Asked if that meant a right to go to conduct cross-border attacks from Afghanistan without the approval of the Pakistani government, Palin said, “We have got to have all options out here on the table.”
Palin – who has spoken in her church about U.S. troops being “on a task that is from God,” was asked if she believed the United States is fighting a “holy war.”
Quoting Abe Lincoln
She deflected the question and said she was merely quoting Abraham Lincoln, adding, “I would never presume to know God’s will.”
On other issues, Palin appeared to do a sharp turn on the issue of man-made global warming in a part of her interview broadcast on “Nightline.”
In an August interview with the conservative Web site Newsmax.com, Palin said, “I’m not one, though, who would attribute (global warming) to being man-made.”
But asked Thursday whether she believed man had a role in it, Palin said:
“I believe that man’s activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change. … Regardless 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, and we have to make sure that we’re doing all we can to cut down on pollution.”
The interview will be broadcast in three parts over the next two days. ABC’s “World News,” “Good Morning, America,” “Nightline” and “20/20” will all feature the interview.
The broadcasts will include biographical footage of Palin and coverage of her 19-year-old son, Track, who is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq this week.
Prior to Thursday, the GOP governor was virtually inaccessible to reporters on critical issues like national security, terrorism and the economy.
In the week since she accepted the nomination at the Republican National Convention, Palin has stuck mostly to the script reprising her widely praised speech – and has not taken media questions when appearing at the side of her running mate.
The protective cocoon surrounding her has provided a sharp contrast to GOP presidential candidate McCain, who has had a generally warm relationship with media at his events, where he has welcomed their questions.
The McCain team has created a “truth squad” to protect her from charges in the media. And it has surrounded her with seasoned Bush operatives and media handlers to prepare her for Gibson and the coming debate with Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden.
— To read excerpts of the interview, go to links.sfgate.com/ZEUT.