ABC News’ Imtiyaz Delawala reports: For the first time in a month on the campaign trail, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin took questions from her full traveling press corps, covering topics ranging from her continued connection of Sen. Barack Obama with William Ayers to whether she plans to appear on “Saturday Night Live.”
While traveling from Pensacola, Fla., to Greenville, N.C., last night, Palin came to the back of her press charter plane for the first time, greeting reporters and then taking questions for 15 minutes from the group. Cameras were not allowed to film the impromptu question and answer session.
Palin repeatedly defended her connection in recent days of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to former 60s radical William Ayers, calling the issue “fair and relevant,” while saying that Obama’s lack of clarity on his relationship with Ayers, called into question his “truthfulness” and whether he could be trusted on his policy plans.
“It is pertinent, it’s important because when you consider Barack Obama’s reaction to and explanation to his association there, and without him being clear at all on what he knew and when he knew it, that, I think, kinda peaks into his ability to tell us the truth on, not only on association but perhaps other things also,” Palin said.
“I think it just makes us ask the question that, if there’s not forthrightness there, with that association and what was known and when it was known, does that lead us to ask, is there forthrightness with the plans Barack Obama has on say tax cuts, or spending increases?” Palin added. “It makes you wonder about the forthrightness, the truthfulness of the plans that he is telling America in regards to the economic recovery because that is first and foremost on American’s minds.”
When questioned directly whether she thought Obama was being dishonest, Palin denied the charge, while raising more questions about whether Obama has associated with Ayers recently.
“I’m not saying that he’s dishonest, but in terms of judgment, in terms of being able to answer a question forthrightly, it has two different parts to this. The judgment and the truthfulness…” Palin said. “Is there still — has there been an association with him since ‘02 and ’05. We’ve heard a couple of different stories. I think it is relevant.”
In recent days, Palin has voiced disappointment with the McCain campaign’s decision to pull resources out of the state of Michigan, where the Obama-Biden ticket has a widening lead in state polls. Despite the decision, Palin said that she hopes the campaign’s economic message still reaches the state.
“I’m not going to forget about Michigan. The campaign isn’t either,” Palin said. “Those hard-working families in Michigan and all over this nation are really feeling the economic woes and are seeking the relief that our plan can provide them. It’s create jobs, as we reign in government spending so that our families, our businesses can keep more of what they earn and produce, that’s how jobs are created. That’s how economic recovery is gonna come.”
Palin said she was still energized by the campaign and optimistic of its chances despite being behind in most battleground states with just 28 days to go before Election Day.
“There’s a lot that can happen and will happen in this campaign still to go,” Palin said. “You know, I’ve been in an underdog position quite often in my life and so has John McCain and we both have come out victoriously coming from that underdog position, and I anticipate that that’s what’s going to be what we see at the end of the day on November 4th.”
Palin was asked why her husband had agreed to testify in the ongoing legislative inquiry into whether Palin abused her power in dismissing the state’s public safety commissioner because of a personal family dispute. Todd Palin and seven other staff members will testify in the investigation today. Palin said “nobody has anything to hide” in the case, while charging that the investigation has become political.
“What the investigation turned into, led by a Senate Democrat, has been kind of a goat rope, a very partisan and very controversial type of investigation,” Palin said. “It’s an open book. Nobody has anything to hide. Nobody’s done anything wrong. My choice, and my responsibility to replace a cabinet member, an at-will exempt political appointment whom I did replace, because his strengths were in other areas… So my choice, my responsibility had nothing to do with my husband or any of my staff members.”
When asked by a reporter if she’d like to appear on “Saturday Night Live” and give Tina Fey “a taste of her own medicine,” Palin laughed and said she would “love to” appear on the program.
“I would love to. I love her,” Palin said of Fey. “She’s a hoot and she’s so talented and it would be fun to either imitate her or keep on giving her more material and keep her in business.”
The brief press conference took place as Palin flew to Greenville, North Carolina, where she held a rally at East Carolina University, before heading to a local pizzeria to watch the second presidential debate, joined by Republican North Carolina Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr.
The group watched the debate on one of eight televisions tuned to Fox News, while eating pizza and spaghetti. Palin watched intently as McCain spoke, regularly taking notes down on paper during the debate. After the debate, Palin said she thought McCain had done “great” and that she looked forward to the rest of the campaign.
“He’s proposing real plans that will work for economic recovery and energy independence,” Palin said of her running mate. “I think Barack was even less candid than usual, which I was kinda surprised. But McCain has fought on and sounded very energized, and it was a good night for him, for all of us, for all of America.”