Palin Takes Hard Line on National Security, Softens Stance on Global Warming

Republican VP Candidate Speaks with Charlie Gibson of ABC News in Exclusive Interview

By RUSSELL GOLDMAN

Sept. 11, 2008—

Sarah Palin may toe John McCain's line on national security issues, but when it comes to global warming and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the running mates will "agree to disagree," the Alaska Governor said in an exclusive interview with ABC News's Charlie Gibson.

On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Gov. Sarah Palin sat down with Gibson for the first two of three interviews, discussing national security and then energy policy and climate change.

The interviews took place in Alaska Thursday immediately before and after a deployment ceremony for her son Track, 19, a private in the U.S. Army who will leave for Iraq later this month.

Palin, just two years into her first term as governor, made a name for herself as a "reformer" and used the day's second interview to trumpet her record of taking on Big Oil and the Republican mandarins of Alaska.

In the day's first interview, Palin hewed closely to the McCain talking points, mirroring the presidential nominee's positions on foreign policy and national security.

In the day's second interview, when it came to the discussion of energy policy, turf the Alaska governor is far more comfortable discussing, many of the differences between she and McCain were exposed. McCain has said he believes humans are responsible for climate change and that the government should not allow drilling in ANWR, positions opposite to those of his running mate.

"Do you still believe that global warming is not man made?" Gibson asked Palin.

"I believe that man's activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change. Here in Alaska, the only arctic state in our Union, of course, we see the effects of climate change more so than any other area with ice pack melting. 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 and we have to make sure that we're doing all we can to cut down on pollution."

In the past, including in an interview with Newsmax.com in August just ahead of her nomination, Palin said: "I'm not one though who would attribute [global warming] to being man-made."

In her interview with Gibson she was much more measured in her response.

McCain and Palin agree on offshore drilling but differ on exploration in ANWR, a federally protected wildlife reserve.

"I'm going to keep working on that one with him. ANWR, of course, is a 2,000 acre swath of land in the middle of about a 20 million acre swath of land. 2,000 acres that we're asking the feds to unlock so that there can be exploration and development??? 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."

It might, however, not take so much work to convince McCain to change his mind. "I continue to examine it," the Arizona Senator told The Weekly Standard at the end of August about ANWR.

The comfort she showed when talking about a proposed pipeline that would supply the lower 48 states with natural gas from Alaska, contrasted sharply with her generally rote talking points on national security during the day's first interview with Gibson.

Palin has no previous foreign policy experience and her comments hewed closely to the McCain camp's established foreign policy positions on former Soviet nations joining NATO, and the threats posed from Islamic terrorists and a nuclear Iran.

When asked if Georgia joined NATO, whether the United States should go to war if the country was again invaded by Russia, 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 said.

Palin -- whose 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 of which she was mayor -- tried to tout her energy expertise in lieu of her lack of national security policy.

"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, 44, whose political career began with the PTA and a city-council seat in Wasilla and who obtained her first passport last year, told Gibson that she was up to the challenge of being Sen. John McCain's vice president.

Palin said she knew immediately that she was prepared to run as vice president when McCain offered her the job. It is a core of shared values and drive that makes them a good team, she said.

"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.'"

On Israel's right to defend itself against a nuclear-armed and bellicose Iranian regime, Palin agreed with McCain that the country had a right to take action.

"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."

Iran, she said, presented a threat not only to Israel but to "everyone in the world."

"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.

Though seemingly flummoxed by the term, Palin agreed in principle to the "Bush doctrine," or the idea that the United States has the right to preemptively strike another country before first being attacked.

"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.

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

"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."