Sarah Palin Defends Experience, McCain Foreign Policy; Dems Pounce on 'Bush Doctrine'
Charlie Gibson Interviews Alaska Governor, McCain VP Candidate Again on Friday
By RUSSELL GOLDMAN
Sept. 12, 2008
Gov. Sarah Palin never claimed to be a foreign policy expert, but should the potential next vice president of the United States be expected to know about a fundamental principle that has guided the way America has conducted foreign affairs since before we went to war in Iraq?
Predictably, the Democrats say "yes" and the Republicans say "no."
Like much of the reaction to Thursday night's exclusive interview of Palin by ABC News's Charles Gibson, opinions about how she responded to one question in particular about the "Bush Doctrine" fell along partisan lines.
When asked by Gibson if she agreed with the Bush doctrine -- the administration's policy of preemptively striking another country in the face of potential attack -- Palin seemed unfamiliar with the term.
Palin initially said she interpreted the "Bush doctrine" to mean the president's "world view."
When asked by 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 said yes.
"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," the Alaska governor said.
ABC News.com readers commented through the night on how Palin handled the question and the pundits similarly weighed in this morning on Good Morning America.
"I know people will really try to go after that and say she didn't even know what that was," ABC News consultant and Republican strategist Torie Clarke told "Good Morning America."
"You can pick 500 people out of the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, and say tell me what the Bush doctrine is, and they would go 'I don't know,'" Clarke said. "But I don't think that's going to have, I don't know, the substance or the bite, that some people think it will."
Throughout the two interviews Palin granted ABC News Thursday, the governor appear poised and on message. But the seeming slip-up over the Bush doctrine opened the door for Democrats to pounce.
"It's the premise of our foreign policy of the last seven years. Again, for somebody that got a passport last year, I'm just being honest," Democratic strategist James Carville told "GMA." "I'm not surprised she didn't know."
"She needs to get up to speed a little more," Carville added.
Sarah Palin, McCain's VP Pick, Defends Foreign Policy Credentials
Palin, who received her first passport last year and is just two years into her first term as governor of Alaska, appeared to have also tripped while discussing her foreign policy qualifications.
She conceded she's never met a head of state, but said,"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 the facts say otherwise.
If elected, Palin would be the first vice president in decades who has never met a foreign head of state.
Dick Cheney, a former secretary of defense and White House chief of staff, met plenty foreign leaders. George H.W. Bush was an ambassador to China, and long-serving senators Al Gore, Dan Quayle and Walter Mondale all saw their share of foreign dignitaries.
On the heels of the interviews, Palin continued to dominate the campaign buzz and the GOP tried to take advantage of it again. It launched an ad accusing Obama and his running mate Joe Biden of being "disrespectful" of Palin by calling her "good-looking."
Earlier in the week, Republicans accused Obama of insulting Palin by using the expression "lipstick on a pig" while criticizing GOP presidential candidate John McCain's claim to be a force for change in Washington.
McCain and his wife, Cindy, will be doing TV interviews Friday on ABC's "The View" and "The Rachel Ray Show." Barack Obama will go for laughs, headlining "Saturday Night Live" this weekend.
Attention was likely to remain to Palin as she was scheduled to hold another session in her extended interview with Gibson later today and be featured in an hourlong "20/20."
Gibson-Palin Interviews Focuses on National Security
Her interview with Gibson was the country's first in-depth look at her policies as vice president.
Palin hewed closely to the McCain talking points, mirroring the presidential nominee's positions on foreign policy and national security.
McCain has said he believes humans are responsible for climate change and that the government should not allow drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), positions opposing 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 icepack 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," Palin replied.
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, Palin was much more measured in her response.
Palin Tempers Global Warming Response in Gibson Interview
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 developmentâ€¦ 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 Defends Experience, Says She's Ready to be Vice President
Palin, 44, whose political career began with the PTA and a city-council seat in Wasilla, told Gibson that she was up to the challenge of being 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. â€¦ 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."