Nov. 18, 2009— -- In an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin opens up about her upbringing and her disagreements with Sen. John McCain's aides on how to tackle issues.
Growing up near the top of the world, the former Alaska governor describes a God-fearing, frontier kind of life in which she and her family raised chickens, caught fish and -- as everyone knows by now -- hunted moose.
In her new book, "Going Rogue: An American Life," which hit bookshelves Tuesday, Palin writes about moose eyeballs -- how her dad shot and carved up a moose and put the eyeballs in her hand.
Watch Barbara Walters' interview with Sarah Palin Friday on "20/20"
"My dad's a science teacher, and he tried to kill two birds with one stone," she told Walters. "What he would do is fill the family's freezer, and at the same time bring in specimens to his young students.
"He asked me to participate in that by holding the warm eyeballs, and in that event, I said, 'No, Dad, I just can't do that one.' ... He did raise a tough hunting buddy, but I did have my limits.
"Tough hunting buddy" until the end, Palin emphasized how her Alaskan identity is uniquely American.
"An Alaskan life is what I think an American life can be," she said. "We have a very independent, pioneering ... self-help spirit up there in Alaska where we take care of one another, very strong families, strong communities where, it's not government mandating that we all take care of each other. ... And that lifestyle, I think, more Americans need to recognize and appreciate."
Palin, a former beauty queen, was painted during the campaign as a moose-hunting, gun-toting, fly-fishing mother of five, whose philosophy on life and politics was colored by Alaska and her love of getting knee-deep in the outdoors.
She was Miss Wasilla one minute and Sara Barracuda the next for her hometown Warriors.
"Basketball was my life, growing up, yes," Palin said.
So does she think President Obama should have women on his basketball team when they go and play?
"I have looked in those photo ops for a couple of women, haven't seen 'em yet," Palin said, laughing. "Yes, I do, yes."
But Palin admitted that she has a slight height disadvantage when it comes to playing basketball with men.
"Well, I think he'd have that height advantage, and he would, he would smoke me if we were on opposite teams," she said. "But maybe I could make a good team on the basketball court anyway, with both of us playing our appropriate roles."
Sarah Palin Discusses Differences With McCain Aides
She may hold her own on the basketball court, but, throughout her book, Palin wrote that McCain's aides complained she didn't play ball when it came to campaign strategy. Almost from the start, Palin challenged important McCain decisions.
Palin wrote that she wanted to attack Obama primarily for his association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but that McCain aides wouldn't let her.
"I will forever question the campaign for prohibiting discussions of such associations," she wrote.
But, campaign officials said, it was McCain's decision not to discuss Wright because of his belief that such an approach would have had ugly, racist overtones, and there would be no control of the issue.
"Well, I think it's unfortunate that too many people in politics right now want to be so politically correct that they dare not question a person's associations or their past record, or their voting record even, because they would fear that they would be called a racist," Palin said. "That's that political correctness that's going to do our country in, and I don't subscribe to that."
McCain aides said the decisions were eventually his, and that Palin had to go with the strategy of the campaign team.
"And we did go with the strategy. And we lost. And that's fine," Palin said.
But asked whether the outcome of the campaign would have been different had she been allowed to speak more freely, Palin said no.
"The economy tanked," she said. "Electorate was ready, sincerely, for change. But, no, I don't think that had I been able to bust out and really say what I felt. No, I don't think that that would've changed the outcome."
Palin has also become a vocal supporter of the so-called tea party movement, calling it "beautiful." This group of protestors, however, is staunchly against the bailout package, which Palin and McCain both supported in their campaign.
"Yep, that very first bailout, yes," she said. "Now, we have learned, too, it didn't fulfill the promises that were made by Congress, and by the White House, that bailing out these businesses that were 'too big to fail.'
"That did not put our economy back on the right track. So we learn from our mistakes. The tea party movement, beautiful. It energizes our country. More power to these people who are showing up there."
Palin on Obama's Middle East, Afghanistan Strategy
Even after last year's defeat, Palin remains one of the Republican Party's brightest stars. From Alaska, she has been weighing in on issues and influencing policy debate in Washington. She scored a major blow to Obama in August when she wrote on her Facebook page that under Obama's plan, the fate of the elderly and her son Trigg, who has Down syndrome, would be determined by "death panels."
In the interview with Walters, Palin acknowledged that "death panels" aren't part of Democrats' health care bills, but she likened the term coined by her to Ronald Reagan's cold war references to the "evil empire."
"It's kind like what Reagan used to do, though, when he talked about, say, the 'evil empire.' You're never going to find the evil empire on a map of the world," Palin said. "And yet he talked about that, in terms that people could understand -- kind of rationing down, not complicating the issue. But he, with the issue of the evil empire at the time, used those two words to get people to shake up, wake up, find out what's going on here. Now, had he been criticized and, and mocked, and, and condemned for ever using a term that wasn't actually there on a map, or in documents, we probably would never have succeeded in, in crushing the evil empire, and winning that."
The president has called the idea of "death panels" a "lie, plain and simple." When asked by Walters if it was Obama who was lying, Palin replied: "He is not lying, in that those two words will not be found in any of those thousands of pages of different variations of the health care bill. No, death panel isn't there. But he's incorrect, and he is disingenuous, if he is telling the American public that it doesn't come down to people -- committees, bureaucrats -- deciding who, ultimately, will receive government-run health care, if that's where we end up. With government-run health care, the only way to provide all the services to those who will need this health care is to ration it at some point. Who will do the rationing? It will be bureaucrats."
Palin also took aim at the Obama administration's stance on Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories.
"I disagree with the Obama administration on that," Palin told Walters. "I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is going to grow.
"More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And I don't think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand."
As for another hot-button issue -- Afghanistan -- where 68,000 U.S. troops are deployed, Palin said the president should follow the advice of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, "to listen to McChrystal, to listen to the appointee that President Obama asked for. ... "McChrystal gave the president the advice and said, 'We need essentially a surge strategy in Afghanistan, so that we can win in Afghanistan. And that means more resources, more troops there.' It frustrates me and frightens me -- and many Americans -- that President Obama is dithering around with the decision in Afghanistan," she said.
The most ambitious strategy, from McChrystal, would send 40,000 more troops. Obama pushed the generals to elaborate on how and when the exchange of responsibility could take place from U.S. troops to the Afghans, according to ABC News' Jake Tapper.
Although the two don't have much in common in terms of policy, Palin said the ultimate goal for the United States in Afghanistan should be to turn responsibility over to the Afghan government and people.
"The people there, the government there, should be able to take over and to have a more peaceful existence there for the people who live there -- without American interference, if you will," she said.
Sarah Palin: How to Fix Unemployment
To address the highest unemployment levels since 1983, Palin said she would cut taxes.
"I would start cutting taxes and allowing our small businesses to keep more of what they are earning, more of what they are producing, more of what they own and earn so that they could start reinvesting in their businesses and expand and hire more people -- not punishing them by forcing health care reform down their throats; by forcing an energy policy down their throats that ultimately will tax them more and cost them more to stay in business. Those are 'backassward' ways of trying to fix the economy," she told Walters.
"You do have a way with words," Walters replied.
"I call it like I see it," she said.
In September 2008, Palin told ABC News' Charles Gibson in an exclusive interview that there is an island in Alaska where one can see Russia, and that this strategic proximity was part of her foreign policy experience.
"They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska," Palin told Gibson.
Her response to that question came back to haunt her in interviews and with Tina Fey's iconic portrayal of her on "Saturday Night Live."
But Palin told Walters that she never said, "I can see Russia from my house" and explained why she still feels Alaska's proximity to Russia is important.
"It's very significant," she said. "And we are a gatekeeper for the continent. So for national security reasons, and for energy independence and resource development reasons, Alaska should be recognized for its strategic location on the globe."
The former governor wouldn't directly address the burning question of whether she wants to be president or if she would make a run in 2012 but she did not completely close that door, either.
"That certainly isn't on my radar screen right now," Palin said. "[But] when you consider some of the ordinary turning into extraordinary events that have happened in my life, I am not one to predict what will happen in a few years."
Palin said that on a scale of one to 10, she would give the president a mere four for his job performance.
"There are a lot of decisions being made that I -- and probably the majority of Americans -- are not impressed with right now," Palin said. "I think our economy is not being put on the right track, because we've strayed too far from, fundamentally, from free-enterprise principles that built our country.
"And I question, too, some of the dithering, and hesitation with some of our national security questions that have got to be answered for our country ... so, a four."