First Palin Interviews Get Mixed Reaction

Pundits give mixed reviews to GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin's first interviews.

Sept. 12, 2008 — -- So, how did she do?

Appearing extremely rehearsed and slightly nervous, Gov. Sarah Palin sat down with ABC's Charles Gibson for interviews that aired Thursday on "World News" and "Nightline." She sits down again with Gibson for interviews airing tonight on "World News" and "20/20."

Watch Charles Gibson's exclusive interviews with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tonight on "World News" and "20/20," which will broadcast a one-hour special edition at 10 p.m. ET/ 9 p.m. CT.

While reaction has been mixed so far, depending quite a bit on where people stand politically, the consensus appears to be that Palin didn't lose any points but didn't hit it out of the park, either.

"It was a reasonably good performance for her first interview on the national stage," said Republican strategist Whit Ayers, who is working on GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham's re-election campaign in South Carolina, among others.

"I think she'll get stronger the more she does these because she's smart and learns quickly."

The Obama campaign argued today that Palin's interview displayed a lack of foreign policy experience, an argument Sen. Hillary Clinton made against Obama during the Democratic primary campaign.

"The most disturbing thing about Sarah Palin isn't how little background she has on foreign policy or that she doesn't seem to know what the 'Bush Doctrine' is, it's how willing she and John McCain are to follow George Bush's failed foreign policy for another four years, from the war in Iraq to the lack of any plan to deal with Iran's nuclear program, she toed the Bush-McCain line," Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

The Obama campaign seized on a portion of the interview in which Palin appeared to be caught off guard when Gibson asked, "Do you agree with the 'Bush Doctrine'?"

"In what respect, Charlie?" Palin asked.

When Gibson defined the doctrine as "the right of anticipatory self-defense," Palin said, "Charlie, if there is a legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country."

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told there are "many definitions of the 'Bush Doctrine,' and that's what she was trying to get from Charlie."

Rogers said McCain was pleased with Palin's performance.

"She came across great, and prepared," Rogers said. "She demonstrated that she's ready to be commander in chief and showed she's resolved about the key issues that we face in the world, especially on energy."

Palin's Performance Gets Mixed Reviews

Republican Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee offered a less-than-glowing review of Palin's performance today.

"Gov. Palin is confident, smart, disciplined and, while not yet totally prepared on the issues, she clearly is getting there," Wamp said. "The country likes her, so she will get a pass or two. If she holds up beyond that, she could be a transformative woman in American history. If not, we will all be disappointed."

Former Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson characterized her foreign policy answers as "formulaic and unimpressive."

"She didn't say anything disqualifying, but it is unlikely that anyone watching would have come away sanguine about her ability to step in as president on day one if necessary," Wolfson wrote in his New Republic blog "The Flack."

"Don't expect to see her do many more ... the McCain campaign knows they will pay a price for keeping Gov. Palin from the national press -- but they also know that price is worth paying if it buys them insurance against her giving a disqualifying answer to a legitimate question."

During the sometimes tense interview, Palin appeared to stick closely to rehearsed answers that she sometimes repeated.

She said she didn't hesitate in accepting McCain's offer to run as his vice presidential nominee.

"I answered him 'yes,' because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink," Palin told Gibson. "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."

While Palin exceeded expectations in her acceptance speech at the Republican convention last week, she has only spoken a handful of times and never faced a series of unscripted questions.

The ABC interviews are the first time Palin, the former small town mayor turned first-term Alaska governor, agreed to answer questions from any member of the news media since becoming the Republican vice presidential candidate two weeks ago.

Since then Palin has transformed into a Republican phenomenon, reinvigorating Sen. John McCain's presidential bid, energizing the GOP base and being credited with shifting white women's support from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to McCain.

Palin Cramming for Media Interviews

With the stakes high, Palin has been working with a team of former advisers to President Bush to cram for a series of media interviews, including an upcoming interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News and her Oct. 2 debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden.

The Republican vice presidential candidate this week was seen carrying index cards with talking points, and briefing books on energy, foreign relations and the budget, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Veteran political pundit Cokie Roberts said that Palin's preparation paid off in the interview.

"She committed no major gaffes," Roberts, an ABC News contributor, said.

"The McCain campaign is perhaps heaving a huge sigh of relief today because all her preparation appears to have paid off," Roberts said.

Newspapers Give Palin Mixed Reviews

The highly anticipated interview was widely watched on ABC News and the Web site, rivaling ABC's audiences for former Sen. John Edwards' interview admitting he had an extra-martial affair, the coverage of the Mark Foley congressional intern scandal and the shootings at Virginia Tech.

Almost 10 million people tuned in to "World News With Charles Gibson" Thursday to watch.

ABC's "Nightline," which featured the second of Gibson's three interviews with Palin, beat CBS' "Letterman" and NBC's "Leno," according to Nielsen overnight ratings. has nearly 3 million page views and up to 700,000 video views of the Palin interviews.

Newspaper reporters from across the country delivered a mixed review of Palin's performance.

She "presented a confident face in what was considered an important early test of her knowledge of foreign affairs," according to The Boston Globe.

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler picked up on Palin's apparent backing of Obama's assertion that the United States could attack targets in Pakistan without the country's permission. The Post said that was a position "her running mate Sen. John McCain has called 'naïve.'"

The New York Times said Palin appeared to be like an "eager student, someone who has crammed for an exam and was repeating talking points."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Republican vice presidential nominee's interview "wasn't without stumbles," pointing to her answers on global warming.

"The Alaska governor reversed her stand on the cause of climate change, telling ABC News that she believes 'man's activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming.' Less than a year ago, she said the opposite," the Los Angeles Times said.

Torie Clarke, a former Pentagon spokeswoman for former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, suggested Palin's performance would be a Rorschach test -- Republicans and Democratic will view the same performance differently.

"Where you stand depends on where you sit," Clarke said on "Good Morning America" today. "Obama supporters will say, 'that was awful. It was terrible. She couldn't answer the simplest of questions. She looked like a deer caught in headlights.'

"The Republicans will say 'she did just fine. And she believes in defending this country. She believes in keeping a close eye on Russia, kinds of things we like.'"

The debate will continue after Palin's interviews airing Friday night on ABC's "World News" and "20/20."