Sarah Palin: I Want to Play a Major Role in National Politics, 'If People Will Have Me'

Fmr. Gov tells Barbara Walters Obama is "disingenuous" on "death panels" charge.

November 16, 2009, 1:50 PM

Nov. 16, 2009— -- Sarah Palin may be mum about her presidential ambitions, but the former GOP vice presidential candidate is opening up about her campaign experiences and has some harsh words for President Obama.

In an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, Palin, whose book, "Going Rogue: An American Life," lands on bookshelves Tuesday, said she would give the president a mere four for his job performance on a scale of one to 10.

"There are a lot of decisions being made that I -- and probably the majority of Americans -- are not impressed with right now," said Palin, the former governor of Alaska. "I think our economy is not being put on the right track, because we're 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."

Even after last year's devastating 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 plans, the fate of the elderly and her son Trigg, who has Down syndrome, would be determined by "death panels."

Watch Barbara Walters' interview with Sarah Palin starting Tuesday on "Good Morning America", "World News" and "Nightline", more Wednesday on "Good Morning America," and on "20/20" Friday, Nov. 20 at 10 p.m. ET.

In his address to the joint session of Congress, the president lashed out at the charge, made by Palin and others, calling it "a lie, plain and simple."

When asked by Walters if it was Obama who was lying, Palin said: "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."

Sarah Palin discusses her family with Barbara Walters. Read more here.

As for Obama's surprise Nobel Peace Prize win, Palin dubbed the decision of the Nobel committee "premature."

"Maybe someday there will be some deserved event, and issues that he tackles that will allow that presentation of Nobel Peace Prize, and I'll be the first to applaud that," she told Walters. "Two weeks into office and he's already nominated? That's premature."

Palin has also become a vocal supporter of the 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. 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,'" Palin said. "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."

Sarah Palin weighs in on policy in the Middle East, U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Read more here.

Sarah Palin for 2012?

There's a battle raging for control of the Republican Party between moderates and conservatives like Palin, who has vowed to support like-minded candidates. But some fear that by dividing the party, she will destroy it, and certainly won't help her chances if she decides to make a run in 2012.

The former governor wouldn't directly address the burning question of whether she wants to be the president, but she did not completely close that door either.

"That certainly isn't on my radar screen right now," said Palin. "[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."

"My ambition if you will, my desire, is to help our country in whatever role that may be, and I cannot predict what that will be, what doors would be open in the year 2012," she said.

As for whether she will play a major role, Palin replied, "If people will have me, I will."

Her daughters certainly think their mom will make a good president. When asked if they would like to see her as president one day, 15-year-old Willow replied: "That'd be cool," a sentiment echoed by her younger sister, Piper, 8.

And as Palin wrote, her father summed it up best when he said his daughter is "not retreating. She's reloading."

Palin defended her decision to quit as Alaska's governor, saying it was best for her state.

"I was heading into a lame duck session, that final year in office, and most normal politicians, what they do, knowing that they're not going to run again, they're in that lame duck ... that, that situation, they milk it. They collect the paycheck. My administration was inundated, and paralyzed by those who were filing these frivolous lawsuits, and, and, um, ethics violation charges. And it was unfair to Alaskans. So I knew that what we were doing was right," Palin said.

Palin has taken heat even from within her own party.

In October, McCain's chief campaign strategist Steve Schmidt said Palin "would not be a winning candidate for the Republican party in 2012," adding, "Were she to be the nominee, we could have a catastrophic election result."

Palin told Walters she is not surprised at the comment.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Palin said. "I know [the] truth, and I'm fine with who I am and where I am."

Palin: McCain Aides Kept Her All 'Bottled Up'

In her book, Palin portrays herself as a free spirit who fell victim to political operatives who tried to shut her up. But as the title, "Going Rogue," suggests, the former beauty queen isn't just back, she's stirring the political stew and settling scores from last year's blistering loss.

In her book, Palin paints herself as an independent spirit who was muzzled once she joined the GOP ticket. She claims that Sen. John McCain's senior aides -- to the campaign's disadvantage -- tried to shut her up.

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. 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 told ABC News.

Throughout the book, Palin complains about being "handled and packaged." She writes that the McCain camp told her what to wear, when she could talk to the press, when she couldn't, what to say and where to go. Schmidt, she writes, told her to "stick with the script."

"Things kind of came to a head at one point, where I told Steve Schmidt, 'Really, you gotta let me say what, what I wanna say. You gotta let me speak from the heart on some of these issues,'" Palin told ABC News.

"It's kind of like a relationship that you have when you're young, when, when you're with someone and they say, 'Oh, I love you the way you are -- now let me change you.' I just was trying to explain to, to Schmidt and some others, that, really, John McCain chose another maverick, chose an independent person, who is not part of the machine, and not part of being a, a, a packaged product, if you will," she added.

McCain aides said the decisions were eventually John McCain's 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.

Palin writes that Schmidt increasingly turned against her, saying some amazing things, such as, "You gotta get off that Atkins diet," and that he was hiring a nutritionist for Palin.

"I write about it in the book, though, that funny episode where he came to me during debate prep, when, of all things, we're talking about national security issues, and we're talking about the specifics in the war on terror, and where we should be there and -- and he wanted to talk about what I eat," she said. "And he got it all wrong anyway, assuming that I was on the Atkins diet. And I tried to correct him, and, and he wouldn't hear any of it. He thought that that was his role, was to shape me, even my diet, according to what he wanted in this package."

Sources told ABC News it was an uncomfortable discussion, but it was never about brain function. Instead, aides were concerned that Palin had been dieting and losing too much weight, the source said.

"That's nice. That's good to hear. And had he asked, I guess I could explain that, remember when I came on the campaign trail, I had a 16-week old baby, and I finally quit nursing, and yeah, lost a little bit of weight because of that. But it was nothing for anybody to worry their heads over. I was perfectly fine, and perfectly fine today," Palin said.

Schmidt also pushed back against Palin's claim in the book that he suggested she was suffering from postpartum depression.

"As I wrote about that in the book, it was told to me way after the campaign that, that yeah, that's what he, he believed, was that, I, and perhaps other women, suffer from postpartum depression," Palin told Waters. "And I, I thought, how unfair to women who do suffer from postpartum depression. It's serious. It's not something to joke around about, or to use as a political excuse for someone's interview that went wrong."

Knowing what she knows now, would Palin still do it again? The former governor told ABC News' Charles Gibson in September 2009 that she didn't even blink when McCain asked her to be his running mate, and despite the tension she described that existed between her and McCain's staffers during the campaign, Palin said she would do it again.

"[I] would do it again in a heartbeat," Palin told Walters. "In fact, if you think about it the administrative experience was more than Joe Biden had, more than our President Barack Obama had."

Palin and the Media

Palin's resignation as governor of Alaska in July fueled widespread speculation that she may pursue other more lucrative ventures, such as a book deal. But now that the book is off her checklist, will Palin hit the airwaves, possibly as a talk show host?

"There have been lots and lots of offers in these last couple of months especially coming our way, some bizarre things," the mother of five told Walters, but she added that she is not sure whether a talk show will be in the best interest of her family.

"Well, I'd probably rather write than talk," the former governor said. "But I don't know if that would … be something that is in the best interests of my family right now."

Palin said she's even been offered a reality show.

"I would never, I would, no, I would not ever want to put my kids through such a thing, shoot, our, our life has become kind of a reality show," Palin said.

Whether she joins the media or not, Palin, who was mercilessly lampooned during and since the campaign, will forever be associated with Tina Fey's iconic portrayal of her on "Saturday Night Live."

Asked if she thought Fey's impersonation harmed her, Palin said, "I think that there was a blurred line there between what Tina Fey was parodying and saying, and what I ever said. Let's take, for instance, she saying, 'I can see Russia from my house,' pretending that she was me. Well of course, I've never said that. And yet, the line was blurred, and I think people, because it was repeated so often, perhaps believed that I had said such a thing. I think she was funny though, and I think she was very talented and spot on."

At the time, what Palin did say to ABC News' Charles Gibson was 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 said in September 2008.

Her response to that question came back to haunt her again in an interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, as did Couric's question about what she reads.

When asked by the CBS anchor what newspapers and magazines she read regularly, Palin, instead of answering directly, defended Alaska.

"Unfortunately, I was wearing my annoyance on my sleeve, and I shouldn't have done that, because it seemed to me that she was asking, 'Do you read? How, up there in Alaska, in this kind of nomadic, Neanderthal atmosphere that you live in, how are you connected to the world?'" Palin said. "When I had just done an op-ed, for instance, in her hometown newspaper, The New York Times. I had just been interviewed by all those national media outlets. And that surprised me that she hadn't done that homework. Very unprofessional of me, though. My fault, my bad, that I answered the way that I answered, and that was kind of with that proverbial roll of the eyes, like, 'Are you kidding me? Are you really asking me that?'"

Palin said she was asked to do the interview with Couric by a McCain aide.

"I didn't set up any of the interviews. I, I don't think most of the candidates ever really, at least VP candidates, get to call the shots, one of the -- the reasons given why perhaps Katie would be a communicative interviewer, is kind of low self-esteem," Palin said.

"She, remember, the lowest ratings on the air at that time, and the interview would help her out. So we looked forward to a good interview with a lot of substance, not, not badgering, not things like asking me 12 different times about abortion, and the morning after pill, until she got an answer that, that she wanted to hear, evidently."

"[It] wasn't my best interview. Surprised after that first segment that the -- the McCain campaign went on to schedule a second, then a third, then a fourth, then I think even a fifth segment. I kept thinking, you know, we're not really connecting. This isn't really going well. It reminds me of that old saying that you, you don't drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying in the water."

But the result of that interview -- which Palin said was unfairly edited -- was that she was considered unqualified to be vice president. Palin says in her book this impression was reinforced by deliberate leaks to the press by some anonymous members of McCain's staff.

When asked why she thought these staffers were trying to destroy her reputation, Palin replied. "Well, for some people, this is a business. And if failure in this business is going to reflect poorly on them, they had to kind of pack their own parachutes, and protect themselves and their reputations, so they wouldn't be blamed. I'll take the blame, though, because I know at the end of the day what the truth is. And if it makes them feel better to be able to say, 'She's the one who caused the downfall because she had a lousy interview,' then so be it."

Palin has repeatedly said the media held double standards when it came to her -- whether it was criticism about her clothing bill, or her lack of experience. Republican strategist Mary Matalin said of the criticism, "She has been pilloried beyond anything that is acceptable in politics."

Palin agreed.

"Oh, there was so much bull crap out there, about my family, about my record, about my state, and it really hurts when I hear the negativity about the state of Alaska, and of course my family," Palin told Walters. "It's a lot of bull."

Campaign Strategy

Palin may not have much in common with President Obama when it comes to policy, but they both do share a love of basketball.

"Basketball was my life, growing up, yes," Palin said.

So does she think that the president 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 responded, laughing. "Yes I do, yes."

However, Palin admits 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. But maybe I could make a good team on the basketball court anyway, with both of us playing our appropriate roles," Palin said.

She may hold her own on the basketball court, but throughout her book Palin writes that McCain's aides complained she didn't play ball when it came to campaign strategy.

Palin said 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," Palin writes. But campaign officials told ABC News that it was McCain's decision not to discuss Wright because it would have ugly, racist overtones, and there would be no control of the issue.

"Well, I, 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 responded. "That's that political correctness that's going to do our country in, and I, I don't subscribe to that."

Palin addresses the issue of her expensive clothes in her book, writing that her wardrobe was picked by the McCain camp and that "the price tags almost knocked my eyes out." So why didn't she just say no to the $150,000 wardrobe?

"Well, remember, I arrived at the vetting process experience, and then the campaign was an overnight bag. And then the frustration though, was, once that controversy exploded about the clothes, it just baffled me, and Todd, and my family, and those on the vice presidential side of the ticket, to know that whoever it did, whoever had purchased the clothes, and strategized all that, wouldn't just tell the truth, just explain that they purchased the clothes, they were there, and even the stylists now have come out and said, 'Sarah didn't buy the clothes, and she was very hesitant to wear very expensive clothes.' I kind of gave 'em a hard time about it," she said.

She also complains about the double standard by the media, saying that no one ever questioned male candidates where their shoes or suits came from.

"The clothes all went back. They were never my clothes," she said.

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