EXCLUSIVE Interview With Sarah Palin
“Thank you, sir. It is an honor to be named your ‘‘Conservative of the Year.’”
That’s how Sarah Palin began her third interview this year with HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi. She spoke to Gizzi last April as the first of 16 Republicans he interviewed for HE’s “Veepstakes” election-year feature, and then she sat down with him during the National Governors Association meeting in Philadelphia in July. The Alaska governor last week again spoke to Gizzi, this time about her historic candidacy as the Republican vice presidential nominee as well as about current issues and her future.
Veteran Republican political consultant Holly Robichaud, who had arranged the first “Veepstakes” interview between Palin and Gizzi, set up their latest exchange December 12.
Speaking from her office in Juneau, Gov Palin set the scene: “It’s five below, not too cold to snow, which is nice, absolutely beautiful and white and crisp,” and then Gizzi began the interview with her:
GIZZI: Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss singled you out for praise after you campaigned for him and he won re-election in the run-off in Georgia earlier this month. What did you do that was so helpful to Sen. Chambliss, who won by a relatively large margin?
PALIN: Georgia was a blast. People were fired up to re-elect him. It certainly wasn’t me. It was him. When he was on stage, people were cheering. I think the rest of the country, those who were concerned about checks and balances in Washington, D.C., were very excited about the opportunity for me to help out a little bit there. And we made sure we did have those checks and balances that came with his re-election. I was very thankful he was re-elected, and very thankful for my state of Alaska. Saxby is pro-development and wants to make sure that our nation becomes energy independent. Alaska can help. As opposed to the positions his opponent had been taking, he can help us progress toward that end. His opponent [Democrat Jim Martin], I believe, would have worked to lock up more of Alaska.
GIZZI: In campaigning for Sen. Chambliss, you brought back a lot of conservatives who had been critical of him for voting for the Wall Street bailout [of financial institutions]. Would you have favored the Wall Street bailout and voted as Sen. Chambliss did?
PALIN: I would have done what the GOP [senators] did yesterday and said ‘no’ to additional bailout efforts of one industry [the automobile industry, whose proposed federal bailout was stopped in the Senate December 11]. Picking winners and losers in Washington, D.C., is a dangerous thing to do when you’re talking about a system that supposed to be based on free enterprise. When you talk about rewarding for work ethic and good management decisions and then consequences are the results of the opposite of that, and those decisions lead to some mistakes that are made in some industries, taxpayer bailouts should not be looked to as the be-all, end-all solutions.
But back then, weeks ago, when that initial bailout [of financial institutions] was proposed, remember, it was considered at the time a rescue and not necessarily a bailout. Without having as much information as everyone has now, I did support that initial effort that was going to come from Congress. Of course, we saw [Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben] Bernanke and others appear to change the rules right away, it seemed like, after that initial rescue plan or bailout was given the green light, then everybody in the public, including me, started hearing that the rules were changing on where those dollars would go and what the criterion would be. Unfortunately, that leads to distrust of decisions our politicians make on our behalf and bureaucrats make on our behalf.
Now the situation has changed, and I think the GOP did the right thing yesterday in saying, “Look, we still want more information before one industry — in this case, the auto industry — gets more taxpayer assistance until everybody knows what those dollars would be used for and how it will lead to success in this industry.”
GIZZI: So you stand with Sen. [Bob] Corker [Tenn.] and other Republicans who stopped the auto industry bailout in the Senate?
PALIN: I do. Once bitten, twice shy. We learned a lesson, at least being amenable — if not enthused — to the idea all those weeks ago to the first rescue plan. But then the rules changed quickly, and more information was revealed that perhaps Congress and the bureaucrats in the Treasury Department not having a good grasp on what the problem was and how taxpayer funds would solve any of the problems. That’s caused a lot of concern and caution on my part and the part of the Republican Party.
GIZZI: Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has spoken out against the bailout of states that [California] Gov. [Arnold] Schwarzenegger and other governors have called for. As a governor yourself and an active member of the National Governors Association, where do you stand on the bailout of states?
PALIN: Every state, like every community in the United States, comes to Congress with its list of infrastructure needs. Alaska is going to join every other state with a governor’s list. In fact, I’ve looked at every other governor’s list of infrastructure needs that’s presented to Congress. It’s up to Congress, because Congress holds the purse strings, to decide how some of those projects are going to be funded. Alaska’s projects are going to be in the nation’s best interests. They will be infrastructure that will build gas lines and build that infrastructure up that will lead to energy production to allow us to become energy independent. We aren’t asking for things like “Bridges to Nowhere.”
But, in speaking with Gov. Schwarzenegger about this, he has said it’s not his intention to ask for a bailout that is based on his state’s management decisions that have led to some problems in that state. In Alaska, we’re fortunate. We have a surplus. We have money put aside for the last few years, waiting for a ‘rainy day’ when the economy wasn’t as strong. We are in a good position, so we are not asking for, nor should we ask for, a bailout from the ‘feds.’ But we will, along with every other state, have our list of infrastructure projects and roads and very basic tools that will lead to energy production.
GIZZI: For my birthday this year, friends gave me the new biography of Andrew Jackson [American Lion, by Jon Meacham]. One of the passages that reminded me of you is when the author is explaining how vilified Jackson was and says, ‘He was the first President to come from the common people, not from an educated elite, and he never ceased to see himself as their champion.’ Is that something you can identify with and do you think the fact you had a similar background to Jackson’s was a reason for some of the criticism you received from some of the punditocracy and the media in general?
PALIN: Maybe initially it is a hindrance for someone starting out. But once the electorate knows what that candidate’s convictions are and positions are, I don’t think that matters. You just prefaced your question with the fact that I didn’t come from that ‘stock’. I got my education from the University of Idaho because that’s what I could afford. It was the least-expensive school that offered the programs I knew would benefit me in my future. My Dad was a school teacher and had four kids in college at about the same time. It didn’t occur to me to ask my parents to pay for my college education. We all worked through school and paid for schools that we could afford. I still got a great education. No, I don’t come from the self-proclaimed ‘movers and shakers’ group and that’s fine with me. It’s caused me, or rather, allowed me, to work harder and pulled myself up by my bootstraps without anyone else helping me. I think it allows me to be in touch with the vast majority of Americans who are in the same position that I am. That is desiring government to be on our side and not against us. And that means, in a lot of ways, for government to get out of the way to allow our families and our businesses to keep more of what they produce, to meet our own priorities.
My own upbringing and what I am today — with my husband, in a blue-collar job that he has — allow me a great connection with the vast majority of Americans who live and work and are trying to raise our families.
GIZZI: What was the biggest mistake made in the ’08 campaign?
PALIN: The biggest mistake made was that I could have called more shots on this: the opportunities that were not seized to speak to more Americans via media. I was not allowed to do very many interviews, and the interviews that I did were not necessarily those I would have chosen. But I was so thankful to have the opportunity to run with John McCain that I was not going to argue with the strategy decisions that some of his people were making regarding the media contacts.
But if I would have been in charge, I would have wanted to speak to more reporters because that’s how you get your message out to the electorate.
GIZZI: And what was the most important lesson you learned from the campaign?
PALIN: The campaign was 99.9% amazing and invigorating and inspiring. But looking back, there were so many things that were outside of my control. I was in a campaign in which I did not know the people individually running the campaign. So I had to put my life, my career, my family, and my reputation in their hands. That’s kind of a scary thing to do when you don’t know the people you are working with.
Now I have all the faith in the world in Sen. McCain and his family. But some of the folks around him I did not know, and so it was a kind of a risky thing for me to put my faith in the decisions they were making on my behalf.
As an administrator, as a chief executive of a state, I am not used to that. I am used to proving my abilities by calling the shots. Then I know the buck stops with me. I made the decisions, and I’m responsible. When others are making decisions for me, as they were in the campaign, and I am the one to live with the fallout from the decisions that were made on my behalf, that is something I am not very comfortable with.
GIZZI: Do you want to give me any names of people?
PALIN: No. But they’re folks who have done this before. Of course, I haven’t done this on a national level before.
But my reliance on seeking God’s direction in all that I do — that is good enough for me. And others who have a different worldview and different strategy on messaging and such, I would like to have the opportunity to prove to them that my gut instincts were going to be quite adequate.
GIZZI: Are you getting a lot of requests to speak around the country for candidates, as you did for Sen. Chambliss?
PALIN: I’m getting a lot of requests to speak. But right now my focus is on Alaska and a lot of the energy projects we are working on.
GIZZI: Who is your role model?
PALIN: Susan B. Anthony. I have great respect there for the history. She was a pro-life feminist and those things that she stood for, and she was so far ahead of her time. It amazes me.
GIZZI: You made it clear in our interviews earlier this year that you were not close to fellow Republicans Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young from your state, both of whom you said had a different vision of Alaska’s dealings with the federal government than you did. Were you pleased with the election of Democrat Mark Begich who defeated Stevens and with the re-election of Rep. Young?
PALIN: I met yesterday with Sen.-elect Begich to see that we are on the same page as we move forward as he starts his new job representing Alaska.
I thought that Sen. Stevens was going to be re-elected, and it was so close, and that if he were to step aside because he was convicted [on corruption charges], then I would get to appoint a Republican. So I was kind of surprised at the outcome there.
It is what it is, and I wish Sen. Begich well. We’ll work well together. He’s going to be in the majority party and that’s all the more reason for Mark Begich and me to work closely together. We will.
GIZZI: Will you run for higher office, such as the U.S. Senate from Alaska in 2010 [when more moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s seat is up]?
PALIN: That’s not in my sights. There’s so much to do as governor.