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Sarah Palin: By turns confident, cautious and (once) perhaps at sea

September 11, 2008 |  5:32 pm

Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin talks with ABC's Charles Gibson in Alaska

ABC offered a provocative teaser earlier today to hype the first of the interviews it landed with Sarah Palin (as if any hyping was necessary).

But, as might have been expected, her full answer in discussing U.S.-Russian relations was more nuanced than the "war may be necessary" headline the network sent out.

Prodded by anchor Charlie Gibson about a scenario in which the nations of Georgia and Ukraine join NATO and then Georgia comes under full-scale assault from Russia, Palin allowed that "perhaps so" -- the U.S. might have to jump into such a conflict. Pressed on the matter, she continued more cautiously:

What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against. We have got to be cognizant of what the consequences are if a larger power is able to take over smaller democratic countries.

And we have got to be vigilant. We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to. It doesn't have to lead to war and it doesn't have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War....

There was absolutely no nuance from Palin in responding to Gibson's first query, what he termed the "central question" about the surprise position she finds herself: "Can you look the country in the eye and say, 'I have the experience and I have the ability to be not just vice president, but perhaps president of the United States of America?' "

Her quick reply: "I do, Charlie.... I'm ready."

She also gave variations of this confident answer as Gibson quizzed her about any hesitancy on her part when John McCain asked her to be his running mate. "I did not," she said crisply. "I thought 'yes' right off the bat."

She added, "You can't blink" when offered an opportunity you believe you can handle.

In this first of an extended rollout by ABC of the Gibson/Palin interview, she seemed to draw a blank only once -- when Gibson, without describing it, asked her if she supported the "Bush Doctrine."

That was President Bush's declaration -- in a June 1, 2002, speech at West Point -- that faced with the contemporary threat of terrorism, the U.S.....

... was now staking out the right to "impose preemptive, unilateral military force when and where it chooses."

In another words, attack first, if the commander in chief deemed necessary.

Pretty straightforward.

But Palin's initial response to Gibson's question about her view of the policy was, "In what respect?"

When Gibson tried again without detailing the doctrine, she asked, "His world view?"

He finally let her off the hook and provided an explanation. And, in essence, she endorsed the doctrine.

ABC's take on the interview can be perused here.

-- Don Frederick

(On a less weighty front, The Times' Web Scout blog takes note of an enigmatic aspect of the online version of the interview. Check it out here.)

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