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John McCain defends Sarah Palin -- and he's the one who counts

September 28, 2008 |  4:30 pm

Republican presidential candidate and Arizona senator John McCain says he's happy that she is part of the teamYou've read about the harsh language lobbed at Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republicans' vice presidential candidate, for her performance in her interviews last week with Katie Couric of CBS.

That was followed by the call on Friday from conservative columnist Kathleen Parker that Palin take to heart the slogan of the GOP campaign -- "Country first" -- and, for the good of the country, retreat gracefully from the ticket.

But if you ask the fellow who picked her for the ticket, John McCain, about whether that criticism has caused him to rethink his choice (as George Stephanopoulos did today on ABC's "This Week"), you'll get this answer: No way, no how.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Well, let me ask you a different question, though. What do you make of some of the criticism that Sarah Palin has -- has gotten over the last couple of weeks, including from many conservatives coming out of her interviews this week?

Kathleen Parker wrote in the Washington Post this morning, "It's increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn't know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions require her promotion."

McCAIN: It's a free country. I'm so excited ...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't agree?

McCAIN: Listen, I'm so excited about the reaction that Sarah Palin has gotten across this country, huge turnouts, enthusiasm, excitement. She knows how to communicate directly with people. They respond in a way that I've -- that I've seldom seen.

You know, they can complain all they want to. I'll rely on....

...the American people. The American people have responded to her in a way that's been wonderful. And I've had -- what a wonderful person, a great leader, and the most popular governor in America.

The things that she's done are exactly what we're going to do in Washington. Kathleen Parker, if that's her name, go right ahead and criticize.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no second thoughts?

McCAIN: Go right ahead and criticize. I'm -- I'm so happy that she is part of the team. And she's brought a kind of exuberance and a kind of excitement that makes you really think that political campaigns again can still be something that is an exciting trip.

-- Leslie Hoffecker

Photo credit: Lauren Victoria Burke / ABC News