This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," September 15, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, the "First Dude" of Alaska goes "On the Record." Yes, we are talking about Governor Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, affectionately called "the first dude" by Alaskans. Tonight and tomorrow, you will finally meet Todd Palin in his first interview since Governor Palin was tapped to be Senator McCain's running mate. We met the First Dude at his and Governor Palin's house on the edge of Lake Lucille, in Wasilla, Alaska. You will see this nowhere else.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, help me out. I don't know what to call you. It could be Mr. Palin, Todd, Mr. Todd, “First Dude”, or “Mr. First Dude.” I tend to be respectful, but even Mr. First Dude sounds a little funny.
TODD PALIN, HUSBAND OF SARAH PALIN: A lot of the folks in Alaska like First Dude, but Todd's fine. And my real close buddies have all kinds of names for me, so you really can't rub me the wrong way.
VAN SUSTEREN: If your wife and Senator McCain win in November, we've got a second problem, is because -- I mean, you're going to be, like, "Second Dude," or I mean, have you thought about that at all? What are we going to do about that?
PALIN: Not really. You know, I'm very easy.
VAN SUSTEREN: You're very easy? All right. OK. Well, I should tell you that every place we've been in Alaska, whenever I say, Hey, do you know the first dude, they all start laughing. Do you know that?
PALIN: No, I didn't know that.
VAN SUSTEREN: They love you here. They love you here. So that must be fun for you.
PALIN: It is fun for me. I mean, it's fun to -- I travel the state. You know, my role as first spouse to the governor, I've taken on vocational training. So I've got to travel around Alaska to some of the remote villages and training facilities. So it's been fun.
VAN SUSTEREN: I take it that you like where you lie. Look at this spectacular view. How long have you lived here?
PALIN: About six years. And we're very fortunate to be here. And it is nice for the kids in the summertime. It's a big playground in the wintertime. About five months out of the year, it's a big playground, as well, where we snow machine and ice skate on the lake.
VAN SUSTEREN: So this freezes over in the winter.
PALIN: Yes, it does.
VAN SUSTEREN: And you don't go out and fish here, though, because you're a professional -- or a commercial fisherman.
PALIN: Once in a while, we'll go out and fish. We have fished here, but I am a commercial fisherman since about 9 years old.
VAN SUSTEREN: How long have you lived here?
PALIN: In Alaska or...
VAN SUSTEREN: No, no, I know you -- but I mean, at this particular property?
PALIN: About six years.
VAN SUSTEREN: This is obviously your home. You built this?
PALIN: Myself and some buddies that were contractors helped me put it together, and it was a lot of fun.
VAN SUSTEREN: I couldn't help but see right over here -- let me go over here -- your mode of transportation that's sitting here, not the little boat but this plane. You're a pilot?
PALIN: I'm a pilot.
VAN SUSTEREN: And what kind of plane is this?
PALIN: This is a 1958 Piper PA-18 Super Cub.
VAN SUSTEREN: How long have you had it?
PALIN: It's been in the family for probably 20 years -- 20-plus years, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: How often do you fly this?
PALIN: Not as much as I'd like. So it just comes down to priorities -- kids, work, wife's schedule, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: Does the governor fly this?
PALIN: I've taken her one time, I think, in the Cub, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: But she doesn't -- she's not pilot herself, or is she?
PALIN: No, she's not a pilot.
VAN SUSTEREN: So pretty exciting news in the family.
PALIN: It's been quite the experience the last couple weeks.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's it been like?
PALIN: Oh, it's great. I mean, you know, the first -- Ohio, meeting the McCains again and just being involved on their team, it's been an incredible experience.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Take me back to when you first heard that there was a possibility that Senator McCain wanted to talk to you. I mean, what did she do, call you up and say, Hey -- I guess she doesn't call you “First Dude," does she?
VAN SUSTEREN: No? Well, maybe she does. But what happened?
PALIN: I was at work on the Slope, working night shift. I think it was on a Saturday. I work Thursday to Thursday, so I'd been on the Slope for a couple days, and there were some inquiries from certain people about some of our background.
And so, you know, more inquiries, more inquiries, and we didn't know if she was on a short list, or you know, if this was going to be for show. And so I came off the Slope early to take care of the kids while she went outside for that day.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. That was when, about two or three weeks ago?
VAN SUSTEREN: But did you think -- like, back in April, you got wind of the fact that it was a possibility that she might even be on -- I mean, that this might be something that'd happen to your family?
PALIN: There's always been that possibility in the back of my mind. You know, there are some Web sites out there that have been pushing it pretty hard and so have been instrumental on the final decision, I think.
VAN SUSTEREN: That must have been pretty unusual. I mean, like, you know, all of a sudden, one day -- I mean, for any candidate to find out that he or she might be tapped for this.
PALIN: You know, for me, it wasn't a huge surprise. You know, I'm just glad that they tapped into her. And I think Americans are seeing what she's about. And so to me, it's just not a big shock. I knew that she was destined for higher positions, maybe not as soon, but that's just the way she is.
VAN SUSTEREN: Take me back to the first time you met her. How old were you?
PALIN: I was 17.
VAN SUSTEREN: What did you think when you first saw her?
PALIN: Very attractive, you know, an athlete. I think we were at the -- in the gym, so -- it was our senior year in Wasilla. And I came from a smaller community, and I was a basketball star from that smaller community. And it's hard for a smaller community athlete to come into a bigger school and to be really involved. And so I saw her on the basketball court, and we share a lot of things in common -- sports, you know, recreation outside.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how did you get her to talk to you? I mean, there must have been -- I mean, there -- someone had to pick up somebody, you know? I mean, someone had to, like, start this. How'd you start this?
PALIN: Well, you know, usually, a group event, you know, Come on over, let's watch a movie somewhere with other friends. So being a new kid on the block, I was invited to a couple different events, and that's how we really met. And from school to that.
VAN SUSTEREN: And she was everything you thought when you first spotted her, or was she different or...
PALIN: She was very shy.
VAN SUSTEREN: She was?
PALIN: Oh, very shy. So I liked that quality a lot.
VAN SUSTEREN: So did you -- was this -- which year in high school was this?
PALIN: This would have been September-October of 1981.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. If I had asked you in September of 1981, Do you think you're going to marry her, what would have been your answer?
VAN SUSTEREN: That soon?
PALIN: Well, I just felt that connection, you know? And it was just -- I don't know. It just had that feeling.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, you said she was shy. If I had asked you in September of 1981, Do you think she'll ever go into politics?
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Why not?
PALIN: I just didn't see it in her. You know, at that time, our focus was, you know, the basketball team, the state championship and other activities.
VAN SUSTEREN: How good was she in basketball?
PALIN: She was good. She's a good leader, and so real instrumental in their state championship team.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know how many points she averaged a game?
PALIN: She wasn't one that scored a lot of points. She was the type of player that you wouldn't see on all the stats, but she was a valuable part of the team.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So you spotted her and started dating. You didn't expect that she would go into politics. But so what was sort of -- would have been your guess as to what her career path would have been, if she'd even had a career at that point?
PALIN: You know, growing up in a home where her parents were teachers and educators, she was just going to get on to her degree and be a professional of some sort. That's what I envisioned.
VAN SUSTEREN: She then went off to Hawaii at some point, to college, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: What did you do at that time? Were you still boyfriend-girlfriend?
PALIN: Yes, we were still boyfriend-girlfriend. I went off to Washington there for a short time, and we always stayed in touch. And I did various jobs through those years she was going to school, in Alaska, and then in my home town of Dillingham.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who brought up the idea of first getting married?
PALIN: You know, just through the years, you're with somebody for a while, and you know, it's just mutual at that point.
VAN SUSTEREN: But you never had any doubts.
PALIN: Oh, I didn't have any doubts.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what year did you guys get married?
PALIN: In 1988.
VAN SUSTEREN: When she then -- you had started a family. And she decided she wanted to be mayor. Did -- why did she want to be mayor?
PALIN: When she first ran for city council, she was on the city council and just not happy with the way government was running, and so she wanted to make a change. So she served two terms as city councilwoman and decided to run for mayor because she felt that the direction that the current administration was going was the wrong one for the public.
VAN SUSTEREN: Then after she was mayor for two terms, she got term- limited out, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: So she had to stop that. She ran for lieutenant governor, lost.
VAN SUSTEREN: Was that hard?
PALIN: Not really. It was -- you know, she was outspent five to one, so it was a huge success in our eyes, being relatively unknown and running up against a politician who was well known, had a lot of money. So we looked at that race as very positive.
VAN SUSTEREN: What possessed her to challenge the Republicans, then? I mean, she is a Republican when she ran for governor, because that's usually typically a tough thing to do when you challenge somebody within your party. What brought that on?
PALIN: Which race?
VAN SUSTEREN: For governor.
PALIN: For governor? Well, she's all about competition. She wants voters to have a choice. And so there were some other good candidates in the governor's race in 2006, and so she threw her name in, as well.
VAN SUSTEREN: What did you think when she won?
PALIN: You know, campaigns are -- you could -- it's just campaigns are real positive, you know, traveling the state, meeting new Alaskans. And so when she won, I mean, it was very exciting, of course -- you know, just really exciting. I can't describe it.
VAN SUSTEREN: But it must be -- I mean, like, you know, politicians, you know, have their public face, and there are public discussions. But behind -- you know, when the media leaves, when we get out of here, you guys must -- you guys must think, Wow, this is pretty fun. I mean, This is pretty exciting.
PALIN: Well, all right, what next? What do you guys got going with the kids and stuff like that? That's been when the media leaves our house. You know, OK, what's on our schedule that day? And you know, yes, it's exciting, certain aspects of it.
VAN SUSTEREN: But it's a juggle. Many families have to juggle when you've got kids, when you've got jobs, you've got two careers, everybody is busy, you know, so that's sort of -- I guess it gets hectic.
PALIN: But we like busy lifestyles. Our kids are very adaptable, with all the years of my employment on the North Slope, with the week- on/week-off schedule, and so most -- all my kids were born with my schedule, and so they're very adaptable.
VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, more with the "First Dude" of Alaska. Todd tells you what he does as a commercial fisherman. Plus, you will hear why the Palins' freezer is sometimes packed with moose and caribou. How does it taste? Todd will tell you.
And later, you will see rare video of Todd Palin and his now very famous snow machine. You'll love this, but Governor Palin -- well, she might not. Todd is a champion snow machine racer. He'll tell you just how fast he goes and whether or not the governor knows about this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now more of your interview with Governor Sarah Palin's husband, Todd Palin.
VAN SUSTEREN: How cold does it get up there on the North Slope?
PALIN: Very cold.
VAN SUSTEREN: How is very cold? How cold is very cold?
PALIN: Oh, you know, minus 80 below with some wind chill factor on top -- with some wind on top of that.
VAN SUSTEREN: That sounds crazy.
PALIN: We do some amazing things on the North Slope.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you do?
PALIN: As far as my job?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. I mean, what do you do? How do you stay warm? I mean, the rest of us don't work on the North Slope.
PALIN: You just prepare for it, you know? If it's raining outside, you put rain gear on. If you're on the Slope working and it's 40 below, you bundle up and you make sure that, you know, you're going to be safe. And you always -- you know, you really push safety, and if you start to get cold, you take a break and warm up.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do you stay -- I mean, 40 below, though -- I mean, with the wind, it's -- you know, you can just bundle up so much.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, you're still cold, aren't you?
PALIN: No, they've got some great technology out there as far as clothing and protection, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: So when it's blowing like crazy and -- you're not cold up there?
PALIN: Well, when it's terrible, when there's whiteout conditions where there's nobody running on the roads or anything and there's basically a stop-work on any outside activity. So there is a limit to doing work outside.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you love this work?
PALIN: On the Slope?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes.
PALIN: It's a good job. It's provided for my family for many years. I work with a good crew. And it's a great place up there.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what's the schedule on the North Slope?
PALIN: My normal schedule is week-on/week-off. A lot of guys work two-and-two. I'm just thankful for the option.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do you back and forth from the North Slope? I mean, your week on -- I mean, how do you get back and forth?
PALIN: They have charter 727s that fly out of Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay, about an hour-and-a-half flight.
VAN SUSTEREN: How long have been doing that?
PALIN: I got hired on in March '89.
VAN SUSTEREN: And you've been doing it ever since, almost 20 years.
PALIN: Well, I took a couple of years there, but you know, close. Took a couple of years off to go into business, but was rehired again, so that was nice.
VAN SUSTEREN: So are you doing commercial fishing, as well, right now, or is that on hold while you do the North Slope?
PALIN: We've commercial fished all the years that Sarah and I were married and then for many years before our marriage. And that's about a four-week season, and so we adjust our schedules to do commercial fishing.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which is the four weeks?
PALIN: Usually, around June 25 until July 15.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's the safe kind of commercial fishing. That's not what we hear about as the dangerous kind of commercial fishing, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how is it done? What -- explain it to me. How do you fish?
PALIN: Well, we use gill net. It's a limited entry permit that I purchased from my grandpa years ago, in the early '70s, where they -- if you had enough points, then the state issued a limited entry permit. So there's only so many number of permits out there. And there's two different gear type where you drift out in the ocean with nets behind the boat, or you set net on the beach. You have the required space, and that's where you fish. So we set net.
VAN SUSTEREN: So did you do that this summer?
PALIN: Yes, we did.
VAN SUSTEREN: How much did you get? I mean, how do you -- I guess -- what do you, measure in pounds? Or how do you measure the fish?
PALIN: We measure in pounds.
VAN SUSTEREN: How many pounds you get?
PALIN: Well, I haven't got my total yet, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: What's your -- what's the -- I mean, what's -- what did you have the year before? I mean, give me an idea, the -- I have no idea.
PALIN: Well, a drift boat, a good season is 100,000 pounds. And this year, our price was 68 cents a pound. When I was 11 years old, the price was $1.25 a pound. So you know, that's a long time ago, so the price has always been fluctuating. So you know, a good season depends on the price. You could have 100,000 pounds, but if you're only getting $0.20 a pound, that's not a good season.
VAN SUSTEREN: What kind of fish?
VAN SUSTEREN: And so what do you -- once you get them, where do you take them? Where does it go from there?
PALIN: It goes to a tender. They collect our fish. Then it goes usually either to a shore-based cannery or a floating processor. And they process the fish from there.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you get to bring any home?
VAN SUSTEREN: So you've got a whole freezer full of it?
PALIN: Well, I didn't get a chance to bring some home this year, but...
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what -- I mean, do you shoot moose?
PALIN: Yes, I shoot moose.
VAN SUSTEREN: So -- and caribou?
VAN SUSTEREN: So you have that in the freezer? So you have fish, caribou, moose in the freezer? So that's pretty typical around here, isn't it?
PALIN: It's been a couple of years since I've dropped a moose, but you know, I always look forward going moose-hunting. But this year, we're kind of busy.
VAN SUSTEREN: You like moose meat?
PALIN: It's good. It's excellent.
VAN SUSTEREN: Better than caribou?
PALIN: Either one.
VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, more of your interview with Todd Palin. This next part is fantastic. The First Dude is going to show you something and tell you something, and we're not sure the governor knows what he is going to tell you, but she will, if she is watching. More of the First Dude coming up.
And later: How would you like to be a fly on the wall inside Governor Palin's home? You will meet someone who did just that three months before you even heard her name. We're going to show you the tape from last spring. No one else has this.
VAN SUSTEREN: The First Dude of Alaska, Todd Palin, loves to race snow machines, and he's good at it. Todd Palin is a four-time winner of a 2,000-mile snow machine race in Alaska called the Iron Dog race. You might be wondering, what's a snow machine? Well, here's the answer.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, this. This is a snow machine. It's not a snowmobile, it is a snow machine. I've learned. Is this what you did your race in?
PALIN: This was my last year's practice sled. That was my last year's race sled. So when I say practice sled -- we test and tune and put a bunch of miles on our practice sled, like 2,500 miles. And that way, we can find the weak spots of this model and then make modifications for the race sled. And then we'll -- typically, we'll put about 100 miles on the race sled, make some shock adjustments, and then bring it to the starting line.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And now this is an Arctic Cat. Is this an Arctic Cat, as well?
PALIN: That's an Arctic Cat, as well.
VAN SUSTEREN: A modified Arctic Cat, right?
PALIN: Well, I mean, just...
VAN SUSTEREN: I couldn't just buy this one in the showroom?
PALIN: You can. And you know, about the biggest modification is, we put an auxiliary fuel tank in the back because some of the stretches on the race are longer than what a stock fuel tank could get us from Point A to Point B, so -- but for the most part, this is a stock sled, and then some minor modifications.
If you notice, we have to carry survival gear, like a sleeping bag that's good to 35 below, and food for a couple of days, rope, saw. So this is the stock end of a snow machine. And then this is a modified version.
VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, I see.
PALIN: And so we've got gas tanks here, you know, five-gallon auxiliary gas tank because you don't want to run out of gas in those elements.
VAN SUSTEREN: What is -- I realize the range will depend on, you know, whether it's deep snow or ice or whatever. But is there is a way to describe sort of the range of this -- of the Arctic Cat? Because I know this race is 2,000 miles long. So how many times do you end up refilling?
PALIN: Well, the average checkpoint -- between checkpoints is probably about 70 miles. And so this is a 12-gallon tank plus five. And if we get, you know, 10, 11 miles a gallon, we're doing pretty good. But like you said, it all depends on the snow condition.
VAN SUSTEREN: How fast is the fastest you've ever gone on this?
PALIN: On this one, this is a 600, so maybe about 104. When we raced 700s, we were getting some pretty good top speeds.
VAN SUSTEREN: Like how top?
PALIN: Oh, you know, about 110, 112.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does the governor know you're doing that?
PALIN: Not all of it, but... (LAUGHTER)
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, because that's dangerous!
PALIN: It is, but we all have to have our things that we like to do.
VAN SUSTEREN: So she really may not know, unless she watches this, that you've gone that fast.
PALIN: No, she's very supportive of this race and...
VAN SUSTEREN: But 110 -- going that fast on it? Maybe we ought to keep her busy when the segment airs.
PALIN: No, she's fine with it. And I appreciate allowing me to participate in this race all these years, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, the race is 2,000 miles, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: And it goes from -- where does the race start?
PALIN: It starts in Big Lake, Alaska.
VAN SUSTEREN: Where's Big Lake?
PALIN: Fifteen miles north of Wasilla.
VAN SUSTEREN: And it goes all the way to Nome.
PALIN: We follow the Iditarod trail north to Nome.
VAN SUSTEREN: Right.
PALIN: The Iditarod, they alternate a northern route and a southern route, and we're always on the northern route.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why are you always on the northern route?
PALIN: That's just -- it's better for fuel, remote fuel locations.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what got you started on this?
PALIN: I just -- you know, I've been driving snow machines all my life. My dad told me, If you can start it, you can ride it. So I got all my buddies in the neighborhood and we'd start it, you know, the snow machine. And just an avid -- I just love riding snow machines.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about -- you've got one son, I know, that was just deployed. Is he a snow machine rider, too, or is this just yours?
PALIN: Yes. I mean, he wasn't a big racer because his sport was hockey. So you know, hockey or ride, but you know, he got a lot of riding in, as well.
VAN SUSTEREN: How are you at hockey?
PALIN: I love hockey. But today's hockey players, they never got the experience, but myself growing up, we had to shovel. We had to flood our own rinks. And now they got, you know, indoor rinks. They never have to shovel anything. So it's nice to see them, the kids today, go out and shovel a rink or flood a rink, just to appreciate what they've got.
VAN SUSTEREN: In the dead of winter, is it dark here 18 hours a day? I mean, how many -- what's the...
PALIN: In the dead of winter, probably, you know, sunlight about 9:00, 9:30, and then sundown about 3:30, 4:00 so...
VAN SUSTEREN: It's pretty dark.
VAN SUSTEREN: Summer's pretty nice, though, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: That's the reverse. You get a long summer. Have you thought about the fact that you might be staying at least part of your time in Washington?
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you ever been to Washington?
VAN SUSTEREN: When were you there?
PALIN: I was -- February '07 and February '08. It was just a very historical place.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, did you happen to drive up and down Massachusetts Avenue? Because maybe -- I don't know if you know, but that's where the vice president's house is.
PALIN: We went to the White House for dinner, so I'm not sure if we drove by the vice president's home or not.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you met -- did you meet the president?
VAN SUSTEREN: That must have been fun.
PALIN: It was.
VAN SUSTEREN: We'll have much more tomorrow night of your interview with the "First Dude" of Alaska, Todd Palin.
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