OTR Interviews

Palin Speaks Out on the U.S.-Backed Mission in Libya, Israel, Bill Maher ... and Being 'Tempted' to Run in 2012

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 23, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Joining us is former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Good evening, Governor.


VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. All right, Governor, 20/20 hindsight -- should we have led this, participated in these air strikes over Libya?

PALIN: Well, I think the point is that we're not leading with the air strikes, and I think this is turning into much more than just allowing a no-fly zone to be enacted. I think there's a lot of confusion as it pertains to our foreign policy in Libya right now, and that's a frustrating for Americans, certainly frustrating thing for our troops. Our troops deserve better.

We've received different messages from our president and from his advisers as to what it is that we are doing there and what the mission is. And I think Americans are ready to hear, really, what's the mission. And are we really going to turn over command and control to the Arab League and to the British and to the French? And when do we reclaim our command and our control over our troops? So that's just one of the big questions.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you say or what would you like to see as the mission, the mission statement, so that we can work, you know, from there? What should we be doing?

PALIN: Well, Qaddafi has the blood of innocent Americans on his hands. As we understand it, he's sanctioning the killing of so many Americans with the Lockerbie bombing. And he needs to be held accountable for that. So what happened all those years ago, well, now is our opportunity to make sure that he is held accountable.

So what our president said at first, that our mission is to see Qaddafi go, he's got to go, but then we're told by one of his top advisers, the president's top advisers, saying, Well, no, really, Qaddafi is probably going to prevail on this. He's probably going to prevail over the opposition. And then our president changes the tune again, saying, Well, it's not our mission to oust Qaddafi. A lot of confusion.

I would like to see, of course, as long as we're in it -- we better be in it to win it. And if there's doubt, we get out. Win it means Qaddafi goes and America gets to get on out of there and let the people of Libya create their own government, choose their own leader. And America, no nation building. We get out. We take care of our affairs elsewhere.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of going, there are a couple choices. One is he steps down. He relinquishes power. Two, he goes into exile in that he actually leaves Libya. Three, he's captured and stands trial. And four, he's killed.


VAN SUSTEREN: What's the goal for you?

PALIN: I don't know where he's going to go.


VAN SUSTEREN: Which is your -- which should be the goal?

PALIN: I think Qaddafi is going to end up dead through this mission, whether it's at the hands of the rebels who have turned on him, or whether it's at the hands of America and her allies as we are engaged in this no-fly zone, which, again, Greta, seems to be turning into much more than that, much more serious than that. I think that at the end of the day, Qaddafi's not going to go willingly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it a failure on our part if we turn over command and control to someone else, to NATO or to France or whatever, and Qaddafi is still in power? Is that a failure on our part?

PALIN: America will have failed. If we turn over command and control of this mission and the mission of ousting Qaddafi is not fulfilled, it will be failure because people across the world look to America to lead on an international affair like this. We have the capability. We have the manpower. We have the technology. We have the brain power to lead a mission like.

So it's odd to know now that we're going to be engaged in, essentially, a war by committee. We're going to hand over command and control to a steering committee. I don't think that this has ever been a part of foreign policy, a military mission in the U.S. before. So again, lots of confusion, lots of questions that are out there, Americans deserving, our Congress deserving of knowing what's the game plan here.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do -- what, in your opinion, is, in general, not necessarily just here, but the role of the military? Is -- I mean, is the role of the military humanitarian? Is it to protect our country? Is it both? I mean, what -- what is the role of the military?

PALIN: Well, the U.N. obviously wants this -- the role to be of our military just a humanitarian effort per the U.N. resolution that America has been a part of and that's why we are engaged in enacting the no-fly zone. However, again, with Qaddafi having the blood of innocent Americans on his hands -- and we have an opportunity to say, OK, finally, we have -- you're going to be held accountable. You're going to be gone.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is beyond the U.N. resolution.

PALIN: Which is beyond the U.N. -- and that's why the president seems to be confused and has confusing messages that he's said to America, at first saying Qaddafi's got to go, and then, I think realizing, "Oops, the U.N. isn't going to allow me to say that." So he had to kind of change the tune there. But no, our military's role is to get in there, strike hard, hit hard, not allow Qaddafi to be left standing, and then get out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do we not have the problem, though, is that we can't have this be our war. I mean, it's -- you know, we've already engaged...

PALIN: Definitely.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... in two wars in other countries right now. You know, do you understand sort of the president needing to get us out of there and let somebody else take over, or is that surrendering our moral authority, or even our power?

PALIN: Well, again, if the end goal -- and herein lies the trillion-dollar question, what is the end goal? That's what we all want to know. What's the mission? If the end goal is ousting Qaddafi, then as long as our military is in there, that needs to be their goal, they joining with our partners and our allies in this mission, ousting Qaddafi and getting of there, again, not nation building, not spending more money in a foreign land when, really, but another question needs to be asked, Who is going to pay for this? Is the French going to pay for this mission? If we're on the back burner, if we're in the back of the bus in this mission, will it still be the U.S., though, looked at to pay the bill on this, as we are for so many engagements that we find ourselves in?

VAN SUSTEREN: Should money be a consideration, I mean, in this, because we don't have a lot of extra cash. We don't have a lot of cash hanging around, and there are other countries with huge human rights violations going on. I mean, you've got a situation -- and I always pick on Mexico because it's right next door and there's 40,000 people in a drug war. But I mean, there -- you know, in terms of where we pick, how we try to protect...

PALIN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and you know, it's -- obviously, Calderon is not Qaddafi. But I mean, is money a consideration in going to war, or even in joining in a U.N. coalition?

PALIN: Funding a war, funding these missions has got to be a consideration when we know that we're $14 trillion in debt and we have not yet finished the task in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have to choose our wars, choose our battles wisely.

You're suggesting, too, Greta, why not Darfur? Why not North Korea? Why not Iran? When we see other human rights violations, why is that it America doesn't get in there and intervene and try to clean things up? One, because we can't afford it. And two, because it's not America's role to be out and about, nation building and telling other countries how to live. That's why we have to be so careful in choosing our wars. That's why we need to know what is the mission here in Libya. We need to know before we send our troops in harm's way that we're in it to win it, that we're serious, that we're going to strike hard, and then we pull out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Just so I'm clear, 20 days ago, or 10 or 15 days, would you have done air strikes? I mean, do you support the president, whether - - whether the mission has now been sort of morphed into some sort of uncertainty, did you support the original idea of a no-fly zone and going in with the air strikes?

PALIN: I sure did. I sure did because the rebels, those who claim to be freedom fighters, who are saying after 41 years, finally, Qaddafi has got to go, America having an opportunity to participate with partners and allies in a no-fly zone, yes, that and economic sanctions, other things that we can do to help in order to allow people who have that taste of freedom and want opportunity to build a better life for themselves and a freer country, yes, then America has a responsibility, and we have the opportunity because we have the tools to participate.

However, that was back then, a month ago, when we were told, when we believed that the mission was to get Qaddafi out of power. Now if we're being told that that's not the mission and it's going to be the Arab League and the French and the British who will tell us what the mission is, now there's legitimate concern and frustration on Americans' part when we're saying -- there's too much confusion here with our foreign policy.

Real leadership, and this needs to come from our president -- real leadership is a president who will seek to be informed and seek to inform the American public, let us know what's going on, let us judge for ourselves based on the information that he is able to provide us, not heading out and letting one adviser say one thing and secretary of state saying something else. We need some cohesive and coordinated and consistent policy.

VAN SUSTEREN: I sort of got the idea that the goal or what we were trying to accomplish -- we wanted to lead it, we wanted control of it, we didn't want to get caught doing that, in a sense, because it's sort of unpopular for obvious reasons with all our -- with our wars in other countries and being unpopular in the world. I thought -- you know, I thought that was sort of what we were trying to do.

PALIN: Well, I think Obama -- the president finds himself in a pickle here because it's not a popular thing, what he has done, when there isn't clarity in the mission. So the left, anti-war crowd is very angry at him for striking...

VAN SUSTEREN: So's the right!

PALIN: ... and the right is mad at him because he has not fully informed the American public, as is his duty, his responsibility to do so, and you know, there hasn't been clarity in mission here. And there has been already the concession that it's OK for the U.S. to take a back seat and let others lead in such an important mission that we are on.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, yesterday, about 24 hours ago, you were in Israel. Today, there is trouble in Israel, terrorism, first time in a couple years, except they have had rockets and mortar fights across the Gaza. What did you discover, what did you learn going to Israel?

PALIN: Well, for one, it was a trip of a lifetime for Todd and for me. I've always wanted to go there. I've always wanted to visit the holy sites. And I have such a love for Israel that it was wonderful to be there. And then to have the opportunity to hear firsthand from the prime minister, to hear firsthand from Netanyahu and his family, what their concerns are, what their threats are, and how they want to know -- they want to know that America is on their side.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do they feel President Obama is on their side?

PALIN: You know...

VAN SUSTEREN: Are they satisfied with the relationship?

PALIN: I think that there are many in Israel who would feel more even comfortable knowing that there is an even greater commitment from those who presently occupy the White House, that they are there on Israel's side and our most valuable ally in that region can count on us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there's been discontent between the two sides over settlements. As I understand it, is that President Obama wanted an absolute freeze on settlements and Israelis didn't want to do an absolute freeze, so some tension has grown between the two.

PALIN: President Obama was inappropriate to intervene in a zoning issue in Israel, though. I mean, let Israel decide their zoning issues...


VAN SUSTEREN: Israel has asked us for help over the years.

PALIN: ... build housing for the Jews in their homeland, whether they're going to be allowed to or not. And no, President Obama didn't want to see that allowance of the building of the structures. I would have taken an opposite approach, by the way. But Israel -- concession after concession and Israel facing threat after threat. They deserve to know that America will be there to help secure -- they're being surrounded now on all sides by enemies. They have to worry now about their peace agreements with Jordan and with Egypt.

And they need to know that they've got the U.S., the superpower, the leaders of the free world, being on their side, knowing that they will not be destroyed, as Ahmadinejad, those in Iran, want to see them wiped off the face of the earth. Don't think that Ahmadinejad would stop there at Israel. They'd be coming in our direction, too. So it's in our best interests to help protect Israel.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't pretend to know the answer, and many presidents have tried to resolve the answer, help the -- help Israel. But I'm curious, if you were president, what would you do about Israel?

PALIN: I certainly would let them know that, yes, we are on their side. We are their friend. We are their ally.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you do that? I mean, if they don't believe that now -- I mean, they may have a little bit spat over the settlements with the president, but historically, the United States has stood side by side with Israel.

PALIN: We need to be even stronger in our commitment to help secure Israel and to help in this peace process and not tell Israel that, The land that is yours, you cannot build on, you have to concede even more to the Palestinians. No, we need to stay out of skirmishes like that and look at the big picture and remind them of our support of that. Remember, Israel, too -- they're threatened by Hezbollah, by Hamas, by the extremists in Iran. They have great and significant threats all around them.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you got to win the -- I mean, in order -- in order for us to be sort of the broker, the helper, we've got also to get the Palestinians. I mean, you know, we've got to -- you know, we've got to do something vis-a-vis the Palestinians. What do we do?

PALIN: Why is it that in the past, too often, the U.S. government has told Israel that they're the ones, the Jewish community, that they need to back up, they need to back off or there will never be peace? They need to keep conceding? Why aren't we putting our foot down with the other side and telling the Palestinians, If you're serious about peace, quit the shellacking and the shelling, quit the bombing of innocent Israelis. Look at the young Israeli family that was slaughtered in their house a week or two ago. Look at today, the bombing of those innocents at a bus station in Jerusalem. No! We need to be strong and...

VAN SUSTEREN: So you take the harder line? You take the...

PALIN: I would take the harder line. Otherwise, Greta, we're just going to continue down the same path, watching those skirmishes in that region, which are not in America's best interests to continue to see the instability in the Middle East. For peace, for stability, we do need to take a harder line. And we do and can participate in their peace process negotiations.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, you visit these places, you realize how complex these problems are. I mean, every time you try to sort of fix one little problem someplace, another problem pops up. And there -- and there are -- there are grudge matches going back generations.

PALIN: Yes. You know, Greta, and because it is that way, complex problems, problems that have gone back 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 years with battles in these regions, it should make us even more concerned about the state of America, to know that we have our fiscal house in order so that we have the resources in order to help when we're called upon to truly, legitimately be able to help in regions, to not be so far in debt that we have to worry about, as we talked about earlier, Greta, Well, gee, who's going to pay for a no-fly zone enacted in Libya? Once we get our house in order and we have strong and consistent policy with foreign policy and with our own fiscal issues in America, we will be in a better position to help lead the free world.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor Palin, if you'll stand by, we have to take a quick break.

And straight ahead: Remember this, the president signing the national health care law one year ago today? The law has had plenty of ups and downs. It's even been ruled unconstitutional by one federal judge. But is it doing what Democrats promised it would? You will hear from these two guests. Governor Sarah Palin is back.


VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama and the Democrats are celebrating today. It is the one-year anniversary of the national health care law. That's right, one year ago today, the president signed the health care reform legislation into law. And Democrats promised the public would grow to like the law over time. But have they? Well, it

We are once again joined by former governor Sarah Palin. Governor, it's so split. Some people love it. Some hate it. There are very few people feel indifferent. And I'm not so sure yet what effect we've had, although we've had some pretty good fights.

PALIN: No, I think a year later, no, it's less popular than ever. And remember Pelosi saying, You got to pass it and then we'll find out what's in it. Well, now, a year later, we're starting to find out what's in it, and I think people are even more and more hesitant to embrace this job-killing, $3 trillion dollar, unaffordable overreach of a government program! No, I -- and look at all the people who were elected, Greta, in these midterms in November, and they campaigned on repealing "Obamacare." That was a foundation of many...


VAN SUSTEREN: In the House, they did. Then they repealed it. It's not going to go anyplace in the Senate, but they did it in the House.

PALIN: They did it in the House, and now it's the Senate's turn to do something about this and not just kind of be namby-pamby about "Oh, you know, fixing some of the things that" -- no! Just repeal the thing!


VAN SUSTEREN: That's not going to happen. That's never going to happen. The Senate -- the (INAUDIBLE) Democrat and they like it, and they're going to keep it.

PALIN: No, you're such a pessimist on this! The American public has said, Get rid of it!


VAN SUSTEREN: Not all of them, though. The numbers are split.

PALIN: You're going to find in 2012, people are going to get elected again on the idea of the promise of repealing "Obamacare." They know it's killing jobs. They know that premiums are going up. They know it doesn't fix any problem, and they know that we were not told the truth by the White House as it pertained to information, facts, numbers that have to do with "Obamacare." We were told that it was going to reduce premiums. We were going to told -- be told that, no, overall, this is going to help provide more health care coverage!


VAN SUSTEREN: ... what I don't like. There are some teacher's pets involved. I don't like the idea -- I mean, the whole point of it, as I understand it, it's very complex, 2,700 pages, very complicated and I think it's very poorly written, but that's an aside. But everyone is going to pay into the pot so that there would keep -- there's enough money in the pot to keep the premiums down. But there are a significant number of corporations and unions, a lot of big people -- they have gotten waivers.


VAN SUSTEREN: And so they're not paying into the pot. And I'm thinking, like, Well, why are they teacher's pet? Why do they get out of it?

PALIN: It's a joke! And it's unfair! And not only is "Obamacare" unconstitutional, and that's going to be proven in the courts, but Greta, a thousand waivers that have given -- been given to friends, I'm going to call them, teacher's pets, by the Obama administration!

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) call it that. That's my sarcasm.

PALIN: Well, and there hasn't been real clarity there in explaining why some folks get waivers and why other people don't. How about a waiver for the entire country? And it is called repeal! Let's get rid of it and let's fix health care in this country with market-based solutions that have been proposed over and over again by the Republicans.

VAN SUSTEREN: You agree that something had to be done?

PALIN: Something had to be done.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't like what was done.

PALIN: Something had to be -- but it has to be constitutional. The federal government cannot force American citizens to purchase anything! It's a violation of the commerce clause and...

VAN SUSTEREN: We'll see. I mean, I don't know -- that's another fight about why it -- why it isn't in the Supreme Court now...


PALIN: If they're going to force us to purchase health care, what next? You know, this is a slippery slope and it's a dangerous place for Obama to have led us with this health care reform. It's government takeover of one-sixth of our economy, and we can do better.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know why the Supreme Court isn't deciding this and why we're hung up on -- but I'm going to talk to Ken Cuccinelli, AG, in a second, from Virginia. The Supreme Court should be deciding this now. Get it over with.

PALIN: Well, it should be because, you know, we got other battles next. But "Obamacare" is -- is the big battle. That's a big battle in our economy. It's right up there in terms of importance when we talk about our debt and other things that are stymieing the growth and creating uncertainty in our economy. "Obamacare" is one of the big ones.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.

Coming up: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is yelling foul. She says she gets treated differently than President Obama, that there is sexist divide. We're going to ask Governor Palin about this one.


VAN SUSTEREN: Are politics fair? Do women politicians who make a mistake get the same treatment as men when they make a mistake?

We know what Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann thinks. She recently made a big gaffe making a mistake about the start of the Revolutionary War and she got hammered by the media for her gaffe. Congresswoman Bachmann admits her mistake but she is now crying foul. She says women especially conservative women, get treated more harshly than men for gaffes.

She cited two examples -- President Obama's gaffe when he said there are 57 states and another one where he said 10,000 were killed in tornadoes in Kansas. What does Governor Palin think? I confess I've made a bazillion mistakes myself. Are women treated differently on gaffes?

PALIN: Of course. Women are held to a different standard in all areas. My point is going to be, so what. Let's work harder, produce more and better, and get over it. I'm through whining about a liberal press that holds conservative women to a different standard because it doesn't do any good to whine about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bill Maher just used vulgarity with you. You may say you are over it. But it is degrading to women, that's the problem. Governor Sarah Palin is over it, and it's water off a duck's back. You got a daughter, your daughter's friends, everyone watching has a mother, and it is degrading. It does need to be fair.

PALIN: We wish that it were fair. Nobody has promised life was going to be fair. In politic, it really isn't fair. There's scrutiny, double standards and all that. Again, when it affects me personally, I'm dealing with it in a different way that others who want to bring more light to it and demand that Bill Maher apologize or that NOW defend me for something that was said. By the way, I need NOW's defense like a fish needs a bicycle. I don't want them to defend me.

My point is when a shot is taken at me, it is water off the duck's back because I know the important things we need to concentrate on, especially the national and international issues important that our country. You are right when it comes to other women, my daughters, you Greta, if somebody says something that is not true or is spun in such a -- I'm not going to retreat. I will reload and tell them what I think about them and hold them accountable for what they say about other women. In that respect, it is not fair.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think it is conservative women who get it. I've seen vicious things about Leader Pelosi. I've seen horrible, vicious things about Secretary of State Clinton. I don't think it is liberal. I actually think some of the worst offenders are women in the media who let it happen. If they don't politically agree with the person they let it happen.

PALIN: I don't think I've ever -- I don't think hive heard hosts on Fox say the things that hosts on MSNBC would say or HBO. I've heard that said about conservative women.

VAN SUSTEREN: I've heard it about conservatives. I've been around the block enough to know I've seen some of the horrible things about the two women I just identified. It is unacceptable. If you don't agree with the woman, then you laugh. If you agree with the woman, you are appalled.

PALIN: You know, I wish there was more civility, I guess. We teach our kids to -- they need to be speaking kindly to and you have adults on the air saying very vulgar things. Again, we need to concentrate on what really matters in this world. There aren't enough hours in a day to be consumed with things like that, Greta. I, anyway, have got to be focused on things that I can do to help affect change this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: I've paid attention to your trip in India. You left the door open to run for president in a speech. It was asked of you and you mentioned it. Where are you on this?

PALIN: I'm still not going to close the door at this time.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is farther open like an inch or more open or closed?

PALIN: Knowing that all of us can be so engaged, you don't need a title. You don't need an office to make a difference, I'm proof of that. If I were to choose not to run at this stage in my life -- I'm tempted, because I'm still wondering who the heck is going to be out there willing to serve the American people for the right reasons. Not for ego, not for special interests. Not with partisanship that will get in the way to do what is right to get the economy back on the right track and strengthen national security. Who else is out there who wants to do this?

VAN SUSTEREN: I keep asking the same question of the men, too. Governor, nice to see you.

PALIN: Thank you, great to see you.