'Special Report' Panel on Sarah Palin's First Big Media Interview

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This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from September 12, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


CHARLIE GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

SARAH PALIN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first, we are friends of Israel, and I don't think we should second-guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.


JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: There is Sarah Palin in her first television interview.

Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Well, gentlemen, this was her first outing, and Charlie Gibson was clearly trying to see what she was made of, especially on foreign policy, which is never a strong suit for governors. He asked about U.S. raids into Pakistan, holding the line against a nuclear Iran, the war in Iraq, and about Bush foreign policy.

Overall, Fred, how do you think she did?


Look, the only problem would have been if there had been some big gaffe. And certainly ABC would have loved to have had one, the mainstream media would have loved to have seen her commit some gaffe. No doubt the Obama people would have. But she didn't.

And if anybody committed a gaffe, it was Charlie Gibson, where he once--once he misquoted her, and about this question of whether our troops in Iraq are there on god's mission and said she had said that, and she said, "No, I don't think that's my quote." And he said "Those are your exact words."

Well, those were not her exact words, and she corrected him correctly.

But then on this whole question of the Bush doctrine, he said the Bush doctrine was--look, it has been called a lot of different things. But he said it's preemption. We can attack a country before we they attack us.

In fact, though, he had used--earlier, in his career--Richard Starr of The Weekly Standard went back and found all these other things that he said, Charlie Gibson had said about the Bush doctrine, and what she said, it was winning the war on terror, is what he called the Bush doctrine in the past.

ANGLE: We will get to that in more detail in a minute. Juan, what did you think of this whole thing? She sat down there. He peppered her with questions. And, obviously, foreign policy is not something for governors are strong on. How did you think she did?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: She did fine. If you were a supporter of Sarah Palin before this, you are a supporter of Sarah Palin today.

And if you are an opponent and thought that, as I do, she's had limited experience to have such an exalted position to be nominee as vice president behind 72-year-old John McCain, I don't think you were comforted in any way.

I think you thought that she was someone who had very good media training, someone who had been briefed extensively and prepared for this.

And if there's any concern, it was that she was so quick to say "Yes, I'm prepared. I'm ready for this job." It sounded to me a little bit as if it was a defensive response rather than--to the point of being overconfident.

I think some humility would have served her well because I think most Americans know, look, you may like Sarah Palin, you might think that she is the perfect fit for the Republicans ticket, energized the base, but, gosh, on experience, it's not her strong suit.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: She could have said I am prepared as Obama, and more experienced as an executive.

ANGLE: All right, now, I have another bite we want to listen to which deals with Bush foreign policy. Let's take a listen.


CHARLIE GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush--what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His worldview?

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September, 2002 before the Iraq war, that we have a right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us.

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country.


ANGLE: Now, Charles, critics say she seemed a little unsure of herself there about what the Bush doctrine was. What do you make of that?

KRAUTHAMMER: Fred is right. It was Charlie Gibson's gaffe.

And this was reported by liberals as if it was a huge mistake that she stumbled, she didn't seem to understand what the Bush doctrine was, and he informed her.

Well, he didn't. He got it wrong. He assumed there's one Bush doctrine. In fact, there are at least four versions which succeeded each other over the eight years of this administration.

And the one that is currently understood as the Bush doctrine, the one that has been around since 2005, is the one enunciated by the president in his second inaugural address, "the freedom agenda," in which he said that the success of the liberty at home is dependent on the success of liberty abroad.

And that is what everybody understands today as the Bush doctrine. It superseded the understanding of the Bush doctrine which Gibson had proposed.

If you hear liberals gleefully say that Iraq has destroyed the Bush doctrine, it is not destroying the idea of preemptive war, it is destroying the idea of spreading democracy.

So Gibson is the one who made a mistake, but he had that kind of condescending sneer that you get among the establishment in instructing a person who to them now appears as a moose hunting rube.

ANGLE: Quickly.

WILLIAMS: I don't think anybody knows what the Bush doctrine is. I think it was a "got ya" question by Charlie Gibson.

And nobody knows-Bush doctrine? Come on, four different ones?

KRAUTHAMMER: I got a piece in The Post tomorrow that will explain all four versions-

ANGLE: All right. We got to go. One thing is clear, everyone is talking about Sarah Palin in this election, and everyone else is having a hard time getting attention.

Two hot ads today as the two campaigns step up the race. We'll talk about that and all the latest in politics after a break.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was the world's biggest celebrity, but his star is fading. So they lashed out at Sarah Palin, dismissed her as "good- looking."

That backfired. So they said she was doing what she was told, then, desperately, called Sarah Palin a liar.

How disrespectful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1982--John McCain goes to Washington. Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn't. He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer. He can't send an e-mail. He still doesn't understand the economy.


ANGLE: Well, there you go. We have two ads. Now, you know, the campaign that has gotten a little rough at times, a little nicer at times. You had a one-day truce on 9/11 by the two candidates. That truce did not last until September the 12th.

So what do we make of these two ads?

KRAUTHAMMER: You look at these two ads and you compare it to what partisans of John Adams and Jefferson called each other--you know, "monarchist," "atheist," "traitor," and worse. And this is sweet. The guy doesn't understand computers, so he's old. OK, I understand that.

That's a little bit underhanded. It's a little ageism, but I can live with ageism. I'm probably a subject of it myself.

And McCain on defending Palin is exactly what I would do--the Democrats are deranged, rattled by her ascendency, have no idea how to respond. And I would stay on the subject, because as long as it's about her, it's going to hurt the Democrats.

ANGLE: What do you make of this?

WILLIAMS: I think you can see the themes. The broad themes are in the first case that John McCain is more of the same, more of the same with George W. Bush. And so what you see there is he's old and he's still sticking with Bush policies, and if you want to move to the future, vote Barack Obama.

On the second one, you see the idea of attacks on Palin being treated as if they are evidence of misogyny by the Obama campaign, which is an appeal by the McCain-Palin ticket to say to women "Come join us, people who will treat you respectfully and who value a woman who is a mother and a woman who has achieved a great deal in her life to become governor of the state of Alaska."

Those are big themes and it think you see them in both ads.


Fred, before I go to you, let's look at what Sarah Palin said to Charles Gibson about Hillary Clinton. She said "I think he's regretting not picking her now--I do. What determination and grit and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way. She handled those well."

BARNES: Very clever. Have you noticed that Hillary Clinton has not been out front saying, "Oh, that criticism of Sarah Palin isn't sexist"? She's not defending Obama on these ads.

And now, of course, the idea of she was going to campaign all fall for Obama. Now, in case you didn't know it, she has a lot of commitments. She has a busy schedule. She won't be able to do it all the time.

Obama said the other day, "Enough is enough." These trivialities, he's not going to allow them to go on. David Plump, his campaign manager, had a memo today in which he said "We're going to stick to the big issues."

So what do they do in an ad today? They attack John McCain for not e- mailing!

WILLIAMS: It's so shocking to me to hear these conservatives celebrating Hillary Clinton as they are these days. Isn't life in politics interesting?

Fred, if you want to send her a bouquet, don't let me stop you.

BARNES: I'm just analyzing what her political motives might be.

KRAUTHAMMER: We're being utterly objective.

WILLIAMS: I thought so.

KRAUTHAMMER: We are above the fray.

ANGLE: Clearly, clearly the McCain people think that they can cut into the people who supported Hillary, in part because they were offended to some extent by the way she was treated, and disappointed that she didn't get the nomination. And it looks like, if you look at the polls, it looks like a lot of those people are up for grabs.

WILLIAMS: They are up for grabs. And the largest, I think, sector are married, white, suburban women with children. And they haven't made up their minds. And it's their swing, by the way, that has constituted the largest change in terms of what we have seen this week with McCain pulling ahead of Obama in most of the polls.

KRAUTHAMMER: But she is also a celebrity in launch mode the way Obama was six months ago in which the Democrats have no way how to get a handle on him and how to attack him.

And that's why the Democrats are so frazzled. How do you go after a shooting star?

BARNES: Well, she also has some achievements and accomplishments that Obama doesn't have. She has taken on the oil industry, she has taken on the Republican establishment in Alaska, and so on. And so I think there's a little ballast that she has that he didn't.

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