Here’s the transcript of Part II of Katie Couric’s interview with Governor Sarah Palin (see here). Here are some of my reactions:
1. Couric: In preparing for this conversation, a lot of our viewers … and Internet users wanted to know why you did not get a passport until last year. And they wondered if that indicated a lack of interest and curiosity in the world.
Palin: I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world. No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture. The way that I have understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective on the world.
My comments: This was probably the best part of the interview. She was certainly the most articulate in this part. It pretty much went downhill from there! I love it when she plays the anti-elitism card! Not everyone has the time or the money to travel overseas. It has little to do with a lack of curiosity. I only went overseas once (to Israel), and that was when someone else paid for it.
At the same time, going overseas gave me a perspective that I otherwise would not have had. I got to meet Palestinians and Israelis. I actually saw the poverty of certain Arab areas. I heard different points of view about Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians. Sure, a person can learn more by reading, but travelling put a human face on what I saw on the news and read in the newspaper.
2. Couric: Gov. Palin, you’ve had a very busy week. And you’re meeting with many world leaders. You met with President Karzai of Afghanistan. I know the McCain campaign has called for a surge in Afghanistan. But that country is, as you know, dramatically different than Iraq. Why do you believe additional troops, U.S. troops, will solve the problem there?
Palin: Because we can’t afford to lose in Afghanistan, as we cannot afford to lose in Iraq, either, these central fronts on the war on terror. And I asked President Karzai, “Is that what you are seeking, also? That strategy that has worked in Iraq that John McCain had pushed for, more troops? A counterinsurgency strategy?” And he said, “yes.” And he also showed great appreciation for what America and American troops are providing in his country.
My comments: This is actually a pretty decent answer. Sure, Afghanistan is different from Iraq, but I think the President of Afghanistan knows a little more than Katie Couric does about his own country. And he said a surge would work there. So there, Katie!
3. Couric: The United States is deeply unpopular in Pakistan. Do you think the Pakistani government is protecting al Qaeda within its borders?
Palin: I don’t believe that new President Zardari has that mission at all. But no, the Pakistani people also, they want freedom. They want democratic values to be allowed in their country, also. They understand the dangers of terrorists having a stronghold in regions of their country, also. And I believe that they, too, want to rid not only their country, but the world, of violent Islamic terrorists.
My comments: This is kind of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” sort of situation. Personally, I wonder why Pakistan isn’t going after Al-Qaeda itself. We shouldn’t have to cross into Pakistan and get shot at by Pakistanis: Pakistan herself should go to Al-Qaeda’s haven and take it out. But Palin would make the front page if she said that, and it wouldn’t be pretty. The media would say she alienated an ally. You just can’t win!
I’m glad that the President of Pakistan thinks Sarah Palin is gorgeous. I do too! Maybe that will make him receptive to what she has to say. But I hope she doesn’t just take the word of every leader she encounters. She should ask them tough questions.
4. Couric: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?
Sarah Palin: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It’s funny that a comment like that was kinda made to … I don’t know, you know … reporters.
Palin: Yeah, mocked, I guess that’s the word, yeah.
Couric: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.
Palin: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…
Couric: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?
Palin: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.
My comments: I can kind of understand what Sarah Palin is saying. It’s like I was saying above about travelling to foreign countries: there’s something special about being there. And Sarah Palin feels that her state’s proximity to and interaction with Russia gives her some level of knowledge about the country. It would be like me going to school with George W. Bush. (Actually, I think my mom said her family lived near the Gores in Tennessee). But has Putin ever come into the air space of the United States of America? Apparently, something happened in March, according to the Anchorage Daily News:
“Russia’s resurgent military is again making sporadic, unannounced bomber runs toward Alaska’s airspace, leading the Air Force to scramble jets to intercept and identify them, according to the commander of the Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Howie Chandler” (see here).
Looks like Alaska can experience some pretty serious action!
5. Couric: When President Bush ran for office, he opposed nation-building. But he has spent, as you know, much of his presidency promoting democracy around the world. What lessons have you learned from Iraq? And how specifically will you try to spread democracy throughout the world?
Palin: Specifically, we will make every effort possible to help spread democracy for those who desire freedom, independence, tolerance, respect for equality. That is the whole goal here in fighting terrorism also. It’s not just to keep the people safe, but to be able to usher in democratic values and ideals around this, around the world.
My comments: She didn’t really answer the question here, but CBS News’ video showed a little bit more of this part (see here). Palin said that the U.S. shouldn’t just go at it alone but should build coalitions with other countries. Perhaps. Bush actually tried to do that, but France didn’t back us up. Maybe we need a President who can be more persuasive.
Katie then asked about situations in which democracy does not work, citing the example of the Palestinians voting for Hamas. Palin appeared a bit stumped by this question, and then rambled something that I can’t remember right now. But Katie’s question was good. We like to talk about democracy, but what if a radical fundamentalist Muslim is elected to head one of these Middle Eastern countries? Will we accept the outcome of that election, even if he proceeds to undermine freedom?
6. Couric: You met yesterday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is for direct diplomacy with both Iran and Syria. Do you believe the U.S. should negotiate with leaders like President Assad and Ahmadinejad?
Palin: I think, with Ahmadinejad, personally, he is not one to negotiate with. You can’t just sit down with him with no preconditions being met. Barack Obama is so off-base in his proclamation that he would meet with some of these leaders around our world who would seek to destroy America and that, and without preconditions being met. That’s beyond naïve. And it’s beyond bad judgment.
Couric: Are you saying Henry Kissinger …
Palin: It’s dangerous.
Couric: … is naïve for supporting that?
Palin: I’ve never heard Henry Kissinger say, “Yeah, I’ll meet with these leaders without preconditions being met.” Diplomacy is about doing a lot of background work first and shoring up allies and positions and figuring out what sanctions perhaps could be implemented if things weren’t gonna go right. That’s part of diplomacy.
My comments: Katie said at the end of the newscast that Kissinger believes in meeting with Iran without preconditions. And, as can be expected, critics are toasting Palin like she’s the town dunce.
Personally, I’m not sure what a “precondition” is. Do we have to require Iran to dismantle its nuclear program before we meet with it? Is that the precondition under discussion?
As far as Kissinger goes, he does support talks with Iran without preconditions, but he’s also for following some of what Palin defines as “diplomacy.” Here’s what he told CNN on December 14, 2006 (see here):
“I’m in favor–first of all, the problem of Syria and Iran are two separate problems. Syria is primarily concerned with Lebanon and Palestine. The Syrian contribution in Iraq, one way or the other, is essentially marginal. Iran represents a sort of an ideological religious wave that has a major role in Iraq. I have favored negotiations with Iran. But I do not think focusing it on Iraq is the happiest way to do it, because that’s the region where they may think–and I actually think exaggeratedly–that they hold all the cards and that they’re doing us a favor. We need to talk to them about the nuclear problem. We need to talk to them about their role in the region and about the need to avoid what would head into a confrontation if present trends continue. That would be an important subject for a conversation with Iran. But not when they–when they feel so arrogant and self-confident. Then to focus it on Iraq is not the happiest subject.”
And here’s a quote from Kissinger in a March 2008 story (see here):
“It’s not really the willingness to talk, it’s so far the inability to define what we are trying to accomplish…The negotiations depend on a balance of incentives and penalties. Have we got those right at every point? Not at every point.”
And so Kissinger supports a thoughtful, informed diplomacy that takes into consideration where Iran is in its attitude, along with possible incentives and penalties. That’s pretty much what Sarah Palin defined as his position.
But what she should have said was, “Kissinger? You mean Mr. Detente, who wanted America to be second place to the Soviet Union? His ideas were discredited when Reagan came along!”
7. Couric: You recently said three times that you would never, quote, “second guess” Israel if that country decided to attack Iran. Why not?
Palin: We shouldn’t second guess Israel’s security efforts because we cannot ever afford to send a message that we would allow a second Holocaust, for one. Israel has got to have the opportunity and the ability to protect itself. They are our closest ally in the Mideast. We need them. They need us. And we shouldn’t second guess their efforts.
Couric: You don’t think the United States is within its rights to express its position to Israel? And if that means second-guessing or discussing an option? Palin: No, abso … we need to express our rights and our concerns and …
Couric: But you said never second guess them.
Palin: We don’t have to second-guess what their efforts would be if they believe … that it is in their country and their allies, including us, all of our best interests to fight against a regime, especially Iran, who would seek to wipe them off the face of the earth. It is obvious to me who the good guys are in this one and who the bad guys are. The bad guys are the ones who say Israel is a stinking corpse and should be wiped off the face of the earth. That’s not a good guy who is saying that. Now, one who would seek to protect the good guys in this, the leaders of Israel and her friends, her allies, including the United States, in my world, those are the good guys.
My comments: I’m not sure what Palin means by “second-guess.” She should have just said that Israel has a right to defend itself, as it did in the 1980’s when it bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor.
Some ridicule her for saying “good guys” and “bad guys.” Perhaps that’s a little unsophisticated, but some may argue that it’s good to recognize clear bad guys. It would have been nice had Neville Chamberlain done so in the 1930’s!
Supposedly, there’s more of the interview to come, so I’ll keep you all posted!
As you suggest, you cannot learn about how people think and live overseas unless you go there – books will only give you another perspective.
However I find it odd that you think it elitist to travel. In Commonwealth countries at least, there is a culture of OE (overseas experience), generally considered as part of growing up. Most indulge in it and I don’t know any who have passports and backpack handed to them by parents. People generally work for it themselves.
I haven’t an elitist background. Youngest of six with a single working mother, second hand clothes and no TV or family car. Just an ordinary upbringing. Paid my own way through university (got a scholarship the second time), and paid my own rent for a flat and worked part time cleaning, picking apples, waiting tables – all sorts. The final holiday I saved like mad and got a ticket to Australia having applied for a passport (2 actually because I got a UK one too) And that was the beginning. I worked my way around there for the next fare to England. Stayed in backpackers and camping cabins all over. I travelled alone so I was too scared to go some places like the Middle East and America and as I didn’t have ambitions to be deputy Prime Minister…
This is a typical Antipodean and even European experience. I started off with no money (and still have none!) People who have no desire to travel and explore the world and other peoples, are considered quite dull here.
I had one overseas university student several years ago tell me that he (and many of his friends) really could not understand why Americans would even want to go to Europe or anywhere else, as the Americas are so big and the states and countries so diverse, it would take a lifetime just to see those. I HAVE traveled overseas, a couple of times, as an adult, but to do the “European experience” here is historically an “elite” experience (it became VERY popular with the upper class after the first World War) and out of reach for many in the lower/middle class. I do not think it is “elitist” anymore, but neither do I think it is absolutely necessary for a rounded (and interesting) personality. With 50 states, Central and South America (many students over here go to various countries in South America for the Spanish experience, as it really is our second language)and the proximity of these, for many, it is more feasible to stay on this side of the Atlantic. The desire is there to travel–but the opportunities are limited for many. Different priorities, different cultural perspectives, I suppose…(-: Janice