This week (Thursday September 25, 2008), CBS News anchor Katie Couric met with Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin at the United Nations for Part II of her interview. Much of the discussion focused on foreign policy, which some say could be Palin’s weakness.
Once again, I could answer these questions better than Palin. What follows is Part II of an exclusive interview with Gov. Palin and my responses to Katie’s questions just to prove the point that I could answer these more intelligently than a person who stands second in line to the Oval Office.
Katie Couric: As we stand before this august building and institution, what do you see as the role of the United States in the world?
Sarah Palin: I see the United States as being a force for good in the world. And as Ronald Reagan used to talk about, America being the beacon of light and hope for those who are seeking democratic values and tolerance and freedom. I see our country being able to represent those things that can be looked to … as that leadership, that light needed across the world.
Spring: The United States needs to get back to a role of being a world leader instead of a world bully. We are the most generous nation in the world, coming to the aid with not only federal funding for disasters, but our American community pulls money out of their own pockets to aid those in need. We cannot continue that philanthropic kindness when we have so many problems here at home affecting middle class Americans, our education system, our investment system and our infrastructure that’s falling apart. All while we’re trying to force other countries to live by our will and threatening them with weapons when they don’t. We have to get back to being the people known for negotiations and working through issues as intelligent well thought out people, instead of the big kid on the block with the biggest stick.
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.
Spring: Frankly I don’t have a passport. Not because I’m not interested in the world, but because I’ve never been able to afford the travel over seas. In today’s world, one can make up for some of that by research and education. You can turn on the Discovery, The Learning Channel or the Travel Channel and learn about other places and people. That doesn’t diminish the desire to travel. There are a lot of places I’d love to go to. And I’m still young enough to hope that I can do that before I’m not able.
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.
Spring: Republicans are good at talking about the war on terror, but they diverted our attention from that mission when they pushed to invade Iraq. We need to work with the Iraqi’s to pull our troops out of their country and move them back to Afghanistan where the real war front is and should be. We need to finish the job we started and I think the American people want us to do that. To put our focus back where it should be.
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.
Spring: I think there are so many factions in Pakistan that it’s hard to tell who is fighting for the government and whose supporting the terrorists. Over the last 8 years we have damaged our reputation in a great many places. Why should these people like us? The only way we can bring about real change in the world is to repair our relationships, to respect other cultures and their way of living and to discuss our concerns. You can’t make an enemy do what you want, but you can talk to a friend about changes for human rights, and fighting a common enemy. The Pakistani government says they’re not supporting al-Qaeda and we have to take them at their word unless they’re proven different. And I don’t mean proven like the ‘proof’ of Iraq holding WMDs.
Couric: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?
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.
Spring: Every Governor in this country has foreign policy experience. Every state develops and nurtures trade negotiations, the transportation of imports and exports, and even immigration. We all face international issues within our state borders, for the people and visitors of our states. How is this different than the experience gained by President Reagan and Clinton?
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…
Spring: In addition those states that are on the national borders, such as Alaska, Washington, New York, New Mexico, Texas and so on all have additional connections to our neighbors. We deal with border crossings, work with the Federal Border Patrol and have a large population of immigrants that perhaps some other states don’t have. That’s not to say that other states don’t also have these concerns. But it does put an added pressure on border state resources and funds. And as Governor we have to manage those issues with the consideration of national security in mind. Once again that means we need to discuss concerns and issues with our international neighbors.
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.
Spring: Of course, Alaska is the closest state to Russia. We have trade exchanges, port and transportation issues. We share some of the same issues with climate and shipping regulations on an international scale. So we have many things in common that help to develop a relationship between our two communities.
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.
Spring: Well first I think there’s a difference between promoting democracy and nation-building. The way to promote any idea is to live it by example. In the last 8 years we have seen a decline in our own democracy with attacks on our Civil Rights and Liberties, and our Constitution. We need to clean up our own house while we go out and talk to others about the benefits of democracy. In addition, you can’t force your way of life onto other countries. You can’t even try to convince them these are good ideas when you don’t respect their culture and history. We can’t go to Saudi Arabia for instance and demand they begin holding elections and giving freedoms to women right NOW, just because they have to and it’s the right thing to do. It takes time to change the views and opinions of others. I’d like for us to work on human rights issues at the top of the list and slowly work toward convincing changes to a democratic society for these countries.
What changes a government isn’t other governments. It’s the people of that nation that cause their own government to change. As an example, education and rights for women in the Middle East will have an impact on their society, culture and eventually their government.
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.
Spring: Yes. But keep in mind that even Henry Kissinger would say that to meet with these leaders we need to have preparations to those executive meetings. Kissinger himself and his staff spent a great deal of time in negotiations with China before President Nixon’s visit. There’s a big difference between preconditions and preparations.
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.
Spring: (Then I suggest Palin do her research and read the transcript from CNN’s The Next President: A World of Challenges when Kissenger said: “I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East,..”)
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.
Spring: The United States has the right to second-guess anyone at any time. We can disagree with our friends over a varying array of policies and positions. It’s a lot easier to influence your friends, than it is to dictate to your enemies. The United States needs to stand on the right side of Human Rights regardless of who is threatening those rights. Even if that concern and protest is with our good friends in Israel.