Former Alaska governor and Going Rogue author Sarah Palin talked to NRO this afternoon in a wide-ranging and frank interview.
She thinks President Obama’s bow to the emperor of Japan reflects an attitude that America should be “subservient to other countries”; characterizes Newt Gingrich’s thinking on NY-23 as reflective of a “political machine”; thinks that South Carolina voters should consider sending Sen. Lindsey Graham a message by supporting a conservative primary challenger; calls the media’s treatment of Carrie Prejean “unfair”; and says she would give John McCain “the benefit of the doubt” in their dispute over whether she was charged with fees for her vetting. And oh, yeah — her anonymous critics don’t have “guts,” and she’s not a David Brooks fan.
“That was a mistake,” Palin says of the Obama bow. “It was symbolic of, perhaps, our country being led to believe that we are subservient to other countries.” She says she would “like to see us head more in the direction of Ronald Reagan’s thinking — knowing that we are a very, very blessed nation and a superpower.” She adds, “We can get there through a position of strength and not believing that we have to kowtow or bow to anybody.” Asked if she would have bowed, she replies, “No, sir.”
Palin famously intervened in the NY-23 congressional race, endorsing Doug Hoffman. Newt Gingrich went the other way. Gingrich’s take on the race “was reflective of the way that some within either political machine, Democrat or Republican, operate,” Palin maintains. “There is, however, a desire for change in our country to move away from that kind of machinery within a party.”
She continues, “A lot of Americans are moving toward more independent but commonsense conservatism. We’re not necessarily going to just go along to get along with what the party machine says is best for our districts. That was made evident by how well Doug Hoffman did. I consider it a huge success of his — coming out of virtually nowhere, underfunded, and then impacting that race. You’re going to see a whole lot of that across the country.”
How about in South Carolina, where McCain buddy Lindsey Graham has angered conservatives with his various apostasies? “What I love about the Republican party is how we invite — or at least we should be inviting — healthy competition in our primaries,” says Palin. “It makes every candidate more candid, more truthful, and really wear their positions and their values on their sleeve.”
“As for Lindsey, individually, I really like him,” she says. “His constituents may want to send him a message to say ‘shore it up’ and come back to some more commonsense, conservative ideals.”
She suggests, meanwhile, that there might be encouraging news coming Marco Rubio’s way. She says she’s had a chance to look at the Crist-Rubio race “just on the surface.” But she adds, “I’m just being asked about it really in the last week or two, so I’ll dig more into it. I’ll find out what the guys are holding in terms of positions and see where maybe I can help.”
On 2010 in general, “I would like to help whoever is bold enough and has a stiff enough spine to make the right decisions,” she says. “I’d be happy to help on a district and state level, and a local level, too. Change starts on the local level — that’s imperative. And I will help anybody who asks me.”
Palin is firmly on the side of Carrie Prejean, the former Miss California who infuriated the Left by saying she opposed gay marriage, and has been embroiled in a sex-tape controversy during her book tour. “I think she’s had unfair treatment,” says Palin. “I think had she not spoken her mind and heart on stage in that pageant — where she spoke candidly and truthfully — then she would not have been clobbered by the press.”
“The double standard applied to Carrie is atrocious. It’s also quite indicative of the state of the mainstream media today, which I’m not impressed with.”
John McCain has disputed Palin’s account that she got stuck with the legal bill for her vetting, maintaining the bill was for expenses related to Troopergate. “I don’t know what his statements are,” she says, “but I know that there is a bill sitting there for the vetting and for many things that the campaign asked my personal attorney to produce, as a work product, for them.”
“I know that I’ve been stuck with the bill,” Palin continues. “That’s what the truth is.”
Asked if there might be innocent confusion between Palin and McCain over what were vetting and Troopergate expenses, she says, “We will assume that there is just some confusion there, but I know that my attorney was told that, had Senator McCain and I won the election, then that vetting bill would have been paid. Since we did not win, it is now said to be my personal responsibility to pay.”
She’s not a fan of the anonymity that her critics from within the McCain campaign almost always hide behind. What does she think of that anonymity? “I don’t think much of it,” says Palin. “It’s kind of like the criticism from anonymous bloggers, which I totally ignore. If they don’t have the guts to put their name on it, then it’s not worth much to me.”
New York Times columnist David Brooks has hardly been an anonymous critic. “Whatever,” laughs Palin about Brooks’s dismissal of her over the weekend as a “joke.” “I wish that guy would go back and look at my record and see my accomplishments and the commonsense, conservative principles that I applied as a city council member, a mayor, as a governor, as an oil regulator, etc. We had a lot of success and progress. I wish that he would judge me on that.” His comment, she adds, “is just one of those political shots where I just have to let that dart bounce right off and move on. If I’m worried about what he and everybody else said about me, then I’d be hunkered down in Alaska, hiding out.”
She’s become used to this kind of attack: “If the elites and the mainstream media are uncomfortable with average, everyday Americans having a voice, then of course they’re going to attack the one who happens to have the megaphone.” She stipulates, “I’m going to have to prove myself to some people — if they have an open mind — by actions and not just words.”
It wouldn’t be a Palin interview without asking about “death panels.” How did she come up with the phrase? “To me, while reading that section of the bill, it became so evident that there would be a panel of bureaucrats who would decide on levels of health care, decide on those who are worthy or not worthy of receiving some government-controlled coverage,” she explains. “Since health care would have to be rationed if it were promised to everyone, it would therefore lead to harm for many individuals not able to receive the government care. That leads, of course, to death.”
“The term I used to describe the panel making these decisions should not be taken literally,” says Palin. The phrase is “a lot like when President Reagan used to refer to the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire.’ He got his point across. He got people thinking and researching what he was talking about. It was quite effective. Same thing with the ‘death panels.’ I would characterize them like that again, in a heartbeat.”
Here are some other issues that came up. On medical marijuana, which has been in the news recently: She says she does not support its full legalization, but “I’m not going to get in the way of a doctor prescribing something that he or she believes will help a cancer patient.”
On Meghan McCain: “She was very nice to my daughters,” says Palin. “I appreciate that and respect that. I was pleased with the relationship that we had with Meghan.”
On Facebook, which she has made such a powerful means of political communication: “Having a virtual office, and just working from my kitchen table, kind of forced me in that direction,” says Palin. “It’s become such an important tool in political discourse and discussion.”
“Heaven forbid” her kids get on it, though. She says, “I forbid them from getting on Facebook for now. There’s just too much negativity out there, unfortunately.”
With that, she jumped off for her next interview. She says she’s enjoying herself — but can’t wait to get out on the road.
– Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. Robert Costa is the William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.