Behind The Scenes With Sarah Palin

GOP Presidential nominee John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin speak to CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, September 29, 2008.
CBS
As they gear up for the one-and-only vice presidential debate on Thursday night in St. Louis, candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin spent part of today practicing - separately, of course. Before the debate preps, CBS News anchor Katie Couric spent some time with Alaska's Gov. Palin on the campaign trail. And in an exclusive interview, she spoke frankly about a number of controversial issues - including at least one disagreement with her running mate, Sen. John McCain.

The day began early, after being briefed by her staff, Sarah Palin heads out with her 14-year-old daughter Willow in tow.

"Nice to meet you," CBS News anchor Katie Couric said to Willow.

At 8 a.m., Palin hit the ground running - accompanied by Couric.

"Do you have any down-time, though?" Couric asked Palin.

"I get to go running every day, which is my sanity," Palin said. "Sweat is my sanity."

First, a photo-op with hotel staff.

Then it's off to the McCain campaign plane, where CBS News was invited up front to ask a handful of questions. Coruic asked Palin whether she considers herself a feminist.

"I do," Palin said. "I'm a feminist who believes in equal rights and I believe that women certainly today have every opportunity that a man has to succeed and to try to do it all anyway. And I'm very, very thankful that I've been brought up in a family where gender hasn't been an issue. You know, I've been expected to do everything growing up that the boys were doing. We were out chopping wood and you're out hunting and fishing and filling our freezer with good Alaskan wild game to feed our family. So it kinda started with that."

Before they headed to a rally in Columbus, Ohio, the candidates sat down with me for their first joint interview, where we focused on energy policy - including a familiar Republican catch-phrase about America's untapped oil supply: "Drill, baby, drill."

Couric: Gov. Palin, almost every expert says it will take about 10 years for domestic drilling to have an impact on consumers. So isn't the notion of "drill, baby, drill" a little misleading to people who think this will automatically lower their gas prices, and quickly?

Palin: And it's why we should have started 10 years ago tapping into do mestic supplies that America is so rich in. Alaska has billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas onshore and off-shore. Should have started doing it 10 years ago, but better late than never. It's gotta be an all-of-the-above approach to energy independence.

Couric: And we'll talk about alternative sources in a moment.

John McCain: Could I just mention one other thing about this? I disagree with the 10 year figure. I talked to the independent petroleum producers, who said, "look, we can do some of this in a matter of months. We can do a lot more of it in … a matter of just a short period of time. And it's …

Couric: Don't they have a vested interest in saying that, though, Senator?

McCain: Well, they have the capacity. And I don't think they're not telling the truth.

Couric: Gov. Palin, I know you'd like to see drilling take place in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And Sen. McCain, you oppose this. You call it, quote: "one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world."

McCain: Uh huh.

Couric: Who's right?

McCain: Did you expect two mavericks to agree on - (laughter) to agree on everything? Look, I …we just have, we'll be talking more and more about this issue. We do agree on the off-shore drilling and other means of limiting our dependence on foreign oil. But for us to agree on everything would make us, I think, a little boring. And we're anything - you can … say a lot about us, but we're anything but boring.

Palin has brought plenty of energy to the campaign, attracting huge, enthusiastic crowds, like one at Capital University.

She isn't afraid to take off the gloves.

"Our opponent likes to point the finger of blame, but when it comes to major reform, has he ever lifted a finger to help?" she said.

Or deliver a punchy sound bite about her rival, Joe Biden.

"I'm looking forward to meeting him, too. I've never met him before. But I've been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in, like, second grade," she said at a campaign rally.

Couric: You have a 72-year-old running mate - is that kind of a risky thing to say, insinuating that Joe Biden's been around a while?

Palin: Oh no, it's nothing negative at all. He's got a lot of experience and just stating the fact there, that we've been hearing his speeches for all these years. So he's got a tremendous amount of experience and, you know, I'm the new energy, the new face, the new ideas and he's got the experience based on many many years in the Senate. And voters are gonna have a choice there of what it is that they want in these next four years.

Couric: I know you're heading to Sedona to work on your debate. What is your coach advising you? I know everyone has debate coaches.

Palin: I don't have a debate coach.

Couric: What are your coaches telling you?

Palin: I have quite a few people who are giving us information about the record of Obama and Biden. And at the end of the day, though, it's so clear what those choices are. Either new ideas, new energy and reform of Washington, D.C., or more of the same.

Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world.?

Palin: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, "wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C. must be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?" Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America, full of hard-working, good American families facing the same challenges and having the same joys as everybody else. I'm one of those families, and hopefully that's reflected also in even the publications that I've chosen to read over all these years.

Then it's off to the bus where she sits down for a wide-ranging interview.

Couric: What's your position on global warming? Do you believe it's man-made or not?

Palin: Well, we're the only Arctic state, of course, Alaska. So we feel the impacts more than any other state, up there with the changes in climates. And certainly, it is apparent. We have erosion issues. And we have melting sea ice, of course. So what I've done up there is form a sub-cabinet to focus solely on climate change. Understanding that it is real. And …

Couric: Is it man-made in your opinion?

Palin: You know there are - there are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues that we're dealing with now, these impacts. I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on the changes in climate. Because the world's weather patterns are … cyclical. And over history we have seen change there. But kind of doesn't matter at this pint, as we debate what caused it. The point is the real need to do something about it.

Couric: So you do believe that man is contributing to global warming, because you just said they're causing pollution, of course, pollution causes global warming.

Palin: I believe there are a lot of causes. And there is one effect. And if one is changes in climate, and there are things that we can do to make sure we're cleaning up the environment, there are a lot of things that I've done there in the arena of environmental protection that we have kind of ticked off some in my own party thinking that I went too far. But I've always been of the mind that, you know, we've gotta prove we can do this right.CBS News also talked to her about her position on a number of social issues.

Couric: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, do you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion, and why?

Palin: I am pro-life. And I'm unapologetic in my position that I am pro-life. And I understand there are good people on both sides of the abortion debate. In fact, good people in my own family have differing views on abortion, and when it should be allowe. Do I respect people's opinions on this. Now, I would counsel to choose life. I would also like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to take it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country, but I want, then, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for them to be supported, and adoptions made easier.

Couric: But ideally, you think it should be illegal …

PalinIf you …

Couric: …for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And if you're asking, though … foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.

Couric: Some people have credited the morning-after pill as decreasing the number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning-after pill.

Palin: Well, I am all for contraception. And I am all for preventative measures that are legal and save - and should be taken, but Katie, again, I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I would like to see …

Couric: And so you don't believe in the morning-after pill?

Palin: I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And again, I haven't spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.

Couric: I'm sorry, I just have to ask you again. Do you not support or do you condone or condemn the morning-after pill.

Palin: Personally, and this isn't McCain-Palin policy …

Couric: Asking you.

Palin: But personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception.

Couric: Do you believe evolution should be taught as an accepted scientific principle or as one of several theories?

Palin: Oh, I think it should be taught as an accepted principle. And, as you know, I say that also as the daughter of a school teacher, a science teacher who has really instilled in me a respect for science, it should be taught in our schools. And I won't deny that I see the hand of God in this beautiful creation that is the Earth, especially coming from one of the most beautiful states in the union and traveling around the country also in the last month. I see the hand of God in that. But that is not part of the state policy or a local curriculum in a school district. Science should be taught it science class.

Couric: Should creationism be allowed to be taught anywhere in public schools?

Palin: I don't have a problem with all kids debating all sides of ideas that they ever - kids do it today, whether it's on paper curriculum or not. Curriculums are also best left to the local school districts instead of big brother, federal government, telling a school district what they can and cannot teach.

Couric also asked her about the Wasilla bible church, which she has attended, sponsoring a conference that claimed to be able to convert gays into heterosexuality through prayer. She pointed out that the conference, which has been widely reported on, was only promoted through a church bulletin.blockquote>Palin: Well, it matters though, Katie, when the media gets it wrong., it frustrates Americans who are just trying to get the facts and … be able to make up their mind on, about a person's values. So it does matter.

But what you're talking about, I think, value here, what my position is on homosexuality and you can pray it away, because I think that was the title that was listed on that bulletin. And you know, I don't know what prayers are worthy of being prayed. I don't know what's prayers are going to be asked and answered. But as for homosexuality, I am not going to judge Americans and the decisions that they make in their adult personal relationships. I have one of my absolute best friends for the last 30 years happens to be gay. And I love her dearly. And she is not my "gay friend." She is one of my best friends who happens to have made a choice that isn't a choice I would have made. But I am not going to judge people. And I love America, where we are more tolerant than other countries are. And are more accepting of some of those choices that sometimes people want to believe reflects solely on an individuals values or not. Homosexuality, I am not going to judge people.Despite the open door policy Palin had with us, her campaign has been criticized for not making her being more accessible to reporters - a claim she flatly rejects.Couric: Have you been pushing the campaign to short of "Free Sarah Palin?"

Palin: The campaign knows that I am an open book. I mean, obviously is out there for God and everyone to judge - my voting record, actions that I've taken as an administrator, as an executive, as a business-owner, as a mom. My record is out there and my life is out there.