The Magazine

Rising Stars of the GOP

A surprisingly upbeat group at the governors' conference.

Nov 24, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 10 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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After the speech, I chatted with her for a few minutes in a side meeting room. She offered me a chair and then a soda before we got started. As she twisted the cap off her Diet Coke, she apologized for being late--even though she wasn't--and said she just didn't feel like she could have run out of the room right after giving her speech without talking to some of the "folks" in attendance. On the table in front of her she had several business cards and a CD that she'd collected.

I started by asking her about the question of the day--whether the federal government should bail out the Big Three automakers. She'd gotten the same question one day earlier from Wolf Blitzer and her meandering response to him was so vague that it suggested she knew very little about the issue. She noted that she was "listening closely to the debate" and that "there is a lot of information that even you and I certainly aren't privy to." If it had come two weeks earlier, it almost certainly would have spawned a new round of attacks from her critics.

I was interested to see if she'd studied up on the issue in the 24 hours since she was first asked about it, so I put the same question to her. She said she was:

not real enthused about looking at this next package if this entails additional dollars--beyond the $700 billion--and if it at all would suggest in this new proposal that these would be grants, not loans. And because Paulson just came out yesterday and again this morning kind of shifting gears on Americans in terms of what had just been proposed in the first bailout, it kind of lends some distrust to the solution here that's being proposed. So we all need more information on what exactly is it this time--the second bailout package that would evidently be very beneficial for manufacturing, for the auto industry. If that's important we have to consider it. But no more surprises. I think the surprises make the electorate distrust elected officials and their ability to appoint people who are to be looking out for the public's interest.

Better.

Sources close to Palin say she will continue to study national issues--including foreign policy and national security--so that she will be in a better position to talk about them in the future. Palin said she is open to campaigning for Republicans during the next election cycle, but noted that her other responsibilities will require her to be selective.

"My family and my job in Alaska certainly come first," she said.

And keep in mind, too, that I've never been an obsessive partisan, believing that just because you have an "R" by your name that you're going to be the best candidate. .  .  . It would have to be someone I truly believed in and could recognize their ability to usher in those things that I think are so important to help lead this nation and perhaps help them lead their state.

Can you think of a Democrat you'd be willing to campaign for?

Well, in Alaska, I've appointed Democrats to positions where they're helping lead the state and they're doing their job. I like to try to help them see the light and to help them understand why the Republican planks in our platform I believe are best for governing. At this point, no, I can't think of anyone.

She pauses to think. "No."

In her speech, Palin went out of her way to praise George W. Bush for keeping the country safe for the past seven years. And yet, days earlier, she pointed to Bush administration incompetence as one of the reasons the McCain-Palin ticket lost on November 4. Much of the rhetoric at the RGA meeting echoed that view. In private conversations with Republicans here, many of them pointed to Bush as the reason the party finds itself so unpopular with voters.

With polls showing Bush's approval rating at a record low, I asked Palin how she would respond to a pollster who wanted to know whether she approved of the job Bush is doing as president.

"I would say there are some of the shots that he has called that I agree with, and there are areas where I disagree with him," Palin responded.

And that's just a general comment--I could give it with anybody and everybody. But what is foremost the president's responsibility? To defend our country, protect the homeland. And he has succeeded there. And that's why doing a shout-out to him even here--we do, in the political arena go to great lengths to avoid stating the obvious. The obvious is, he has succeeded there. We have not been attacked again. That has been where his concentration has been and for that I do thank him.