U.S. Has Achieved 'Victory' in Iraq, Palin Tells Couric

"Exclusive": Katie Couric talks with Gov. Sarah Palin about her foreign policy experience and Alaska's proximity to Russia. Video by CBSNEWS.com
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 26, 2008

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, describing the need for more troops in Afghanistan, said the United States has achieved "victory" in Iraq.

It was an apparent misstep in Palin's third interview since agreeing to become Republican Sen. John McCain's running mate nearly one month ago. These encounters have garnered enormous interest because Palin has largely walled herself off from journalists amid growing criticism that a vice presidential nominee should be more accessible. In an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll this week, 57 percent of those surveyed agreed that "Sarah Palin does not have enough experience and understanding of foreign and military issues to be president."

Palin told CBS's Katie Couric that "a surge in Afghanistan also will lead us to victory there as it has proven to have done in Iraq," adding that "we cannot afford to retreat, to withdraw in Iraq."

Palin struggled at times and appeared less comfortable than in her earlier sit-down with ABC's Charles Gibson. When Couric asked why she cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of her foreign policy experience, Palin said: "It's funny that a comment like that was kinda made to . . . I don't know, you know . . . reporters -- "

"Mocked?" Couric asked.

"Mocked, yeah I guess that's the word, mocked."

Pressed on why her location enhanced her foreign policy experience, Palin said: "Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of." She added that when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin "rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska."

Asked whether her lack of a passport until last year indicated a lack of curiosity about the world, Palin said she was not one of those "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." She said she learned about the world through education and books.

The governor chided Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama for his expressed willingness to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling that "beyond naive" and "beyond bad judgment." But she had trouble defending an earlier statement that the United States should not "second-guess" Israel if it attacks Iran to protect itself.

At first Palin stuck by the comment, saying: "We cannot ever afford to send a message that we would allow a second Holocaust." Then she said that "we need to express our rights and our concerns." And then she returned to her no-second-guessing stance, adding: "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."

In New York, Palin fielded questions from reporters for the first time, ducking a query about whether she supports the reelection of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), whose corruption trial began this week.

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