Bartiromo Talks with Sarah Palin

Alaska's governor and John McCain's Vice-Presidential running mate spoke with Maria Bartiromo this week about energy, Hillary Clinton, and more
Steve Smith, a longtime Alaska fisherman, confers with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during a press conference with victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill at the National Press Club, Feb. 26, 2008, in Washington. Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Monday, I was in Alaska for an hour-long CNBC special on the oil business and had an exclusive interview with Governor Sarah Palin, selected Friday as Republican John McCain's Vice-Presidential running mate. I talked with her again on Wednesday as speculation began to swirl that she would be the surprise choice of McCain, whose nomination for the Presidency is scheduled to be formalized at the GOP Convention in St. Paul, Minn., beginning on Labor Day. Palin, 44, not only is governor but is the mother of five, including a newborn with Down syndrome. She is smart, feisty, articulate, and has an enormous command of the oil business in Alaska. At the end of our interview, she talked about what her role would be at the Republican Convention. Obviously, that has changed.


Despite all the talk of unity at the Democratic Convention, there still seems to be real residual anger among Hillary Clinton supporters. How do you think the GOP can attract women disenchanted with the Democrats?


And they should be disenchanted because, you know, I'm looking at Barack [Obama] and looking at the choice he made, and I think: "Geez, he should have chosen Hillary." But I'm glad he didn't. For the sake of the Republican agenda, I'm glad that he didn't. I think that perhaps this is an opportunity for the Republican Party to manifest its [convention] plank that says we respect equality, and gender is not an issue in someone's ability and their capabilities and their opportunities in America.

Let the GOP be the party, then, that can embrace that and manifest that. But you know, Hillary ran an awesome campaign. She made women proud. She doesn't represent what I would like to see in the White House, but as a woman looking at a woman candidate, I was proud that Hillary shattered some ceilings.

After eight years of a Republican in the White House, the economy is the top concern of voters across the country. Why should Americans trust the GOP to get this economy and the markets back on track?Because capitalism still works. The free marketplace and competition still work. I believe, though, we need to get more of the special interests and the undue influence out of the policy making that perhaps we've seen in the past. I say that based on my own experience here in the state of Alaska, where the oil industry had some corrupting influence on our lawmakers. And a few of our lawmakers are serving federal prison time right now for being bought with oil service company dollars and bribes. And it's been a great learning ground for me here to see what can happen when that undue influence is allowed to set policy and affect votes. It's unacceptable, it's atrocious, and on a federal level, we got to get that out of there, too.

Clearly the two candidates are very different on economic issues. If perhaps you were in the [McCain] Administration…what would your agenda be in terms of top economic priorities?Well, energy is so entwined with our economy and our security and our future that energy issues are going to be my top priority wherever I am.

How important is drilling in Alaska to ease the burden of high oil prices on Americans?Not only to ease the high prices of energy in America but also for national security reasons. Drilling in Alaska is going to be a matter of life and death. Up here in Alaska, we're bursting with billions of barrels of oil that are warehoused underground. We have to pump [this oil] and feed our hungry markets instead of relying on the foreign sources of energy.

Why have we been unable to do that?I think some in Congress have misconceptions about what ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] is all about and what Alaska is all about. When you talk about ANWR and the area that needs to be unlocked so that we can explore more and develop these billions of barrels of oil, it's a swath of land that's about 2,000 acres in size—and that's out of a 20 million-acre plain that has been set aside. So 2,000 acres, that's like a postage stamp on a football field. It's about the footprint-size of LAX [airport]. And I think a lot of people have assumed that it's some mountainous, green valley—an area so extremely pristine that wildlife would be adversely affected; land, water, air would be adversely affected if those 2,000 acres were allowed to be tapped. And that is not true. We have very, very stringent oversight up here in Alaska with our resource development. We would even ramp up that oversight to a greater degree if people would understand the importance of unlocking that swath of land and let the development begin.

Isn't the big concern that we're going to see an adverse impact on the caribou and other wildlife?Yeah, exactly. And we have a good track record up here in Alaska in proving that our developments will not adversely impact a wildlife species or population. Look at the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. For 30 years, billions of barrels of oil have been flowing through that infrastructure into domestic markets, and the caribou population has thrived. No one cares more about Alaska's wildlife and our lands and our water and our air than Alaskans ourselves. So when Alaska says: "We're ready, and we're willing, and we're able to develop, and we will make sure that wildlife is not adversely impacted," people have got to give us some credit here and respect our position on this. Again, we care more than anybody else about our home here.

Some people might say: "Look, even though opening up ANWR has been a symbolic issue for Republicans, the oil there may only have a marginal effect on reducing overseas dependence. Why is ANWR so important and how do we know that there's actually enough oil there to really make a difference?Because just that swath of land in that refuge alone is estimated to hold about 11 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. And those are just the areas that have been explored. That's about a year and a half worth of U.S. oil consumption and many months of natural gas. It's about a trillion dollars worth of energy. And that's—again—just that sliver of ANWR. So when we hear, "Well, maybe there isn't enough," or "Well, it's too late to drill now anyway, we should have done this five, 10 years ago," hey, I can't argue that. I say yeah, we should have done that years ago. But better to start that drilling today than wait and continue relying on foreign sources of energy. We are a nation at war and in many [ways] the reasons for war are fights over energy sources, which is nonsensical when you consider that domestically we have the supplies ready to go.

How can the Republicans convince the country that four years from now our dependence on foreign oil will have been radically diminished?Well, we have to prove that Alaska is ready, willing, and able to allow this opportunity for the lands to be unlocked by Congress, and also we have to protect Americans and protect Alaskans, who own the resources underground, from big-oil-industry interests that may have in the past taken advantage of a state like Alaska and been allowed to warehouse reserves. We've got a battle on two fronts—not only with an oil industry that is making mind-boggling, world-record profits…[but with a] Congress that has said no to unlocking Alaskan lands. So as soon as we can convince more Americans to put pressure on their congressmen, their congresswomen to allow the development and the mutually beneficial partnering with the oil industry…we'll become less dependent on foreign sources.

Your husband works up in the North Slope, correct?He does. He works for BP (BP) as an oil production operator up in the oil fields. It's a great blue-collar, hourly-paid, union job up there. It's one of those jobs that Alaskans really like to have because it provides so well for a family, and Alaskans are very blessed to have the opportunities to work in the oil patch.

So what does he say? He's on the ground, he's right on the front line. What does he say about more drilling and more jobs?He's very excited not only in his role as a father of five kids who are going to be needing jobs in Alaska but also as an Alaskan native. He and his family have lived here for generations, and they have such a connection with the lands and with the environment, and he wants to make sure that our environment, our lands, our wildlife are protected. That's just in his blood. But also, as Alaska's First Dude, he's very concerned, too, about our economy and about Alaska being able to finally be in a position to contribute more to the U.S. instead of taking from the federal government. Because in our 50 years as a state, we have been too reliant on the federal government to pay our bills. That's nonsense when you consider the wealth that we have in our natural resources. Let that land be unlocked, let that production begin, let Alaska contribute more to the U.S.

Middle-class Americans who pay their bills on time are seeing their credit-card rates jacked up, but the Democrats, like Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has long had deep ties to that industry, don't seem to be reacting to that issue. Do you see an opportunity there for Republicans?Yep. Here again, Republicans have got to be observant of what is going on in the Democratic Party, and if Republicans are going to finally reform our own party—and I am convinced we have to reform—we've got to not embrace the status quo and just be going along to get along. We have got to get out of the box, and we've got to start doing some really unconventional thinking here and grab hold of some of these issues that the Democrats are slacking off on. It's not only our responsibility to Americans, but it's our opportunity to show that this party is not going to be controlled by just special interests and the pork-barrel politics of the past, but we are going to reform and we are going to be serving for the right reasons.

The Republican Party has been beset by scandals during the Bush Administration—from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff to Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. And now Obama is not taking any campaign contributions from lobbyists. You came into office talking about clean government. How do Republicans match Obama on the anti-corruption issue?Oh, he's very smart not to take any money from lobbyists. You know, what we have to do is really walk the walk and not just talk the talk. In my administration, lobbyists don't come into my office. And we even joked around about saying lobbyists need to wear a big L on their lapel so that everybody knows who they are, so if they're sitting there in the gallery [of the legislature] as our lawmakers are taking votes, we know some of that influence may be sitting there in the background.

There needs to be awareness that lobbyists have great influence, sometimes not good influence, on votes and on policy making, and in order to walk the walk, what I have done is just make that personal choice to not engage with the lobbyists. If a firm or a community wants to talk to me about an issue, they need to figure out how to do that themselves. If a city comes to my office and they need a new high school built or they need a water plant repaired, their mayor, their city council, whomever, need to come talk to me. Convince me. Don't send a lobbyist. And again, going back to Obama, he's been smart in trying to prove that he will not be unduly influenced, but I also believe McCain, who has been such a maverick, recognizes that Americans are sick and tired of politics as usual and of the corruption and of the undue influence. And McCain is not going to put up with it, either.

What will your role be at the upcoming convention?I'm doing a pro-life speech. Four months ago, my fifth child was born with Down syndrome…so I value innocent life. It took many months for me to get my arms around the idea of, first, having a fifth child at my age, but also knowing that my child would have an extra chromosome. But I prayed the whole time, "God, just prepare me, prepare my heart and prepare my family." And talk about confirmation of that prayer, I mean, Trig is just—he is to me—absolutely perfect. And everybody's in love with him, and he's the sweetest little baby in the world.

Business Exchange related topics:Economy and the Election2008 ElectionUS Economy

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