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My Interview with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

Friday, 1 Aug 2008 | 2:16 PM ET

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has exactly the high energy, political toughness, and conservative reform message that would boost Sen. John McCain’s presidential run if Big Mac were to put her on the ticket. In an interview last evening on CNBC, Palin was very clear on her drill, drill, drill message for Alaska and the rest of the U.S., along with her strong supply-side tax-cutting and free-market economic views. She did not shirk from questions about an investigation of her firing the state’s safety commissioner. She told us she has nothing to hide — let them bring it on.

Palin is dealing with Alaska’s culture of corruption by supporting all manner of reform and investigation. She basically dissed Ted Stevens, calling him a distraction. She then talked about cleansing the Republican party of all the pork-barrel corruption that cost it the congressional election of November 2006.

Palin’s response to all the vice-presidential talk is fascinating. It was a point of view I have never heard before and it underscored her independence. I have interviewed all the veep prospects, and I still have Gov. Palin at the top of my list.

I hope readers will enjoy this interview:

Kudlow: All right, now we’re pleased to welcome back to the program the much talked about rising Republican star Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. Welcome back Governor.

Palin: Thank you so much Larry.

Kudlow: Here’s the bad news. The Congress is going to take their summer recess without a vote — not even a vote — on rolling back the moratorium on drilling onshore and offshore. Not even a vote. Nothing on ANWR. Nothing on shale. Nothing on the Outer Continental Shelf. What’s your reaction to this?

Palin: Well with all due respect to Congress, it’s pretty pathetic, that action they’ve taken. I appreciate the President’s call to lift the moratorium. I appreciate the President’s call to drill in ANWR, to do all those things for American production opportunities. Very, very disappointed in Congress though.

Kudlow: You know we talked about a month ago, or last time you were on the program, you told me you were going to persuade Senator McCain to drill in ANWR. Now actually, McCain’s come a long way on drilling Outer Continental Shelf. Have you yet talked him into ANWR?

Palin: I have not talked him into ANWR yet. But yeah, aren’t you appreciative though that his mind has evolved into being open enough to say yes to that offshore? Obama certainly hasn’t gone there. So, you know, for me it’s all the more reason to support the Republican ticket heading into the next era in American economy here. We certainly need this. We need it for American security, for energy independence. All those things we talked about last time. I think we need McCain in that White House despite, still, the close-mindedness on ANWR. I think he’s going to get there though.

Kudlow: All right, well we need you to persuade him. Now you’re fighting a battle in the state. You want to get a new natural gas pipeline, as I understand it. You’ve got to get it through your state legislature. You’re going to run that up from the North Slope down through Canada and eventually to the lower forty-eight. What’s the state of play on that? Are you winning or losing on your new gas pipeline?

Palin: We’re winning and I’m glad that you asked that question. It’s so timely because it could be today that our lawmakers vote yay or nay on the TransCanada pipeline, natural gas pipeline being built 1,700 miles. This is North America’s largest, most expensive, private sector infrastructure project in our history. It’s $30 to $40 billion dollars to deal with the energy crisis—get this safe, stable, clean domestic supply of energy and natural gas flowing from our rich reserves up in Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope of Alaska, into the hungry markets in the Midwest especially.

Kudlow: Now you’re fighting with the legislature. You may get a vote this evening. Have you gone out and done a poll? Have you talked to the polar bears, and the caribou, and the large black flies? Are you sure? I want everyone on board here.

Palin: Well we do want everyone on board there. And as for the wildlife, you know, they’re doing just fine under the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline of course that has been up and running for thirty years in Alaska. So we think that even they will be on our side also, as we build this next economic lifeline for Alaska and for the rest of the U.S.

Kudlow: All right, let me go to some tougher issues up in Alaska, the so-called culture of corruption, this energy services company Veco, buying favors for state and federal contracts. I guess people linked to Veco, a couple of state legislators have been convicted, a couple more investigations, a couple more being indicted, and Senator Ted Stevens has now been caught in that loop. What can you tell us about Senator Stevens? Have you spoken to him since his seven criminal charges?

Palin: No, I haven’t spoken to him yet. And you know, it was very dismaying. It was like an earthquake that hit up here in Alaska the other day with that indictment. Very sad. Hopefully though, this won’t be a distraction and get people’s minds off what has to be done in the grand scheme of things here. And it’s like what you’re talking about all the time Larry, it is energy independence that is needed for this country. And we need folks in Congress, in the Senate, who understand that we do have to drill, that we have to unlock the lands here in Alaska, and allow, through competition, entities competing for the right to tap these resources and flow energy sources into hungry markets.

So hopefully, the Ted Stevens issues won’t be a distraction. But yeah, lots and lots of damage has been done by this oil industry service company, Veco. You know we have some local lawmakers who are serving prison time right now for their undue influence, their corruption, their bribery that was involved in this oil services company. Now Ted Stevens, as you mentioned, is embroiled in this also. Not good for Alaska. But hopefully…

Kudlow: Well what about the Republican Party in general? I mean, it seems to me the GOP has just got to cleanse itself of all the pork barrel corruption, lobbying, cash-for-favors that cost them the Congress back in November 2006. And for better or worse, Mr. Stevens has served for a very long time, I’m not here to judge him. I’m merely here to report the fact that he’s in a heap of trouble. I mean, shouldn’t he resign for example? Shouldn’t leaders like yourself and elsewhere just say, “Senator, all right, clean break, please resign?”

Palin: Well, I thought that it would be my job as governor working on the state level with those who were indicted for the corruption and bribery, to call for their stepping down. And that’s what I did. And for the most part they have stepped down. And again, some of them are facing prison terms now and are in prison. But as for Senator Stevens, still not knowing enough about that indictment yet. I think that two days later it would be premature for me to chime in and say whether he has to step down or not.

But you’re absolutely right on the cleansing that’s needed in our party, in the Republican Party. And you know I think Senator McCain is on the right track with the earmark reform that he is so adamant about. I’m right there with him. We for instance here in Alaska, our administration, we cancelled that Bridge to Nowhere. You know, we know that that earmark was not in Alaska’s, it wasn’t in the nation’s best interest. So we’re going to be a part of that reform also. It’s absolutely necessary, or the Republican agenda, which I do believe is the right agenda for Alaska and for…

[Technical disruption]

Kudlow: …Governor Palin you’re back. Okay. You see that? I’m going to call it divine intervention, trumping the technological difficulties. I appreciate your comments on Senator Stevens and the rest. Let me ask you this. Wall Street Journal today is running a story about yourself. The possibility of a state probe, “Alaska’s Palin Faces Probe.” It’s I guess an independent prosecutor. You [allegedly] tried to get your former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper. Now the legislature is trying to come after you. What’s this about? What can you tell us here?

Palin: Well, a couple of lawmakers who were pretty angry with me for replacing… [Technical disruption]…at-will political appointment who was serving in my cabinet which every governor does, a couple lawmakers who were not happy with that decision certainly are looking at me as a kind of target right now, and wanting to probe and find out why I did replace this cabinet member. And it’s cool. I want them to ask me the questions. I don’t have anything to hide. And I didn’t do anything wrong there. And it is a governor’s prerogative, a right, to fill that cabinet with members whom she or he believes will do best for the people whom we are serving. So I look forward to any kind of investigation or questions being asked because I’ve got nothing to hide.

Kudlow: Governor Palin, people want to know why you did fire your police commissioner, or public safety commissioner Monegan. And is it because he stopped you from getting rid of your brother-in-law or what? People want to know if this is an ethical lapse on your part.

Palin: I’m glad that you’re asking, because I never tried to fire a former brother-in-law who’s been divorced from my sister for quite some time. No, it was the commissioner, that we were seeking more results, more action, to fill vacant trooper positions to deal with bootlegging and alcohol abuse problems in our rural villages especially. We just needed some new direction, a lot of new energy in that position. That is why the replacement took place there of the commissioner of public safety. It had nothing to do with an estranged former brother-in-law, a divorce that had happened some years ago.

Kudlow: All right. You have a legion of fans who want you to become Senator McCain’s vice-presidential candidate. In fact, on the world’s largest pay-to-play prediction market, betting parlor, called InTrade, you are in third place with a 20 percent support probability behind former Governor Romney and present Governor of Minnesota Pawlenty. Is this police flap, state investigation, going to disqualify you from becoming Senator McCain’s vice-presidential candidate?

Palin: Well it shouldn’t disqualify me from anything, including progressing the state’s agenda here towards more energy production so we can contribute more to the U.S. Nor should it dissuade any kind of agenda progress in any arena because again, I haven’t done anything wrong. And through an investigation of our lawmakers who are kind of looking at me as a target, we invite those questions so that we can truthfully answer the questions.

But as for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does everyday? I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.

Kudlow: Well I worked in the White House during President Reagan’s first term, let me assure you, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the Bush White House as a journalist in meetings with interviews. It’s a pretty big job, Madame Governor. It’s a real big job. You’d be surprised by how big the veep job is these days!

Palin: Well this is a pretty cool job here too though as Governor of Alaska—the wealthiest state in the union in consideration of the natural resources that we have. Again, and we being in a position ready, willing and able to tap these resources, flow them into hungry markets across the U.S. to lead towards a more secure nation; to lead towards a more peaceful nation also and energy independence. All those things that Alaska should be contributing. I think that I can help do that as Governor of Alaska.

Kudlow: All right, last one. McCain is ahead in Alaska, but it’s only 45-40 over Obama. It’s a traditional Republican state. Why isn’t this a bigger lead for Mac? What’s he got to do up there to make sure you carry Alaska?

Palin: That’s a good question. And you did your homework, Larry. That’s impressive. Usually yes, such a red state up here. It’s a no-brainer that the “R” is going to take the cake up here. But this is a little bit different situation now with Obama’s message resonating, even with Alaskans. That being change, a desire for no embracing of the status quo and politics as usual. But something different, something dynamic and charismatic. That does resonate well, that message of Obama’s. I still do believe of course McCain will take Alaska because he’s right on so many of the issues when it comes to — in my opinion — he’s right on war, he’s right on with energy independence measures that need to be taken. Wrong on ANWR, but we’re still working on that one.

Kudlow: Governor Sarah Palin, terrific stuff. We know you’re busy. Good luck on the pipeline vote coming up this evening. We appreciate your visiting with us very much.

Palin: Thank you so much sir.

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  • Lawrence Kudlow is a CNBC senior contributor. Previously, Kudlow was anchor of CNBC's prime-time program "The Kudlow Report"