Elizabeth Vargas Grills Palin on Competence, Obama's Patriotism

ABC reporter Elizabeth Vargas grilled Sarah Palin on Thursday's "Good Morning America" over the issues of competence and whether or not Palin believes that Senator Barack Obama is "un-American" and "dangerous." Vargas chided Palin on her remarks about the Democratic candidate: "But, when you used words like socialism or say he's palling around with terrorists or hanging around with a Palestinian professor...you seem to be saying that he's un-American somehow or might be dangerous somehow."

When Palin assured the journalist that she was not insinuating any such thing, Vargas skeptically followed-up: "Do you think Senator Obama is as patriotic, as American, as honorable as John McCain?" She then proceeded to repeatedly ask, four times in total, questions related to competence and why less women now support Palin. "Today, polls show that 60 percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of you. Why do you think you've lost that connection," she wondered. Referring to conservatives such as Peggy Noonan and Republicans like Colin Powell, Vargas insisted that a "a chorus of voices from the Republican Party, stalwart Republicans" don't believe she's qualified.

After Palin responded that columnists such as Noonan should actually interview her before making such declarations, the network reporter persisted, "But what about the voters? I mean, why is there this lingering issue with you and this question about whether you have what it takes to be an effective vice president?" Before finally moving off the subject, Vargas queried, "If you could take a do-over in this campaign, what would it be?"

And when Palin asserted that she has faced sexism that male political candidates don't, Vargas adopted a skeptical tone. She first retorted, "But, is it a double-standard? I mean, reporters certainly mocked John Edwards a lot for his $400 hair cuts." Speaking of the controversy over the cost of the candidates clothing, the reporter added, "And when the report did come out about the wardrobe purchased for your whole family, it was a lot of money. $150,000." Vargas went on to cite previous candidates Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro and claimed they talked about double standards more often. She pressed, "Just give me one example."

Palin's reply referenced the journalists who wondered aloud if the Republican could be both a good mother and vice president, something that GMA weekend anchor Bill Weir did on August 30, 2008. Speaking to a McCain's political director, he fretted, "Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?"

In fairness to Vargas, she did complement Palin quite freely at the close of the interview. Speaking of the vice presidential candidate's talents to co-host Robin Roberts, she lauded, "I must tell you, when we were on the campaign trail with her yesterday, she has a phenomenal ability to connect with people" and praised "her personal skills in connecting with voters." But, that was after an interrogation about competence and being too mean to Senator Obama.

A partial transcript of the October 30 interview follows:

7:13

ROBIN ROBERTS: And one of Barack's- Barack Obama's toughest critics lately has been Governor Sarah Palin. And ABC's Elizabeth Vargas had a chance to sit down with Sarah Palin and asked her about the tone of this campaign.

ELIZABETH VARGAS: But, when you used words like socialism or say he's palling around with terrorists or hanging around with a Palestinian professor, which you just said in the rally, you seem to be saying that he's un-American somehow or might be dangerous somehow.

PALIN: Not at all. Not calling him un-American. There is nothing wrong, though, with calling someone out on their record, their associations. The association issue here, it's not mean-spirited. It's not negative campaigning. It's important and fair to the electorate.

VARGAS: Do you think Senator Obama is as patriotic, as American, as honorable as John McCain?

PALIN: I'm sure that Senator Obama cares as much for this country as McCain does. Now, McCain has a strong, solid track record of his- I think some manifestations of the opportunities that he's had to prove that patriotism. And that love for country. But, no. I'm, for the record stating, no that I'm not calling someone out on their love of country or level of patriotism.

7:31

ROBERTS: But Elizabeth Vargas had a chance to talk with his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin.

ELIZABETH VARGAS: I did. I did, Robin. Yesterday, met up with Sarah Palin in Toledo, Ohio. We had a wide-ranging conversation about the strains of this campaign on her family life. About whether or not she's been a victim of sexism. And about the rough ride she's had since John McCain stunned nearly everyone by naming her his running mate. A lot of women were really, really excited when you were-- and intrigued by your candidacy- when you were named to the ticket. Today, polls show that 60 percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of you. Why do you think you've lost that connection?

PALIN: I don't look at polls. So, I would not be able to answer that. You would have to poll one of those females, ask them why anything has changed there. But you have to consider, though, that when there has been the constant barrage of A kind of a spin on my record, or my positions, and there has been much of that negative spin, then perhaps it would change someone's perception, if they had not met that person. I don't care what the polls say, though. I honestly don't.

VARGAS: There have been a chorus of voices from the Republican Party, stalwart Republicans, who have come out and said they don't think you're qualified to be vice president.

PALIN: And I have never met any of those who I have heard to have written something or said something negative. I would love to meet these people, have a conversation instead of them just superficially making a statement like that. It would be nice if they would take it a step further and at least interview me.

VARGAS: Perhaps some of those people like Colin Powell or Peggy Noonan or Ken Adelman, should have come out and many met you first before coming out publicly and saying you were unqualified.

PALIN: That would have been nice.

VARGAS: But what about the voters? I mean, why is there this lingering issue with you and this question about whether you have what it takes to be an effective vice president?

PALIN: I don't know. But there have been many underestimated persons who have been elected to office, and have really been, then, provided the opportunity to prove the pundits wrong. Again, it's motivating for me to work that much harder. But I can't speak to the negative perception that somebody would have because, again, when I know who I am. And I know the truth. And I know my record. It's going to have to be me walking the walk. Not just talking the talk, trying to correct it. But to prove who I am and what I stand for.

VARGAS: If you could take a do-over in this campaign, what would it be?

PALIN: I can't think of anything. I would just-

VARGAS: Really? Nothing?

PALIN: I would have just desired to have more hours in the day, to able to accomplish more, in terms of getting John McCain's message out.

ELIZABETH HASSELBECK: Governor Sarah Palin!

VARGAS: This past weekend when Elisabeth Hasselbeck was campaigning with you, she said that the campaign coverage of you had been deliberately sexist. And you seemed to agree. I want to ask you, do you think the campaign coverage of you has been sexist?

PALIN: Oh, I think there's been double-standards there. I mean, talk about my wardrobe. And never talking about the male candidates' wardrobe. Or the questions posed to me of how will I be able to serve in office and still raise a family? I've never heard that asked of a male candidate. But I'm not going to complain about that because if my- if my skin isn't think enough to take that as a candidate, I shouldn't even be thinking of serving this nation as vice president.

VARGAS: But, is it a double-standard? I mean, reporters certainly mocked John Edwards a lot for his $400 hair cuts. And when the report did come out about the wardrobe purchased for your whole family, it was a lot of money. $150,000.

PALIN: Well, double-standard or not, this is what we're dealing with. And I would much rather be talking about the issues that are important to Americans not that-. And it wasn't $150,000. I never saw a final bill. But what the RNC purchased, with staging, lighting, and wardrobe for the family. And it's not our property. Just like the staging and the lighting. It's not our property. That's returned. Or it's in the belly of an airplane. That's not who we are, even. It was convenient because we showed up for the convention with overnight bags. So, it was convenient to have some tools there to be able to borrow.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org