Great. Now I’ll have to actually buy a copy of Newsweek:
‘I believe that I can win a national election,’ Sarah Palin declared one recent evening, sitting in the private dining room of a hotel in rural Iowa. The occasion for her visit to quintessential small-town America was a gathering of the faithful that would have instantaneously erupted into a fervent campaign rally had she but given the word. Instead, it had been another day on the non–campaign trail, this one capped by a sweet victory: she had just attended the premiere of a glowingly positive documentary about her titled The Undefeated.
“The people of America are desperate for positive change, and deserving of positive change, to get us off of this wrong track,” she told me during a conversation that lasted late into the night and, inevitably, kept returning to the subject that has titillated the media and spooked Republican presidential contenders for months: her political intentions. “I’m not so egotistical as to believe that it has to be me, or it can only be me, to turn things around,” she said. “But I do believe that I can win.”
If Palin doesn’t end up running, the reason will be simple, she said. “Family. If it came down to the family just saying, ‘Please, Mom, don’t do this,’ then that would be the deal-killer for me, because your family’s gotta be in it with you.”
Yet Palin, who is 47, now hinted that her family would not try to dissuade her from entering the race. “My kids know that life isn’t supposed to be easy, and it’s certainly not fair,” she said. “And they know that, even on their end, they have to make some sacrifices for the greater good.”
Track, the eldest son, who was deployed in Iraq during the 2008 campaign, is now married and running the family’s commercial fishing business in Alaska, living quietly out of the public eye. Willow, who turned 17 last week, seems amenable (“As long as her truck’s running, she’s fine,” Palin said), and Piper, who is 10, is a seasoned campaigner. Bristol’s all in. That leaves Todd, who sat in on part of the interview. “Do I want her to run?” he said. “It’s up to her. I mean, we’ll discuss it. But she’s definitely qualified to run this country. And she’s got a fire in the belly to serve.”
Palin accepted Bannon’s invitation the week before the tentative date of the premiere, leaving him just five days to organize the event. He settled on Pella, an old Dutch town with the country’s largest working windmill, and booked all available rooms in the town’s principal hotel. Bannon also obtained the services of Craft International, a high-end security firm, which dispatched to the scene a four-man team: three former Navy SEALs and a former member of British special operations.
They arrived the day before the event and were instructed to repair that night to the local airfield, where the Palins were to arrive by private plane. The night passed, but the Palins didn’t arrive. The team learned the next day that the couple had gone to Minneapolis, to help Bristol get settled in for the start of her book tour at the Mall of America.
The next morning—the day of the event—Bannon and his security team learned, via Twitter, that the Palins had spent the night in Des Moines. (“Our hotel was right down the block from The Des Moines Register,” Palin later told me, plainly pleased. “Nobody knew we were there.”) After Sarah’s morning run by the river, they were driving to Pella.
before we began, she and Todd, both working their omnipresent BlackBerrys, conducted a bit of urgent family business.
SARAH: I have to answer Piper real quick. She is not going to get her hair cut. What is she thinking?
TODD: No, she’s not.
SARAH: You need to tell her that, she’ll obey you … You told her no, Todd? OK, I’m puttin’ mine away.
Turning to the political landscape, Palin said that President Obama is beatable in 2012, and that there are “many, many qualified and able candidates out there” to take him on.
Asked what was to be made of the fact that so many Republicans were looking beyond the field of declared candidates to people like herself, and Govs. Rick Perry and Chris Christie, Palin said, “It suggests that the field is not set. Thank goodness the field is not yet set. I think that there does need to be more vigorous debate. There needs to be a larger field. And there’s still time. There’s still months ahead, where more folks can jump in and start articulating their positions.”
Palin said that when she heard her friend Nikki Haley was accused of having had an affair with a staffer when she was running for governor of South Carolina, she picked up the telephone. “I called her and I asked her, and she said, ‘No, it’s not true.’ I immediately did a statement saying, ‘She says it’s not true. Lay off.’”
After the 2008 election, Palin tried to do something that hadn’t been done in 20 years: return to the governor’s chair after defeat on a national ticket (Michael Dukakis was the last to manage it, in 1988). Former Democratic allies now treated her like the opposition, and disaffected Republicans were not inclined to come to the rescue. Political opponents bombarded her administration with ethics complaints, and, though all were ultimately dismissed or settled without finding of wrongdoing, Palin lost her motivation to stay in the job and fight. “It was like she was going to work every day in handcuffs,” Todd told me.
It is an abiding source of annoyance to Palin that her success story as Alaska’s governor vanished overnight in 2008. “Do people not understand why McCain picked me?” she said with some exasperation…. “I call her a McLuhan-esque character,” Bannon says. “She is saturated in media, and yet nobody knows her story. It’s hidden in broad daylight.”
Back in the private dining room in Pella, Palin shared some of those policy positions. On the debt ceiling, she takes the hardline view. “It is not the apocalypse,” she said, and questioned the need for the urgent negotiating sessions Republicans and Democrats were conducting in search of a debt-limit agreement (ongoing at press time). “The fact is that we have $2.6 trillion in revenue coming in, and if we just use some common sense there—take that revenue, service the debt first, take care of national priorities—we don’t have to increase debt.”
Such an approach would require some drastic spending cuts, of the sort that can become politically uncomfortable for Republicans. Palin said bring it on. “There is so much spending that is not a priority for national security or for those constitutionally mandated services and accepted services that the public wants to see their federal government provide—take care of those things,” she said. “Everything else is going to have to wait, and that’s just reality.” She would like to revamp, or even eliminate, whole agencies—the Department of Energy, for example—as Reagan once spoke of doing. “That’s the kind of grand reform that is very, very difficult to do. But it can be done.”
Palin made it clear that she’s against any deal that raises the debt ceiling and would hold House Speaker John Boehner’s feet to the fire if he agreed to one. “No, we have to cut spending. It is imperative, and I will be very, very disappointed if Boehner and the leaders of the Republican Party cave on any kind of debt deal in the next couple of months.”
Palin has also become conversant on the subject of quantitative easing, the inflationary effects of which she illustrated with a personal anecdote. “I was ticked off at Todd yesterday,” she said. “He walks into a gas station as we’re driving over from Minnesota. He buys a Slim Jim—we’re always eating that jerky stuff—for $2.69. I said, ‘Todd, those used to be 99 cents, just recently!’ And he says, ‘Man, the dollar’s worth nothing anymore.’ A jug of milk and a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs—every time I walk into that grocery store, a couple of pennies more…”
“The mainstream press is becoming less and less relevant,” she said, adding that she would have no hesitation in shunning media outlets she does not trust.
“I would say no to those who have lied about me. There is no need to reward bad behavior. I’ve learned. You know, once bitten, twice shy. I have learned.”Tweet