Brian Williams Interviews McCain and Palin

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NBC Nightly News
Brian Williams
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NBC's Brian Williams sits down for the network's first interview with Sarah Palin. He asks both John McCain and Palin about how their deficit in the polls is affecting the campaign, about whether Palin is qualified to be president, and about Biden's comments that Barack Obama will be "tested" by a foreign policy crisis early in his presidency.



"Brian Williams Interviews McCain and Palin." Brian Williams, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 22 Oct. 2008. NBC Learn. Web. 11 January 2020.


Williams, B. (Reporter). (2008, October 22). Brian Williams Interviews McCain and Palin. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Brian Williams Interviews McCain and Palin" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 10/22/2008. Accessed Sat Jan 11 2020 from NBC Learn:


Brian Williams Interviews McCain and Palin

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Akron, Ohio):

Tonight finds us in a suburb of Akron in the great state of Ohio, Green High School to be exact. The scene of a joint McCain-Palin rally today, and the scene of our extended conversation with both candidates here today. We spent a lot of time with both. It's a lot of television and we're going to air it in parts, the way the conversation took place.

While we were here today, on Wall Street, in New York, the markets plunged. At one point the Dow was down as much as 690 points before bouncing to a 514 point loss at the closing bell.

(Stock figures follow)

WILLIAMS: And what a day it has been for the McCain-Palin campaign. The story about her wardrobe broke overnight, $150,000 worth of clothing from top retailers for Palin and her family, clothing that was bought with Republican Party funds. The campaign says the clothes will be donated to charity.

Then there are the polls out there. Our own showing the GOP ticket 10 points down, with most respondents now saying Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president.

Before we begin airing the conversation, this moment first from late in our conversation that will make news tonight about the growing requests these days for Sarah Palin to release her medical records.

Did I hear you just agree to release your medical records?

Governor SARAH PALIN: The medical records, so be it. If that--if that will allow some curiosity seekers, perhaps, to have, oh, one more thing that they can either check the box off that they can find something to criticize, perhaps, or find something to rest them assured over, fine. I'm healthy, happy, had five kids. That's going to be in the medical records. Never been seriously ill or hurt. You'll see that in the medical records, if they're released.

WILLIAMS: That came as a bit of a surprise to the McCain-Palin campaign. Now the question is timing of the release.

Here now the first part of our conversation with the GOP ticket here in Ohio today.

Senator, I'll begin with your observation on the tarmac. You came in today, there is not one, but two planes with your name on the side. You immediately started reminiscing about the depths of New Hampshire. It was you and your garment bag coming off a commercial flight. But here you are, you're down, you're down in money.

Senator JOHN McCAIN: Yep.

WILLIAMS: How do you stay up?

Sen. McCAIN: Down in money. Down in the polls. We got them just where we want them.

WILLIAMS: What do you mean by that?

Sen. McCAIN: I mean that's when we do best, really, Brian. I've always done best when we're running some a little bit behind and got to catch up, and that somehow I've been very blessed. We seem to catch fire, and lately we have seen in the last several days, or week, we've seen--ever since the debate we've seen some uptick, and we got about three or four points to go and we can win this thing.

WILLIAMS: Did this campaign get out of your control? And here's what I mean. A lot of people who know you well saw you take that microphone from that woman in Wisconsin, and for the first time in a long time they said, `There, that's--that's John McCain.'

Sen. McCAIN: Brian, they either haven't been paying attention or don't want to. In my speech at the convention, I spoke of my admiration for Senator Obama, the fact that he had motivated so many people. I have said continuously my respect for him. But that doesn't change my view that there are stark differences. And when I'm president there is not going to be an international crisis that he can--that Senator Biden can guarantee. I'm not going to raise people's taxes in a bad economy. Look, we've got very big differences, but I have always been respectful of Senator Obama. And he is now spending more money than any campaign in American history on negative ads against me; but, look, that's fine. The American people are paying attention.

WILLIAMS: You mention Senator Biden's comment the other day about a new president and a test of the new president's mettle.

Sen. McCAIN: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: One of your very closest friends in the Senate, Joe Lieberman said on "Face The Nation," quote, "Our enemies will test the new president early." And it has happened throughout modern history.

Sen. McCAIN: Well, look, I've been tested. They know me, they know me very well. I've been tested. Senator Biden said it. What if Sarah or I had said it. Oh, my God, it would have been terrible.

Gov. PALIN: Can you imagine?

Sen. McCAIN: Can you imagine? His own running mate said it's because he is young and new and untested. That's why Senator Biden said "mark my words." "Mark my words," is what he said, `that there's going to be an international crisis.' And then he compared it to the Cuban missile crisis. My friend, I was in the Cuban missile crisis. I was on the aircraft carrier Enterprise in the air wing. We were close to nuclear war. I wouldn't predict that for my--I mean, that's remarkable. When a vice presidential candidate predicts because a young untested president is going to face an international crisis like the Cuban missile crisis, unbelievable. Americans know I've been tested.

WILLIAMS: Governor Palin, yesterday you tied this notion of an early test to the new president with this notion of preconditions...

Gov. PALIN: Right.

WILLIAMS: ...that you both have been hammering the Obama campaign on. First of all, what in your mind is a precondition?

Gov. PALIN: You have to have some diplomatic strategy going into a meeting with someone like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il, one of these dictators that would seek to destroy America or her allies. It is so naive and so dangerous for a presidential candidate to just proclaim that they would be willing to sit down with a leader like Ahmadinejad and just talk about the problems, the issues that are facing them. So that's some ill-preparedness right there. But following up with your comment about Biden, also. When Biden--what he had done the other night to his Democrat donors in talking to them in a fundraiser, warning them, saying, `Mark my word, there will be an international crisis if Barack Obama is elected,' he was confirming what he had been saying all along in the primary race. He had warned voters that Barack was not prepared yet to be president, and that the presidency is not a place for on the job training. So there was confirmation of that in the comments that he made.

WILLIAMS: When he says the new president will be tested, though, I'm missing how that's different from Senator Lieberman saying, quote, "our enemies will test the new president early."

Sen. McCAIN: Look, I don't know when Joe Lieberman said that. But Joe Lieberman is supporting me. The main reason probably is because he thinks America is going to be safer and more secure with me as president. Otherwise he wouldn't have crossed party lines and come over almost unprecedented and support my candidacy. So I don't know exactly what Joe Lieberman was saying, but I know that Joe Lieberman is convinced that this country and this world will be a lot safer place with me president.

If he thought there was some kind of equivalency, he probably would have stayed in his own party as far as which nominee he supported.

But I want to go back again to Sarah's point. And that is that we now have a guarantee, saying because he's young and untested, that's what part of Senator Biden's rant was; and that because he's young and untested, and then Senator Obama will probably do what the donors don't agree with. I mean, this is probably one of those moments in American political history that stands out. And I think the American people are going to pay attention.

Gov. PALIN: I think it's the most telling comment that has been made yet on this campaign trail in all of these months. I think that that has been the most significant comment, that's my personal opinion on this. But for Biden, too, to have been the one to say he would be so honored to run on a McCain ticket because he knew that that way, if Senator McCain is elected president, that our country would be better off, I think there's some significance there too in the comment made.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you both about what must have been a hurtful Sunday for you, especially you, Senator McCain, Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama.

Sen. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

WILLIAMS: And Governor, respectfully, the heart of his quote, "About Governor Palin, Senator McCain, I don't believe she is ready to be president of the United States which is the job of vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

Sen. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

WILLIAMS: When you heard those words from a man you've known for a long time, what was your reaction, saying basically we have little to judge these future leaders on except for the big decision of picking a running mate?

Sen. McCAIN: Well, if--I know that if General Powell had wanted to meet Governor Palin, we could have arranged that easily, number one. But number two is then obviously General Powell does not know Governor Palin's record. Reform, governor, 24,000 employees I believe of the state of Alaska, negotiated a $40 billion natural gas pipeline by taking on the oil and gas interests, took on the governor of her own party who is an incumbent, stood up against corruption, cut taxes, gave her constituents money back, shares my world view, has frankly, in all due respect, a son who has got his life on the line right now in defense of freedom. And that's not qualified? Tell me what is qualified.

I am overjoyed to have a person who's a real reformer. What Americans want right now more than anything else, they want us to reform the way we do business in Washington, and they want our economy put back on track. Here's a proven record. And so all I can say is, I see all these attacks on Governor Palin. I don't live in a bubble. But those people obviously are either not paying attention to or don't care about the record of the most popular governor in the United States of America.

Gov. PALIN: And, look, let me interrupt for a second here, too. I'm not going to toot my own horn, but I do have more executive experience than Barack Obama even has, dealing with multibillion dollar budgets and thousand of employees in positions as mayor, as a manager, as a regulator of oil and gas, and then as governor. But let's not forget also in this context of one endorsement, senator--or Colin Powell's, that you have received the endorsement of at least four former secretaries of state and hundreds...

Sen. McCAIN: Five secretaries...

Gov. PALIN: Five.

Sen. McCAIN: ...former secretaries of states.

Gov. PALIN: And hundreds of retired top US brass and US military brass that see also in John McCain the ability to win the wars and to keep our nation safe. And, of course, those who are in--more economic minded, also, who are endorsing John McCain because they know too that he will get our economy back on track. He will reduce taxes on our small businesses and on our families so that we can keep more of what we produce and earn, so that we can hire more people as business owners. That's how jobs are created. That's how the economy gets rolling. And he's got that in him. He's got that in his plan and that's recognized. So I'm appreciative of all the endorsements that you have received.

Sen. McCAIN: Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Larry Eagleburger and Al Haig, all of those have been strong supporters of mine, plus 200 or more retired generals and admirals. I'm more proud of that.