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.MARIA BARTIROMO
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?GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN
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.