US & Canada

Newsnight's Interview with Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin at the Iron Dog race
Image caption "Our family is pretty thick-skinned," Mrs Palin said at the Iron Dog race

JACKIE LONG: Governor Palin, Jackie from BBC in London. How are you?

SARAH PALIN: Excellent. Excellent today. This is one of our favourite days of the year.

JACKIE LONG: I'm struggling with the cold, I can hardly speak.

SARAH PALIN: Do you have layers on? Do you have enough layers?

JL: Tell me about the race, tell me about why it's so important?

SP: Pretty uniquely Alaskan, you know, 2,000 miles across [interruption as one of the riders comes over and she gives him a hug] rugged conditions. God Bless you. God Bless you. Ride safe, ride hard.

It's uniquely Alaskan. This is awesome. A lot of us living sort of vicariously through the Iron Doggers, so many of us would love to be tough enough to do what they're doing and be good-enough mechanics and strong enough and tenacious enough, because I think it's one of the world's toughest races. It's the world's longest and toughest snow machine race.

JL: And you'd love to do it, wouldn't you?

SP: You know it takes a special breed of cat to be able to lift 700lb, to be able to change out shocks and fix the engines at -70F (-56.6C) in the pitch black on a frozen river. I'm not capable, so it's just something I dream about.

JL: Looking at it from the outside, people will be saying: 'why do they put themselves through this? It seems crazy.'

SP: It's just like our other great race, the Iditarod the 1,049 miles (1,688km) with dogs. It's just a good, again, uniquely Alaskan, it's something that Alaskans so enjoy because we want to be outside, we want to be outside enjoying God's creation however we can and this is one of the tools used to enjoy the great outdoors.

JL: Do you worry about your husband when he's on this?

SP: I really don't. He started racing this race 18 years ago. He's got a lot of miles under his belt, he's a great mechanic, he knows what he's doing. Just say a prayer and wish him well and he's in his element when he's out there in these rugged conditions. So not too worried.

JL: He's racing to win quite, clearly. Presumably, you don't want him to lose either, you don't do losing.

SP: You run the race to win, that's for sure. And he's won four times and certainly he would love to win, kind of win one for the old guys, you know. Some of these guys are in their early 20s and our guys are in their 40s. Also, it's also good testimony for staying in shape, and staying focused, staying active in what you can do really at any age.

JL: Can I just ask you, of course, the big race everyone is interested in outside of the Iron Dog is the presidential race. What are your thoughts on that? Are you going to run?

SP: Well there again, you enter a race to win the race. There is still a lot of consideration that have to be made. We haven't made up our mind or desired to make an announcement yet as to what it is we will be doing.

JL: What are the considerations at the moment? What are the things that you are weighing up?

SP: Well, understanding that Obama has already said he's going to rake in and spend $1bn (£615.4m) in this race. Money is certainly going to be a consideration. And then just the idea of, will the American electorate be ready for someone a bit unconventional, in terms of a candidate who will call it like she sees it, and who will not be beholden to special interests or such obsessive partisanship as to let a political machine get in the way of just doing what's right for the voters.

JL: In a sense, do you think your "unconventionality" in that sense, the fact that you tell it as it is, is your strength but is also perceived as a weakness as well?

SP: I believe that it is a strength. I tell my kids, I encourage everyone I know that whether it be in their workplace, whether it be in a political arena or within their own families, to do what their gut tells them to do. And that involves calling it like they see it and tackling the tasks that are at hand and not worrying so much what other people are thinking or saying about them. And a lot of that goes along with that unconventional vein that I am talking about, that independent vein that I have within me. So I think that it's a strength and I encourage people I know to exercise that strength, too.

JL: In terms of making that decision, presumably the pressure on you and your family is a big part of the decision making, because you've been through a lot and you take a lot of flack?

SP: Our family is pretty thick-skinned, though. We have taken the pressure and pressure I think builds character and allows someone to handle what else is coming. For the last 20 years being in political office our family has had unconventional schedules, we've put up with a lot of flak, and we're still standing and we're doing well, so we're not worried too much about that pressure put on the family because we've been tried by fire.

JL: What are the criticisms that have hurt you most? One of the big ones that's thrown at you is that you're not intellectually capable. Does that sting?

SP: Who said that?

JL: Lots of criticism about the interviews you have given, the ability to get your head around foreign policy.

SP: Well, how about the idea of perhaps what some of the media has chosen to portray. Let's take a couple of examples - and I don't really want to have to talk politics on one of the best days of our life here in Alaska - but I'll give you one more answer. Things like, that are misconstrued regarding rumours out there that are still in the media because reporters don't do their homework, too often, and they don't set the record straight - though I think it's their job to set the record straight - rumours like I didn't know that Africa was a continent, that's still out there, that's a lie. Things like I censored books when I was a mayor up here in Alaska, that's a lie.

[Governor Palin begins to walk away]

SP: So again if I decide to run we know that we have to put up with a lot of the BS that comes from the media but ... It's not all of you guys but some of you still claim that Trig isn't my kid. I think that's an indication of screwed-up media.

JL: You were saying, your favourite from the media? Which one is that?

SP: Is that trig is not my child, which is still out there in the media.

JL: How offensive is that? How do you deal with that?

SP: Would you be offended if someone said you're child wasn't your child? It's offensive. OK, you know what, I'm really really trying to enjoy one of the best days of our lives.