WASHINGTON — In her first interview since becoming the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin said Thursday that she never hesitated to take the spot on the ticket and that she's ready for the job of vice president and, if necessary, president.
Speaking at length with ABC's Charles Gibson, Palin also backed off an earlier comment that the Iraq war is a mission from God, and echoed running mate John McCain on NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia even against Russia's objections.
She said that might mean war to defend a NATO ally against Russia — but stressed economic sanctions and other pressure as a preferred way to ward off Russian aggression against those countries.
"On Jan. 20, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, we'll be ready. I'm ready," she said.
She said she never hesitated when asked by McCain to be on the Republican ticket.
"I answered him yes because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink," she said. "So I didn't blink then even when asked to run as his running mate."
The interview, conducted in Alaska where she was seeing her son and his Army unit off to Iraq, was her first since being named to the ticket. She planned more time with ABC on Friday before returning to the campaign trail over the weekend.
ABC aired excerpts on its evening news program Thursday and planned an hour-long special Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern time.
Turning to her religious views, Gibson reminded her that she had told a church audience that, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." He asked whether she thought the U.S. was fighting a holy war.
"I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words," she said.
She said she was paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, who once famously turned down a request to pray that God was on the country's side in the Civil War, urging instead that the group pray that the country was on God's side. "That's what that comment was all about," Palin said.
Gibson noted, however, that she went on in the original remarks to say, "There is a plan and it is God's plan."
"I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good," Palin said. "I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That, in my world view, is a grand, the grand plan."
Pressed whether she's sending her son on a task from God, Palin sidestepped the issue.
"I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie," she said. "What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made . . . serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer."
Turning to foreign affairs, Palin endorsed McCain's support for NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia despite opposition from former Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO," she said.
Asked whether NATO membership would require the U.S. and the alliance to go to war if Russia invaded, she said it might.
"Perhaps so," she said. "I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help."
She also said that "we have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today."
But when pressed about the need to go to war to support a country such as Georgia, she pushed for other options.
"It doesn't have to lead to war and it doesn't have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War," she said, stressing instead "economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries."
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