Sarah Palin unplugged - Charlie Gibson grabs first interview

Jake Turcotte

The first hurdle for Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was getting past the paparazzi-like frenzy that erupted following the surprise announcement.   Check.

The second hurdle was introducing herself to the American public by giving a speech in front of 40 million people.  Check.

Hurdle number three?  Talk to the media.  Not quite checked.

Radio silence

There has been criticism from the media thus far because outside of a People magazine interview, Palin hasn't been speaking to the media so much.  Well, not at all.

To be fair, Palin has been the nominee for only ten days.  And the first few days Palin, said the McCain campaign, was focused on her convention speech.

It's not like she's out of sight.  She's been thrilling crowds with McCain at every campaign stop so far.  But she has yet to do a talk show or a serious one-on-one interview.

Cycle of piranhas

On FOX News yesterday, one of McCain's campaign managers - Rick Davis - defended the campaign's decision thus far to keep Palin away from the media.

“Why would we want to throw Sarah Palin into a cycle of piranhas called the news media that have nothing better to ask questions about than her personal life and her children?” Davis said. “So until at which point in time we feel like the news media is going to treat her with some level of respect and deference, I think it would be foolhardy to put her out into that kind of environment.”

It appears that the environment is about to change, however.   A McCain official announced on Monday that Palin will speak with ABC's Charlie Gibson on Thursday and Friday in multiple locations.

How will she do?

Addressing controversies

Steve Heimel, senior reporter at Alaska Public Radio, "doubts" Gibson will ask her any tough questions.  But even if he does, Heimel thinks she can handle herself.

"I expect she will do just fine," Heimel said.  "I am looking forward to her answers on the church stuff."

Heimel was referring to a number of issues from allegations that Palin went to a graduation ceremony for evangelists at her former church on the state's tab to being associated with preachers who may have said controversial things.

Then there is the question of the Wasilla public library.  The Anchorage Daily News reports that Palin - as the new Mayor of Wasilla - asked the town librarian if she would censor library books if asked.  The librarian said she would not.  Months later, the librarian received a pink slip.

The public supported the librarian, however, and Palin backed off letting her keep her job.

Why did Palin attempt to fire the librarian?  That's the question Heimel is most looking forward to.

"Nobody has been able to confirm the library matter," Heimel said.   "I'd like to see how she answers that."

"I think the public is still rather confused about all these various issues - troopergate, earmarks, misbehavior by family members, all of which are being spun to death by all sorts of interests," he continued.

An old pro

Regardless, Palin is no rookie in dealing with the media.  She's done plenty of television interviews in her time and many with the national media.  Just none so far as the vice presidential nominee.  Judging from past interviews - much like her speech last Wednesday - she appears to hold her own.

Here's the Governor telling CNBC that if she were to be considered as a VP candidate, she'd want to make sure it was challenging enough.

Governor Palin appeared on the Glenn Beck show in June discussing the State of Alaska's lawsuit against the Bush administration for listing the polar bear on the Endangered Species list.

Here's Governor Palin talking to CNBC's Maria Bartiromo about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Here's the-now controversial welcome message that Governor Palin delivered to the Alaska Independence Party for its annual convention.

Sarah Palin appeared on the Charlie Rose show back in October, 2007 and was undecided about who she would support.

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