Strong opinions, weakly held

Interview questions for Sarah Palin

ABC’s Charlie Gibson has won the honor to be the first journalist to interview Sarah Palin since she was nominated to the Vice Presidency. It’s a great opportunity for him, and I imagine he’ll be working overtime getting ready, since everyone suspects that he was chosen because he can be counted on not to put any pressure on Palin. (Indeed, Josh Marshall reports that the terms of the interview guarantee that he won’t.)

Fortunately, those of us on the Internet are only hypothetically interviewing Sarah Palin, so we can ask whatever we like. When it comes to a candidate like Palin, who we don’t really know much about, it feels to me like an interview with her should be like a job interview. I think it’s a waste of time to ask “gotcha” questions, and that we won’t learn very much at all if she’s asked about her family or even about her scandals. I’m sure she has an answer all tucked away when it comes to why she supported the “Bridge to Nowhere” and then claimed she didn’t, or how she decided to fire the head of the Alaska state police.

What I’m interested in is her philosophy of government and the sensibilities she brings to the kinds of decisions a President has to make. With that, here are some questions I’d ask if I got to interview her.

  1. How do you define leadership?
  2. What are the qualities you look for when hiring subordinates?
  3. As an executive, what specific steps do you take to make sure that political appointees feel empowered to act independently using their best judgement? When they advise you, how do you make sure that you’re getting their honest opinion and aren’t just being told what you want to hear?
  4. What’s your process when you encounter a problem outside your area of expertise?
  5. What did you find to be the biggest difference between serving as mayor of your home town and governor of Alaska?
  6. What role do you see the United Nations playing in world affairs and United States foreign policy?
  7. What are the fundamental rights that we should grant to any prisoner detained by the United States government?
  8. Which basic risks should the US government take responsibility for insuring its citizens from? (Starvation? Poverty? Preventable disease? Job loss? Poverty in old age? Etc.)
  9. The governor of Alaska has line item veto power, and the United States President does not. Should the President have line item veto power? If it were granted to the President, how would that affect the separation of powers?
  10. How do you feel like the gap between perceived risks and actual risks affects the work of government?

There are ten from me. Anyone else have any questions?


  1. Rafe,

    In my mind, you list two distinct types of questions: 1.) general process, personal philosophy and experience questions (#1, 2, 3, 4, 5, maybe 9, 10) that are definitely not specific to VP and maybe not even to a government leader, and more specific policy/political point-of-view questions (the others).

    Man, I just wish someone would ask the first type to more people running for office.

  2. I have aquestion. I you are pro-life, then you must not believe in the death penalty. What do you think should be done with people as an alternative to death? Also take into consideration the cost of care and housing for these people.

  3. I’m pro-choice and against the death penalty. The cost of incarcerating murderers for the rest of their lives is cheaper than the cost of the appeals process in a death penalty case, but even if it weren’t, I’d still be against the death penalty. Are you arguing that we should kill people rather than imprisoning them because it’s cheaper?

  4. What specific areas would you expect the President to seek your input on?

    Nobody is an expert in everything. What is your plan for becoming better versed in areas where you feel you need to be brought up to speed?

  5. How do you learn new information? What books you’ve read in the last 5 or so years would you recommend and why?

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