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Republican VP Candidate Palin Defends Domestic Policies

Alaska state governor Sarah Palin responded to questions about domestic issues Friday, in the conclusion of her first televised interview since becoming Republican John McCain's vice presidential running mate. As VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington, Palin discussed her record as governor, the right to own guns, and homosexual rights, and even had praise for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Outside her home in the small town of Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin told Charlie Gibson of ABC television she thinks Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama regrets not making Hillary Clinton his running mate.

"I think he's regretting not picking her now," she said. "What determination and grit and even grace through some tough shot that were fired her way. She handled those well."

Earlier this year, Palin had suggested that Clinton was whining about negative media coverage and campaigning in a way that did not advance the cause of women in politics.

The widely-anticipated television interview gave Americans a chance to learn more about the Republican vice presidential candidate, who has been on the national political scene for only about two weeks. She has been Alaska's governor for less than two years and was a small-town mayor before that.

McCain's choice of Palin has energized the Republican Party's conservative base, and McCain has surged ahead of Obama in public opinion polls.

In the interview, Palin defended her record as governor of Alaska. She defended decisions to seek federal money for projects in Alaska, including the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere," despite boasting that she rejected it. Gibson asked Palin about McCain's criticism of the expenditure of government money for wildlife research, while Palin had requested federal money to research Alaska's wildlife.

"Those requests, through our research divisions, and Fish and Game, and our wildlife departments, and our university - those research requests did come through that system, but wanting it to be in the light of day, not behind closed doors," she said.

Palin also responded to a question about whether she believes the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to own semi-automatic weapons.

"I'm a lifetime member of the NRA (National Rifle Association). I believe strongly in our Second Amendment rights. That's kind of inherent in the people of my state, who rely on guns for, not just self protection, but also for our hunting and for sport also," she explained.

Palin has built a record as a social conservative, opposing abortion and rights for gays and lesbians. But she told Gibson she is not sure whether homosexuality is a choice or a genetic predisposition.

"I don't know but I'm not one to judge, and I'm from a family and from a community with many, many members of many diverse backgrounds," she noted.

Palin continues to campaign with McCain on Saturday. They were scheduled to speak to a rally in Carson City, the capital of the Western state of Nevada.

With Hurricane Ike devastating parts of Texas and nearby states, Obama has canceled plans to appear on the television comedy show "Saturday Night Live." And his running mate, Joe Biden, canceled his scheduled appearance with Obama in the Northeast state of New Hampshire.

The latest poll by the Gallup organization shows McCain leading Obama, 48 percent to 45.