The Sarah Palin FAQ
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Republican vice presidential nominee.
She flies while giving birth! She can field-dress a moose! She said "Thanks but no thanks" to the "Bridge to Nowhere"! Or did she? As she debuts on the national stage, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has inspired a heap of questions, but she remains a mystery to both the press and the public. To help speed along the getting-to-know-you process, Slate has compiled dozens of questions—and taken our best shot at the answers—about the woman who could be our vice president. Have a Palin question that we didn't answer? Send an email to email@example.com with your question in the subject line. We will update the page as new questions (or new answers) come to light.
How long has Palin known John McCain?
They were first introduced in February at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C. The first time they spoke about the possibility of her becoming the GOP vice presidential nominee was Aug. 24, five days before the official announcement.
Did Palin tell the McCain campaign that her daughter Bristol was pregnant before she was picked as the vice-presidential nominee?
Many news sources have speculated that the pregnancy announcement caught the campaign by surprise. McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt told reporters that they learned of the pregnancy during the vetting process.
Did she recite her speech at the Republican National Convention from memory after the teleprompter broke?
Did she oppose the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere"?
When she was running for governor in 2006, Palin said she supported a $223 million federal earmark for the Gravina Island Bridge. Congress eventually killed the earmark after it became a symbol of pork-barrel spending, but Alaska was given the same amount of money to spend on other projects. Last year, Palin put a halt to state support of the project, saying, "We will continue to look for options for Ketchikan to allow better access to the island." The reversal was hailed by budget hawks, but it irked local politicians like Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein, who said, "[S]he pandered to us by saying, 'I'm for this.' "
What is her relationship with indicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens?
They've worked together since at least 2003, when Palin was a director on Stevens' independent fundraising group, Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service Inc. In her unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor in 2002, she received about $4,500 in campaign donations from an oil firm involved in the Stevens scandal. Palin also filmed a commercial with Stevens in 2006 to demonstrate the senator's support of her gubernatorial campaign. New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks wrote that Palin has since made "mortal enemies" of Alaska's senators, and Palin has kept her distance from Stevens since his indictment on felony charges of accepting illegal payments from an oil company.
What command experience does Palin have as head of the Alaska National Guard?
The Alaska governor has no command role with National Guard troops engaged in combat operations or with the 49th Missile Defense Battalion, which is stationed in Alaska. She does command the National Guard when it comes to natural disasters and homeland security. These issues are handled by a member of her cabinet, Maj. Gen. Craig, the adjutant general for Alaska, who also handles veterans' affairs. Palin has called up the guard only once, in 2007, to fight wildfires. They were on standby for a 2007 whaling conference during which they expected protesters but were never summoned.
Cindy McCain and others have asserted that Alaska's proximity to Russia has contributed to Palin's foreign-policy knowledge. What dealings has she had with Russia?
The campaign has not come up with any. Palin has never been to Russia.
Did Palin fire a public official because he wouldn't fire her brother-in-law?
Sarah Palin fired former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who said the governor pressured him to fire an Alaska state trooper who happened to be getting divorced from Palin's sister. Palin has denied these allegations. Alaska's state legislature voted in July to get an independent investigator to look into the firing.
Was she ever a member of the Alaskan Independence Party?
Officials from the AIP, the state's third-largest political party, have claimed that Sarah Palin attended the 1994 party convention with her husband. Public records indicate, however, that Palin has been a lifelong Republican since she first registered to vote in Alaska. Her husband Todd Palin did register as a member of the AIP—which supports holding a vote on Alaskan secession from the United States—in 1995 before reregistering as "undeclared" in 2002. According to the New York Times, Gov. Palin recorded a video segment for the party's convention this year, wishing the AIP "good luck on a successful and inspiring convention."
Was there a recall attempt against Palin when she was mayor of Wasilla?
No. The city council considered it after she fired longtime police chief Irl Stambaugh, who brought a lawsuit alleging that Palin fired him because campaign contributors and the NRA were angered by his opposition to a concealed-gun law. A federal judge ruled that city law permitted the mayor to the fire Stambaugh for any reason.
Did she want to ban books from the public library as mayor of Wasilla?
Yes, at least according to John Stein, the town's former mayor. Stein says Palin asked the Wasilla library "how she could go about banning books" with offensive language. It's not clear whether any book was ever banned.
What was her position on the surge?
Somewhere between McCain's and Obama's: She conditioned her support on an exit strategy. In her words: "I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq. I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place; I want assurances that we are doing all we can to keep our troops safe."
Derek Thompson is a senior editor at the Atlantic, where he oversees business coverage for TheAtlantic.com.
Photographs of: Sarah Palin by Tricia Ward; Palin on Slate's home page by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.