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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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."
What's Palin's record on environmental issues?
The environmental Web site Grist.org has reported that she objected to listing polar bears or beluga whales as endangered in Alaska, fearing it might affect Alaskan drilling projects. She also voted against a proposition to limit mining where runoff would threaten salmon populations. She is outspoken about opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other offshore locations for oil drilling. The Sierra Club has condemned her advocacy for wolf hunting and her eagerness to drill throughout the state.
Does she oppose federal earmarks?
Alaska has long been the recipient of astounding amounts of federal funding. While Palin slashed pork requests in half during her tenure, the state still requested $550 million in Palin's first year in office. This year she has requested about $198 million—$295 per person—which is still the highest amount per-capita in the country, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. And when she was the mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired an Anchorage-based firm to secure $27 million in federal earmarks for the town.
Did she really stand up to big oil?
Palin's strategy in Alaska has been to expand oil production and to use the royalties to pay dividends for the state's citizens. Palin, whose husband worked for BP, endorsed Barack Obama's call for a windfall tax for oil companies. (John McCain says he opposes such a measure.) Her relationship with American oil firms like Exxon is less than cuddly, however. After a long negotiation process in 2006, she brokered a deal to build a pipeline between Alaska and the lower 48 with TransCanada, a Canadian company.
What is her record on ethics reform?
As governor, Palin signed ethics legislation limiting lobbyists' access to government officials and calling for more transparency in their dealings with Alaskan pols. As ethics commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, she accused a fellow Republican of illegally taking money from energy firms. (He later paid a large fine for his transgressions.) She has also reduced the perks of positions she's held personally: She put the governor's private jet up for sale on eBay and laid off her personal chef. As mayor of Wasilla, she cut her own salary.
BELIEFS AND VALUES
Does she believe in evolution?
Palin said in a 2006 debate that she supports teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools on the grounds that "healthy debate is so important." She did not insist that creationism become a part of the curriculum. In the same debate, she said she believed in a creator and avoided an up-or-down stance on evolution.
What are Palin's views on abortion?
Palin has said she is "as pro-life as any candidate can be" and called abortion "an atrocity." She has supported mandatory parental consent, and while she is pro-contraception, has also indicated her preference for abstinence education over "explicit sex-ed programs." She would permit abortion in cases where the mother's life was endangered, but not in the case of rape or incest.
Does she believe in climate change?
Yes, but in an interview with Newsmax.com, she expressed doubts that human activity is to blame.
Is Palin's church anti-Semitic?
Palin belongs to the Wasilla Bible Church, a conservative evangelical congregation. Politico's Ben Smith recently uncovered a guest sermon from a Jews for Jesus representative who said attacks against Israel are proof that God judges those who deny Jesus as their savior. Smith also reported that Palin is friends with an Alaska rabbi who considers her "a friend of the Jews."
Did Palin ask her daughter Bristol to get married before news broke that she was pregnant?
The National Enquirer seems to think so, but no other news organization has verified the claim. The McCain campaign has flatly denied the reports, and McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt has threatened legal action against the magazine.
Did Palin elope with her husband while pregnant with her first child?
It's possible, but we don't know for certain. Fox News' Alan Colmes reported that Palin's first-born son, Track, was born on April 20, 1989, almost eight months to the day after she eloped and married her husband, Todd, on August 29, 1988.
Did she fly all the way from Texas to Alaska this April after her water broke?
A Wall Street Journal profile reports that she first felt contractions before speaking at an energy summit in Dallas. Her doctor in Alaska told her to rest, but Palin carried on with the speech, rushed to the airport, got on a jet to Alaska, landed in Anchorage, then gave birth after driving 45 miles to a hospital in Palmer, Alaska.
Palin competed in beauty pageants in the early 1980s. What was her talent?
She played the flute.
What's her workout secret?
Running. Palin claims she likes to jog between seven and 10 miles every day; since giving birth to her fifth child in April, she's already worked her way up to three-mile runs. Her diet is "heavy in wild Alaskan seafood, moose, caribou and fresh fruit."
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.