So is Palin "naive" on Pakistan?

The position Sarah Palin took in her first interview on American intervention in Pakistan sounds remarkably like Barack Obama's, which John McCain has repeatedly attacked.

Published September 12, 2008 12:12AM (EDT)

In his interview with her, ABC News' Charlie Gibson pressed Sarah Palin repeatedly on the question of Pakistan and whether the U.S. has the right to make cross-border attacks into that country without its government's permission. The answer Palin eventually came up with was, admittedly, on message. The only problem? It wasn't John McCain's message that Palin was repeating -- it was Barack Obama's.

Obama has previously said that, if necessary, he'd order American forces to attack targets inside Pakistan even without permission. "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said in a speech last summer.

Obama has been attacked for taking that stance, and for announcing it publicly. (It should be noted that some of those who criticized Obama were his then-rivals for the Democratic nomination, including Joe Biden.)

McCain himself has repeatedly taken after Obama on the issue. Speaking to reporters in February, McCain said, "[T]he best idea is to not broadcast what you're going to do. That's naive... You don't broadcast that you are going to bomb a country that is a sovereign nation and that you are dependent on the good will of the people of that country to help you in the war -- in the struggle against Taliban and the sanctuaries which they hold."

And as recently as this July, McCain had made his position on going after al-Qaida targets in Pakistan -- even the biggest target -- clear. Asked by CNN's Larry King, "If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?" McCain responded, "Larry, I'm not going to go there and here's why, because Pakistan is a sovereign nation."

That's not the way Palin sees it, apparently. Gibson asked her the question three times, and she dodged it on the first go-round. But then Gibson asked again, saying, "But governor, I am asking you, do we have the right, in your mind, to go across the border, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?"

Palin answered, "In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America, and our allies, we must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go, and even who we target." Asked again, she said, "I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying America, and our allies."

A McCain spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz. Pakistan Sarah Palin