Sarah Palin is walking through a suite in the Peninsula New York Hotel in midtown Manhattan trying to find the great outdoors. The former GOP vice presidential candidate is being photographed before the launch of her new reality series, “Amazing America,” which features human-interest tales about outdoor adventures, ranging from a blacksmith championship to a car race among pastors. But the suite doesn’t even have a landscape painting. She finally finds a window to pose in front of, but it’s facing a brick wall, not the wilderness.
Crammed into two tiny rooms with eight other people—including her husband and two handlers—Ms. Palin doesn’t want to be “burned” by unflattering photographs, which has happened in the past, she says. Wearing a V-neck shirt, black skinny jeans and a glittering “Girls with Guns” belt and buckle, she also doesn’t want to wear the camouflage jacket that the photographer has brought for her, nor will she succumb to his French charm. She certainly doesn’t want to perch on any furniture.
As the photographer clicks away, Jason Recher, a former George W. Bush aide and her longtime aide, tries to move things along. “Next frame, next frame, next frame,” he says, glancing over the photographer’s shoulder. Ms. Palin has a busy schedule this day. She has had back-to-back meetings and appearances, and over the course of the hourlong interview and photo shoot, she drinks several glasses of Diet Coke.
Her handlers say that she wants this interview to focus on her new show on the Sportsman Channel, not on politics. But she hasn’t shied away from the political debate, as shown by her daily Facebook and Twitter posts (often in all-caps) about foreign and domestic policy. She has given public support to a few Republican candidates and will soon head to a fundraiser for Lizbeth Benacquisto, a state senator in Florida who is running for Congress.
Ms. Palin deflects questions about whether she herself will run for office in 2016. “My plans are more immediate than that,” she says, “and that is helping get good people elected in 2014 to undo much of the blundered Barack Obama agenda that has not allowed the economic recovery in this country that Americans deserve.” By trying to put new people in positions of power, such as Greg Abbott, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Texas, and Joni Ernst, a Republican Senate candidate in Iowa, she says that she hopes to help “get America on the right track in getting people hired and industry back here cruising and booming—that’s what we need in America!”
Much of Ms. Palin’s campaigning has been on social media. She likes putting her views online, she says, because she thinks that she can get her message out more directly. “I’m not a big fan of the conventional—[what] I call ‘lamestream’—media because they too often filter my message,” she says. “I get to go right to the people and the millions of followers I have on my Facebook, and I get to talk to them and interact with them.” Ms. Palin has 1.05 million Twitter followers and more than 4 million Facebook-page likes.
As she starts to discuss how political correctness is part of the media’s filter, the publicist from the Sportsman Channel, who is sitting next to her, clears his throat. (When asked later if he was cuing her, he said that he wasn’t; he had a cold.) She changes gears quickly: “A show like this, which is unfiltered, is going to be very refreshing because, no! It’s not going to be politically correct,” she says. “Thank God! Because most people aren’t politically correct, and that’s relatable.”
Why didn’t she run in 2012? “Too busy,” she says quickly. “Young family, busy family, lots going on, and today there’s still a lot going on.” She prefers endorsing candidates, “finding underdogs who have a servant’s heart and have the ability and they have the willingness to serve America for the right reasons,” she says. The publicist clears his throat again, and she continues: “But the show isn’t political at all; it is about hardworking, patriotic, everyday American life that needs to be highlighted. We need more family-oriented, positive, uplifting shows to watch, and this is going to be one of them.”
The great outdoors have inspired many of Ms. Palin’s key phrases and political ideas. She came up with the term “Mama Grizzly” a few years ago after watching a group of bears catching salmon in Homer, Alaska. She soon realized, “The mamas are doing all the work!” While the male bears played and wrestled, she says, the females “are catching the fish and feeding the babies, and they’re protecting the babies and taking swats at any other bear that would come bug their cubs and perhaps be a threat to their cubs,” she explains. After observing the bears that day, she discovered, “It’s the mama grizzlies that are looking out for that next generation,” she says. “So politically, I’m finding mama grizzlies who will look out for America’s future.”
How would she convince women to vote Republican in 2016 if Hillary Clinton ended up being the Democratic nominee? “Hopefully gender isn’t going to be an issue in anyone’s judgment of who the best candidate will be to help lead America,” she replies. “I’m fortunate to have grown up in a very independent and hardworking family where gender was never an issue.”
Ms. Palin doesn’t hesitate to criticize members of her own political party. Earlier that week, she had called Rep. Paul Ryan‘s budget proposal a “joke.” She wrote on her Facebook page, “It STILL is not proposing reining in wasteful government overspending TODAY.” Today, she says, “We should make government as irrelevant in our lives as possible.”
Ms. Palin also resents government surveillance, as she makes clear in referring to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents about the agency’s collection of data, including the phone call records of millions of Americans. “Snowden isn’t the problem!” she says. “The American government spying on its own people is the problem!” She finishes her thought by saying, “The smaller the government, the bigger the people, and this show talks about big, bold, beautiful America.”
One area where Ms. Palin doesn’t want to reduce government spending is the military. She says that with a strengthened military, she would have handled Russia’s annexation of Crimea differently from how President Obama did. “I’d put the fear of God in our enemies!” she almost shouts. “Like Ronald Reagan did! I wouldn’t be cutting the military. You strengthen the military!”
In her view, is Russia or China a bigger threat? “We don’t know enough about what China is capable of yet, so I’d have to say Russia,” she says. But she remains concerned about the Middle East. She calls the area a “tinderbox with dangerous cells going that are full of bad guys,” adding, “We need to have our defenses ready!”