WASHINGTON — In her first television interview promoting her new memoir, Sarah Palin on Monday addressed one of the lingering questions many Alaskans have had since she stepped down as governor this summer: Why?
"My state of Alaska was being hampered by my presence there, being shackled behind a governor's desk," Palin told talk show host Oprah Winfrey in an interview aired Monday. "I wasn't able to get out there and talk about issues that were important to me, or an ethics violation would be filed."
Even after reading the memoir, Winfrey told Palin, she wasn't entirely clear why Palin resigned. Winfrey pressed Palin: Why not just finish what you started?
"We came back from those 10 weeks on the road to a new normal in Alaska," Palin said, referring to her time as Sen. John McCain's Republican vice presidential running mate. "Everything had so changed for my administration."
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Palin's next "new normal" began Monday with her sit-down with Winfrey, the first television appearance as part of a full media onslaught to promote her memoir, "Going Rogue." The book, due in stores today, already is a best-seller, with more than 1.5 million copies printed. Palin has a series of interviews with Barbara Walters scheduled to begin airing today on ABC ("Good Morning America"), and officially launches her book tour in Grand Rapids, Mich., Wednesday.
In the interview, Winfrey covered Palin's frustrations with the McCain campaign, the intimate details of her family life, and her 2012 ambitions. In the interview, Palin also revealed the emotional toll of the two pregnancies in her family last year: her own, and that of her unwed teen daughter, Bristol.
Her daughter's pregnancy was made public shortly after Palin joined the GOP ticket, and it was the first experience in what Palin described as the "tabloidization" of her family.
"She had seen it on the news, and she was quite devastated, and perfectly honestly, she was quite embarrassed," Palin said of her daughter's reaction. "She called me in tears and was saying, 'Oh, Mom, now not just (in) Wasilla do they know what's going on in my life, but now the whole world knows, Mom. And should this be news? Should it be a top news story?' And I said, 'No, it should not.'"
The tabloid fodder has persisted as the father of Palin's grandson, Levi Johnston, continues to spar publicly with Palin. Johnston, who will be modeling in Playgirl magazine, hasn't seen the baby for some time, Palin said. It is "a bit heartbreaking to see the road that he is on right now," Palin said.
But Palin, when prompted by Winfrey, invited the father of her grandchild to Thanksgiving dinner with the family.
"Open invitation for Levi to come to Aunt Katie's house for Thanksgiving dinner in Washington. There -- it's there," she said.
As for her own pregnancy, in some ways, Palin told Winfrey, her husband, Todd, had a better reaction than she did when she heard the news that their son would be born with Down syndrome.
"It was hard because I didn't want to tell him over the phone, so it took about three weeks of me knowing before Todd and I finally connected, when he was off the Slope and I was through traveling and we were in the same room at the same time," Palin told Winfrey. "And I told him that the baby was a boy and he was over the top, ecstatic about that."
Then, Palin said, she told her husband their son had Down syndrome.
"And Todd's reaction was, he was -- he probably had a better reaction than I did when I first heard the news. I was much more frightened, I think, than he. He said, 'It's going to be okay.' And I said, 'But are you asking the same thing that I'm asking? Are you asking, 'Why, God?' And he says, 'Why not, God? Why not us?'"
As for the disastrous campaign interview with CBS anchor, Katie Couric, Palin told Winfrey she thought the CBS anchor's questions were an affront to her as an Alaskan. Yet she acknowledged that in her response to the well-known question about what informed her world view, it was "very unprofessional of me to wear that annoyance on my sleeve."
"It was more like, 'Are you kidding me? Are you really asking me?'" Palin said. "To me, it was in the context of, 'Do you read? How do you stay informed? You're way up there.'" It seemed like she was discovering this nomadic tribe, a member of a tribe from some Neanderthal cave in Alaska, asking me, 'How do you stay in touch with the real world?' That's how I took the question, so I kind of -- well, didn't kind of. I did."
Palin also said that she felt as though she had little to do with the Republican ticket's loss last year. It was all about the economy, Palin said.
"They were quite concerned about the road that America was on with our economy. They did not want more of the same," she said of voters. "They did not want status quo, and I think, unfortunately, our ticket represented what was perceived as status quo, and so I don't think that I was to blame for losing the race any more then I could be credited with winning the race, had I done a better job as the VP candidate."
For the most part, the interview with Winfrey was a friendly one, although Winfrey doesn't hide that when she learned of Palin's pick as McCain's running mate, that she was in Denver supporting the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama.
Winfrey, teasing Palin about the former governor's alleged ambitions to create a right-wing version of the talk show maven's own media empire, asked Palin if she should be looking over her shoulder.
"Oprah, you are the queen of talk shows," Palin said. "There's nothing to ever worry about."
And as for her 2012 presidential ambitions, Palin wasn't telling Winfrey. She said she plans to have a role helping candidates in the 2010 elections, but as far as she's concerned, 2012 is the year Trig starts kindergarten.
"What I am finding -- clearer and clearer every day what I'm seeing -- is you don't need a title to make a difference," Palin said. "Any ordinary American can seize opportunities to let their voice be heard, to speak up on an issue, or for a candidate that they believe in, and they can make a difference."