- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NEW YORK – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday had her first national security briefing from Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, just hours before she had her first-ever meeting with a foreign leader - which she promptly banned the press corps from covering.

Even though her schedule called for her traveling press pool to join her at the top of her meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, her staff at the last minute barred reporters, so no one really knows what Mrs. Palin said in the meeting. Her campaign called it a staff “mix-up.”

In three meetings throughout the day - the two others were with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger - she took no questions, continuing a 25-day streak without a press conference that stretches back to Aug. 29, the day she was selected to join the presidential ticket of Sen. John McCain.

The campaign would not release details of what she talked about in the meetings, but Mr. Karzai later told reporters he was impressed.

“I found her quite a capable woman. She asked the right questions on Afghanistan. She was concerned, and she said how can she help, so I’m very pleased with that meeting,” Mr. Karzai said.

For the half-minute reporters were in for the Karzai meeting, the two talked about their children. Mr. Karzai told Mrs. Palin about his young son, who was born in January 2007.

“What is his name?” Mrs. Palin asked.

“Mirwais,” Mr. Karzai responded. “Mirwais, which means, ‘The Light of the House.’ ”

“Oh, nice,” Mrs. Palin responded.

“He is the only one we have,” Mr. Karzai said.

After the daylong string of sitdowns, her campaign depicted the candidate as curious, asking questions and doing more listening than talking.

“Governor Palin has a great curiosity,” said one of her top aides, Steve Beigun, a former top official on President Bush’s National Security Council, who is bringing the Republican running mate up to speed on world affairs.

Mr. Beigun said Mrs. Palin “established a great personal rapport” with the leaders she met. Asked whether the sessions make her more prepared for the White House, he said: “I think she’s already fully prepared to be vice president.”

Preparing for her only debate with Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mrs. Palin is using the two-day trip to New York to meet world leaders gathered for the 63rd annual U.N. General Assembly sessions.

Later in the day, after a meeting with Mr. Uribe, Mrs. Palin stopped in for a chat with Mr. Kissinger.

The new information may help her Wednesday when she joins Mr. McCain for a meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. The pair also meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and rock star humanitarian Bono.

Mrs. Palin is to meet separately on Wednesday with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Mr. Biden, considered one of the Senate’s foremost experts on world affairs, is said to be a heavy favorite in the Oct. 2 debate, which has prompted Mrs. Palin’s handlers to throw her into a crash course on foreign policy.

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