WASHINGTON — Republican presidential nominee John McCain defended running mate Sarah Palin on Sunday, even as she contradicted his policy against talking publicly about attacking terrorist targets in Pakistan.
McCain chided Democrat Barack Obama during Friday's presidential debate for saying publicly he supports striking terrorist targets inside Pakistan if the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to do so.
Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders are thought to be hiding in tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Obama has said he would support sending American troops into Pakistan to attack such high-value targets.
"You don't say that out loud," McCain said during the debate. "If you have to do things, you do things."
But on Saturday, Palin said much the same thing to a customer at a Philadelphia restaurant, with the press nearby.
"If that's what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should," Palin said in the exchange, which was captured on video and reported by CBS News.
Palin, the governor of Alaska, energized McCain's campaign when he chose her as a running mate just before the Republican convention. But polls show Palin's popularity waning among some as she has struggled to answer questions about foreign policy in the few interviews she has granted to journalists.
"She was in a conversation with some young man," McCain said during his own interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "She understands and has stated repeatedly that we're not going to do anything except in America's national security interest and we are not going to, quote, announce it ahead of time."
McCain said Palin's exchange was not an official policy statement.
"I don't think most Americans think that that's a definitive policy statement made by Governor Palin," McCain said.