NEW YORK - Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Wednesday that the United States could be headed for another Great Depression if Congress doesn't act on the financial crisis.
Palin made the comment in an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric while visiting New York to meet foreign leaders for the first time in her political career. As Palin sought to establish her credentials in world affairs, first lady Laura Bush said Palin lacked sufficient foreign policy experience but was "a quick study."
Recent surveys have shown that Palin's popularity, while still strong, has begun to fade.
Earlier this month, an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll showed more people viewing Palin favorably than unfavorably, 47 percent to 28 percent. But an ABC News-Washington Post poll released Wednesday showed that in a two-week period, the number seeing Palin positively dropped 6 percentage points while 10 points more see her unfavorably. On Monday, a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll said her favorable rating dropped 4 points and her unfavorable rating rose 8 points over two weeks.
Palin has been in New York this week for a series of meetings with foreign leaders, part of an effort by Republican John McCain's presidential campaign to counter criticism that the former small-town mayor lacks the experience to be vice president, let alone president in an emergency.
The CBS interview was just her third major interview in nearly four weeks on the GOP presidential ticket. Asked whether there's a risk of another Great Depression if Congress doesn't approve a $700 billion bailout package, Palin said, "Unfortunately, that is the road that America may find itself on."
Palin said the answer to the financial crisis doesn't necessarily have to be the bailout plan the Bush administration has proposed, but that it should be some form of bipartisan action to reform Wall Street.
"I'm ill about the position that America is in and that we have to look at a $700 billion bailout. At the same time we know that inaction is not an option and as Sen. McCain has said unless this nearly trillion-dollar bailout is what it may end up to be, unless there are amendments in Paulson's proposal, really I don't believe that Americans are going to support this and we will not support this," Palin said in the interview.
Couric pressed Palin on examples of how McCain, a 26-year congressional veteran, had led the charge for more oversight.
The Alaska governor cited McCain's warnings about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago as well as his image as a maverick. Questioned again for examples, and reminded that McCain had been chairman of the Commerce Committee, Palin said, "I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you."
McCain has insisted Palin is ready to take over as president, but he made no mention of including her in the meetings he wants in Washington to deal with the financial crisis.
Laura Bush told CNN that she thought Palin had "a lot of really good common sense" and commended her executive experience. Asked if she thought Palin had sufficient foreign policy experience, the first lady said: "Of course she doesn't have that. You know, that's not been her role, but I think she is a very quick study, and fortunately John McCain does have that sort of experience."
Palin covered a range of issues Wednesday in her conversations with foreign leaders, according to her foreign policy adviser, Stephen Biegun.
She and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani discussed a new election law approved by parliament this week that paves the way for the first provincial elections in four years. Biegun also said Talabani was greatly interested in the Alaska Permanent Fund, which gives residents a share of the state's oil wealth.
"It's something the Iraqis were well-familiar with, and it's apparently something that they're looking at as a model to pursue the development of their oil fields," Biegun said.
On her way to that meeting, Palin got a glimpse of ground zero for the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York as her motorcade made its way downtown. She did not respond to a reporter's question about what she thought when she passed by the 16-acre site.
Her motorcade was stuck in traffic for a few minutes along its western border, where passers-by can see cranes jutting into the sky from the base of the deep pit that once was the World Trade Center basement. Crews are building a memorial to the attacks and a 1,776-foot-tall building to replace the destroyed twin towers.
Palin met with Talabani and then with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari before an evening session with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Earlier Wednesday, Palin and McCain met jointly with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko.
The McCain campaign set up the sessions with the leaders, who were among those in town for the U.N. General Assembly.
Meanwhile, Palin's infant son and two youngest daughters headed home to Alaska after a day of quintessential New York sightseeing with their father, Todd Palin. He took them to the tip of Manhattan to see the Statue of Liberty. The family also visited ground zero, and ate hot dogs and soft pretzels in Central Park.
They stopped at the FAO Schwarz toy store, where daughter Piper tried on princess dresses, the campaign said.
At the start of her meeting with Talabani, the governor was overheard saying: "There's plenty to do here, isn't there? Plenty to see."
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