September 9, 2008
BOSTON – In the summer of 2002, a senior aide to President George W. Bush met with a writer whose work had annoyed him to deliver a lesson in how his administration saw its mandate.
“The aide said that guys like me … ‘believe that solutions emerge from … judicious study of discernible reality,'” Ron Suskind wrote, recalling the event two years later. “‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore…,’ [the aide] continued. ‘When we act, we create our own reality.'”
Even in the days before the Bush presidency and Karl Rove, widely believed to be the source of that quote, political campaigns of all stripes have strived to “create their own realities.”
But while reporters have ridiculed Democrat Michael Dukakis for riding in a tank and belittled Barack Obama for the Greek columns at his nomination speech, Republicans have succeeded in turning the manipulation of myth into an art form.
That’s been evident this week as Rove protégé and Sen. John McCain’s adviser Steve Schmidt has steadied the ship of Sarah Palin’s rollout. First, he bullied the news media into submission. Then the campaign pushed an unrelenting portrayal of her as a maverick.
As reporters disclosed that Ms. Palin sought earmarks for her hometown before she opposed them and supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it, the campaign’s message only got more persistent and better packaged. On Monday, it released a new ad titled “Original Mavericks.”
And while the McCain campaign hammered the media for invading Palin’s privacy, it has used every opportunity to idealize her family, even flying in the boyfriend of her pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol and parading both on stage behind the governor after she accepted the Republican nomination for vice president. Reality television seemed to trump reality itself as the nomination took on the look of a new daytime soap. Meanwhile, the news media – pushed back by the McCain campaign, then fed this feel-good story line – converted Palin from untested and unvetted to “hockey mom,” a “pit bull with lipstick” ready to bite Obama.
The turnaround has been breathtaking.
Just over a week ago reporters disclosed that Palin is being investigated for allegedly trying to intimidate state officials into firing her estranged state trooper brother-in-law. Commentators raised sharp questions about her inexperience and poor vetting. Airwaves filled with idle – and sexist – speculation over whether a mother of five could handle the vice presidency.
But by Friday, an MSNBC commentator offered the breathy pronouncement that the McCain-Palin ticket “will be ahead in the polls by the end of the week.” And on Sunday a long profile in The Washington Post pivoted on this sentence: “Of the many striking images of Palin – sportswoman, beauty queen, populist – in Alaska the most iconic is working mother, a perfectly coifed professional woman balancing public duties and child-rearing in a charismatic blur of multitasking.”
Meanwhile, reports of Palin’s hard-right credentials (anti-abortion, pro-gun, possibly pro-creationism, and pro-abstinence education) receded rapidly as did news, covered in a blur, that she had attended five colleges over six years before graduating.
The see-saw story of Sarah Palin should give the press pause. Feeding frenzies followed by fawning serve only to confuse. If the public is to make sound decisions, to sort what’s real from what’s manufactured, the media must do their job with greater consistency and greater care.
1. The media should redouble efforts to unearth facts and spend far less time on speculation and titillation. McCain, Palin, Obama, and Joe Biden all have records. It’s the media’s job to expose contradictions in them – and to keep doing so even when campaigns push back. It is not the media’s job to speculate who will be leading next week or whether a candidate can parent and govern simultaneously.
2. The media need to reexamine the meaning of journalistic objectivity. It is not to give equal weight and space to each side of an issue. It is to report fully and fairly, to determine where the facts fall, and to write what’s verifiably true – giving a say, but not equal space, to those who contest the facts without evidence.
Palin, for example, does not believe climate change has a human cause. The scientific consensus says otherwise. Should her views carry equal weight as the campaign grinds on? My journalism professors would have said “no.”
3. The media should regularly explain what reporters do and why. In an era in which reporters are about as popular as $4-a-gallon gasoline, this is imperative. This spring I gave a workshop to some 50 university public information employees. I faced a long silence before anyone could tell me what the First Amendment protects.
Until the news media turn both tougher and fairer, provides contextual truth and not just balance, political operatives will hold the upper hand. And the public will move through election cycles like motorists peering into a thick fog.
“You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time,” Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said.
Only a vigilant media can keep Machiavellian calculations of contemporary campaigns from fooling enough people enough of the time to make such deceit the deciding factor in our elections.
September 6, 2008
Source: Fox News
This doctored photo of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is one of a number of falsifications and rumors to emerge since she became Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been subjected to an intense amount of media and public scrutiny since she was named as John McCain’s vice presidential pick one week ago. Many of the attacks have come in the form of unconfirmed reports on the Internet. Among them:
1) Palin “Joined a Secessionist Political Party”
The Charge: Unsubstantiated Internet reports insisted Palin was once a member of the Alaska Independence Party, which critics call a secessionist political movement and supporters say is dedicated to seeking greater state control over federal lands across Alaska.
The Facts: Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982. There is no record of her ever being a member of the AIP, or any party but the GOP. Palin’s husband has been a member of the AIP in the past, but since 2002 has been a registered independent.
2) Palin Supported a “Nazi Sympathizer”
The Charge: “Palin was a supporter of Pat Buchanan, a right-winger or, as many Jews call him: a Nazi sympathizer,” Obama Florida spokesman Mark Bubriski was quoted as saying in a Miami Herald article.
The Facts: While mayor of Wasilla, Palin wore a Buchanan button during the sometimes presidential candidate’s 1999 visit. But Palin actually supported Steve Forbes in 2000, and served as a co-chair on his Alaska campaign.
In the weeks after the 1999 report of her wearing the Buchanan button, Palin said: “When presidential candidates visit our community, I am always happy to meet them. I’ll even put on their button when handed one as a polite gesture of respect. … The article may have left your readers with the perception that I am endorsing this candidate, as opposed to welcoming his visit to Wasilla.”
3) Palin “Wants Creationism Taught in School”
The Charge: Palin opposes the teaching of evolution, and would mandate the teaching of creationism in the state’s public schools.
The Facts: Palin said during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign that she would not push the state Board of Education to add creation-based alternatives to the state’s required curriculum, or look for creationism advocates when she appointed board members. She has kept this pledge, according to the Associated Press.
Palin has spoken in favor of classroom discussions of creationism, in some cases. “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum,” Palin told the Anchorage Daily News in a 2006 interview.
4) Palin “Was Nearly Recalled” While Mayor
The Charge: Palin was so controversial as mayor of Wasilla that she was almost recalled by a popular voter movement.
The Facts: The Wasilla City Council considered but never took up a recall motion after she fired a longtime police chief, who subsequently brought a lawsuit. A citizen’s group dropped their recall bid, and a judge ruled Palin had the authority to fire the chief.
5) Palin “Opposes Sex Education”
The Charge: Palin opponents say she supported the end of all sex education in public schools. In light of her daughter’s presumably unplanned teen pregnancy, this has been a particularly well discussed Internet topic.
The Facts: “The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support,” Palin wrote in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates. Palin favors abstinence-based sex education programs.
6) “This Picture Proves Palin is …”
The Charge: A slew of fake, Photoshopped or misdated photographs on the Internet purport to show Palin in any number of embarrassing or compromising poses. One photo claimed to show Palin standing poolside, wearing an American flag-themed bikini, toting a rifle with telescopic sight.
The Facts: The various photos are being discredited and shown to be fake on a number of Web sites. The original of the so-called bikini shot, probably the best-known of the pictures, was shown to have been taken of another woman, with Palin’s head Photoshopped above the body.
7) Palin is the grandmother, and not the mother, of Trig Palin
The Charge: The most salacious rumor of all, this theory holds that Palin did not give birth to her son Trig in April, and was actually covering up for her daughter, Bristol.
The Facts: There are a number of photographs showing an apparently pregnant Sarah Palin, as well as a number of published eyewitness accounts of her pregnancy. These include First Lady Laura Bush, who says she spoke with a pregnant Palin at a governor’s conference in February. An assignment manager for KTVA news in Anchorage, Cherie Shirey, has also been quoted saying: “We worked with Governor Palin many times in 2008. Our reporters worked her on location and in the studio and I worked with her myself. She was definitely pregnant. You could see it in her belly and her face. The whole idea that Sarah Palin wasn’t pregnant with Trig is completely, absolutely absurd.”
The McCain campaign, in an apparent effort to counteract the rumors, announced last weekend that Bristol Palin is five months pregnant, which indicated she would have become pregnant before Trig was born.
September 3, 2008
September 3, 2008
Source: The Independent
The John McCain camp confirmed yesterday they had sent a “jump team” of lawyers and media communications experts to Alaska to handle the burst of potentially damaging publicity surrounding vice presidential pick Sarah Palin and her pregnant daughter, Bristol.
The dispatch of the operatives to Anchorage and also Wasilla where Mrs Palin was mayor and has a home left the impression of a campaign engaging in rapid damage control. It also gave rise to speculation that they were there to complete a vetting process that was not done properly in the face place.
Senator McCain, who will travel to St Paul, Minnesota, tomorrow to accept his nomination, denied yesterday that the normally exhaustive checking of Mrs Palin had been faulty. “The vetting process was complete and thorough and I am grateful for the results,” he said in Philadelphia. Aides had said earlier that he had known about the pregnancy of 17-year-old Bristol before offering the job to Mrs Palin.
Republican loyalists will rise to their feet as one this evening at their convention to welcome Mrs Palin, the Governor of Alaska, as she takes to the polished black stage in the Xcel Energy Center to accept the nomination and give her first major address on a national – if not international – stage.
After a somewhat toned-down start on Monday, because of Hurricane Gustav on the Gulf Coast, the Republicans got back on track yesterday and expect to reach a first emotional climax this evening with Mrs Palin’s address. The adulation, however, will mask anxiety that recent revelations about her private life and an ongoing ethics investigation could make Mrs Palin into a liability instead of an asset.
Convention planners intend that the acceptance speech by Mr McCain tomorrow, balloon drop and all, should be the high mark – though it will hardly match Barack Obama’s oration in the Mile High Stadium last week. Yet, it will have to compete with what happens tonight as Mrs Palin takes the stage.
The stakes for the 44-year-old mother of five and former beauty queen will be high indeed. She knows that the jury remains out on whether by selecting her as his number two Mr McCain has performed a brilliant electoral trick or committed something close to political harikiri. Karl Rove, the former political advisor to George Bush, said publicly yesterday that Mr McCain chose her with an eye to getting rather than to governing with her.
To this point at least, the excitement felt by conservative Republicans seems to be outweighing any private dismay at the morsels about Mrs Palin’s family life that have been leaking out faster than episodes in a soap opera. The biggest of them all, of course, being the revelation that Bristol is with child and that the young father, Levi, has a mouth grubbier than politics itself.
“It’s either brilliant or insane,” said the seasoned observer Charlie Cook, noting that media reports were wavering between two narratives on the Governor. “It will either be the fascinating, offbeat, not-off-the-rack maverick … or that her selection was a half-baked, cynical move by McCain that, while ‘outside the box’, probably should have been left in the box and never opened.”
Barely an hour in St Paul passes without some new detail about Mrs Palin life rushing through the corridors. Among these yesterday were reports that high among her socially conservative positions has been a long-held disenchantment with offering sex education in public schools because abstinence is the better answer. Never mind that Bristol apparently never got that parental memo.
Aides are also bracing, meanwhile, for any additional collateral damage that could emerge from an ethics investigation of Mrs Palin that was ordered by a committee of the state legislature in July. She has been charged by her political foes of firing the state’s former public safety commissioner because he did not sack a state trooper who is divorcing Mrs Palin’s sister.
Barack Obama, meanwhile, urged supporters to steer clear of the private affairs of Governor. ” I have said before and I will repeat again: I think people’s families are off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics.”
September 2, 2008
Source: The Olympian
ANCHORAGE — Alaska’s former commissioner of public safety claims that Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s pick to be vice president, personally talked to him on two occasions about a state trooper who was locked in a bitter custody battle with the governor’s sister.
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In a phone conversation Friday night, Walt Monegan, who was Alaska’s top cop until Palin fired him July 11, told The Anchorage Daily News that the governor also had e-mailed him two or three times about the trooper, Mike Wooten, though the e-mails didn’t mention Wooten by name.
What role Palin played in seeking her ex-brother-in-law’s dismissal is the governor’s first brush with scandal in a political career that has been premised on reforming Alaska’s corruption-plagued Republican party and raises questions not only about her willingness to use her office to further a personal agenda but also about her administrative abilities.
Palin’s replacement for Monegan, Chuck Kopp, was forced to resign just two weeks after he was appointed because of a sexual harassment complaint that had been filed against him when he was the chief of police in Kenai, Alaska.
Palin, in a news conference announcing Kopp’s resignation July 24, said she was unaware that the Kenai city council had reprimanded Kopp as a result of the complaint. She wouldn’t discuss how her staff had vetted Kopp before naming him to replace Monegan three days after Monegan was fired.
Monegan claims his refusal to fire Wooten was a major reason that Palin dismissed him. Wooten had been suspended for five days previously, based largely on complaints that Palin’s family had initiated before Palin became governor.
The events surrounding Monegan’s dismissal currently are under investigation by the state’s legislature. Palin has acknowledged that a member of her staff phoned a trooper lieutenant in an effort that could have been perceived as pressure to have Wooten dismissed and that her husband and other officials also had contacted Monegan about Wooten.
She’s insisted, however, that she did not authorize the phone call and was not aware of it. She has said she doesn’t believe any of the contacts amounted to pressuring Monegan. She suspended one of her aides after the recording of his discussions of Wooten with a trooper lieutenant became public.
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“The Governor did nothing wrong and has nothing to hide,” the McCain/Palin campaign said in a statement, blaming the issue on the campaign of the Democratic nominee, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. “It’s outrageous that the Obama campaign is trying to attack her over a family issue. As a reformer and a leader on ethics reform, she has been happy to help out in the investigation of this matter, because she was never directly involved.”
But the trooper controversy has been swirling around Palin for weeks, long before Palin was launched Friday into the bright lights of the national campaign.
Monegan, however, said that Palin’s two contacts with him came after she became governor — once on the phone soon after she took office and once in person not long after that.
Monegan also said that the governor’s husband, Todd, talked to him several times about Wooten and that three top officials in her administration also contacted him.
Monegan also disclosed for the first time that Palin sent him two or three e-mails that referenced her ex-brother-in-law and his status as a trooper. Monegan declined to provide the e-mails because of the ongoing investigation.
Monegan said he believes his firing was directly related to the fact Wooten stayed on the job. “It was a significant factor, if not the factor,” Monegan said.
No one from the McCain campaign ever contacted him to vet Palin as a candidate, Monegan said.
Who did they contact? “We don’t talk about the vetting process,” said Maria Comella, Palin’s vice presidential campaign press secretary.
Palin apologized for the chaos that the Monegan dismissal and the Kopp resignation had caused. “This has been a tumultuous week in the Department of Public Safety, and as your governor, I apologize,” she said at the news conference.
September 2, 2008
Source: The Seatle Times
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The announcement Monday by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband that their unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant raised new questions about how thoroughly John McCain investigated the background of his vice-presidential pick.
Whether the 72-year-old McCain’s selection of 44-year-old Palin as his running mate was carefully considered or impulsive is a matter of growing interest.
Stoking the notion of a rushed examination, a timeline issued by the campaign indicated that McCain initially met Palin in February, then held one phone conversation with her last week before inviting her to Arizona, where he met with her a second time and offered her the job.
Raising additional questions was a report that Palin’s husband, Todd, had been arrested in 1986, when he was 22, for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Although the Palins made their announcement in response to Internet rumors about their daughter’s pregnancy, McCain advisers said that he knew about the pregnancy before he settled on Palin, and said that Palin had been thoroughly vetted.
In Alaska, however, there’s little evidence of a thorough vetting process.
The former U.S. attorney for Alaska, Wev Shea, who enthusiastically recommended Palin back in March, said he was never contacted with any follow-up questions.
Chris Coleman, one of Palin’s next-door neighbors, said that no one representing McCain spoke to him about Palin. Another neighbor also was never contacted, he said Monday.
Republican Gail Phillips, a former speaker of the Alaska House, said that she was shocked by McCain’s selection of Palin and told her husband, Walt, “This can’t be happening because his advance team didn’t come to Alaska to check her out.” “We’re not a very big state,” Phillips said. “People I talk to would’ve heard something.”
Walt Monegan, the commissioner of public safety whom Palin fired in July, said that no one from the McCain campaign contacted him, either. His firing is now the subject of a special legislative investigation into whether Palin or members of her administration improperly interfered with the running of his department by pushing for dismissal of a state trooper involved in a divorce and custody battle with Palin’s sister.
Palin now has a private lawyer representing her and others in the governor’s office in the investigation. It wasn’t immediately clear who hired and who is paying for Thomas Van Flein.
The FBI declined to say whether it conducted a full-field investigation of Palin’s background before McCain tapped her as his running mate.
Previous vice-presidential picks — even those with long records in national politics — have come under much closer scrutiny. In 2000, Democratic nominee Al Gore picked Joe Lieberman after a vetting process that lasted about 10 months.
Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, was asked Monday as he walked through the Xcel Center in St. Paul if he was satisfied with Palin’s vetting. “I’m not gonna get into that,” he said.
Mark Salter, McCain’s closest adviser, said in an e-mail message that Palin had been interviewed by Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., a veteran Washington lawyer, as well as by other lawyers who worked for Culvahouse.
Reports on each candidate — 40-some pages and single spaced — were reviewed by McCain, Schmidt, Davis, and top advisers Salter and Charlie Black.
Palin then was sent a personal data questionnaire with 70 “very intrusive” questions, Culvahouse said. She also was asked to submit a number of years of federal and state tax returns.
Culvahouse then conducted a nearly three-hour interview. He said the first thing Palin volunteered was that her daughter was pregnant, and she also quickly disclosed her husband’s two-decade-old DUI arrest.
Culvahouse said he asked follow-up questions, and “spent a lot of time with her lawyer” on the matter.
“We came out of it knowing all that we could know at the time,” he said.
McCain’s team hit back at reporters’ questions about the vetting process.
“It’s a private family matter. Life happens in families,” Schmidt said. “If people try to politicize this, the American people will be appalled by it. The fact is that the American people, who are decent people, don’t appreciate intrusions into the private space of good families.”
But some Republicans remained nervous about the party’s ticket, worrying about the potential for more surprises in the days ahead. “Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy is probably much ado about nothing — I think,” one GOP strategist said. “If there’s more, it will raise questions about the whole vetting process because she’s such an unknown.”
Another McCain loyalist said he doubts the controversy will last. “It came out in the vetting, and if that’s true, then the vetting worked,” he said. “If that’s not true, then I would have concerns.”
But McCain supporters are encouraged that leaders of the Christian right are rallying behind Palin and her family.
“Fortunately, Bristol is following her mother and father’s example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. However, Sherry Whistine, a Republican conservative blogger from Palin’s home area of Wasilla, said that she can’t believe how Palin could accept the nomination knowing that doing so would shine a spotlight on her daughter.
“What kind of woman, knowing all of this, knowing this is happening, would put her children in the position where the whole world, the whole nation, is going to see the uglies?” she said.
Like so many here, Ted Boyatt, 20, a delegate from Maryville, Tenn., seemed stunned by Palin’s announcement and its awkward timing. “It seems like the whole script has just been knocked out of balance,” he said.
The Palins said that Bristol, who was named for Bristol Bay, the salmon fishery, would marry a man they identified only as Levi.
“Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family,” the statement said.
Palin and her husband eloped on Aug. 29, 1988, and their first son, Track, was born eight months later, a fact that Maria Comella of the McCain campaign, declined to elaborate on. “They were high-school sweethearts who got married and ended up having five beautiful children,” Comella said.
September 2, 2008
Source: ABC News
ABC News’ Teddy Davis and Arnab Datta Report: John McCain’s top policy adviser rebuked a reporter on Monday for asking if there was “no sense of panic” in the campaign “over the love child issue,” a reference to the announcement made earlier in the day that the 17-year old daughter of McCain’s running mate is five-months pregnant and planning to marry the father.
“All kidding aside — a little respect. I mean ‘love child’ issue? I mean this is a young woman,” said McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, referring to Bristol Palin, the daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). “She is 17-years old, and I believe that treating it with a little bit of respect is appropriate.”
“This is the governor’s daughter,” he continued. “It is their issue. It is something that we believe should be treated with a lot of respect. This is clearly something that we have a lot of concern about: the future of this young lady. She’s a wonderful woman. From the campaign’s perspective, we have an outstanding candidate who is a governor and she has a family. She loves that family, and this is their business.”
Holtz-Eakin made his comments in response to a question from Paul Bedard the author of “Washington Whispers,” a regular feature in U.S. News & World Report.
Bedard questioned Holtz-Eakin during a Christian Science Monitor lunch with reporters held in St. Paul, Minn.
The rebuke from Holtz-Eakin came after Bedard said: “I covered the Dan Quayle campaign. Is there no sense of panic over the love child issue or is there a belief that it shows that she is like a lot of American families?”
Another reporter attending the lunch asked Holtz-Eakin when he first became aware that Palin’s daughter was pregnant with an “out-of-wedlock baby.”
“It doesn’t matter when I became aware,” said Holtz-Eakin. “I mean, the governor and Todd Palin issued a statement this morning. The statement, I think, speaks for itself — which is to say, that they are now conscious that their daughter will have to address the great challenge of raising a child sooner than they might have hoped. And that they are being supportive of her and the man that she will marry and they would ask that we respect their privacy and I think out of respect for that request that’s probably all we should say.”
Asked if the campaign knew about the pregnancy at the time of Palin’s selection, Holtz-Eakin said, “As I said, what I think we ought to do is recognize that the governor was completely vetted by the campaign. Senator McCain has complete confidence in her as a running mate and as a future vice president of the United States, and the particulars of the family life of the Palins is really something that’s best left to them.”
September 1, 2008
Source: The Atlantic
A few days before John Kerry introduced John Edwards as his running mate, a select few members of Kerry’s research staff were given five names, told to adopt the mindset of Republican opposition research, and to prepare a political dossier. What were the likeliest lines of attack that Republicans would use? What political pitfalls might the professional attorneys who conducted the vetting process have missed?
By the day of the announcement, Kerry’s research team had a comprehensive folder prepared about Edwards that included suggested responses for dozens of potential attacks against Edwards’s resume, character, and positions.
This year, the intense secrecy with which McCain advisor A.B. Culvahouse completed his vetting of Sarah Palin preserved the surprise. And ultimately, McCain aides say they’re sure that the rewards will be worth the risks. But as the Palin pick turns 72 hours old, McCain’s campaign is learning as much about her from the media and from Democrats as they are from what minimal political preparation they had.
The campaign anticipated that the Obama campaign would attack Palin’s experience, to which they responded by claiming that she has more experience than he does.
They anticipated that some would compare Palin’s Alaska to Clinton’s Little Rock, although Palin, in this comparison, is the anti-establishment figure.
They anticipated that some would compare the pick to Dan Quayle, although Quayle had much more experience and never got along with Bush and was consistently undermined by Bush advisers like James Baker. Apples and oranges.
Privately, one campaign official says they were aware of several of the more scurrilous rumors about Palin making the rounds of the blogosphere, although the official declined to “dignify” them with any comment.
They’ve bragged that Palin opposed the famous “Bridge to Nowhere,” only to learn that Palin supported the project and even told residents of Ketchikan that they weren’t “nowhere” to her. After the national outcry, she decided to spend the funds allocated to the bridge for something else. Actually, maybe it’s more fair to say that coincident with the national outcry, she changed her mind. The story shows her political judgment, but it is not a reformer’s credential.
Likewise, though she cut taxes as mayor of Wassila, she raised the sales tax, making her hardly a tax cutter.
She denied pressuring the state’s chief of public safety to fire her sister-in-law’s husband even though there’s mounting evidence that the impetus did indeed come from her. Ostensibly to clear her name, Palin asked her attorney general to open an independent investigation—the legislature had already been investigating. (I am told that the campaign was aware of the ethics complaint filed against her but accepts Palin’s account.)
McCain’s campaign seemed unaware that she supported a windfalls profits tax on oil companies and that she is more skeptical about human contributions to global warming than McCain is.
They did not know that she took trips as the mayor of Wasilla to beg for earmarks.
They did not know that she told a television interviewer this summer that she did not fully understand what it is that a vice president does.
Had McCain had the time or inclination to think about all of this, he still might have picked her. Like him, she has a habit of kicking lobbyists out of her office. Like him, she has a reputation for being a blunt speaker. Like him, she has a rep for cutting spending, and unlike him, had the executive authority to do so, slashing more than 10 percent of the state’s proposed budget in 2007. Like him, she did not seem to care if she offended Republicans. She was, as he told an interviewer, a soul-mate, one he recognized over the course of a single meeting with her last week. That reinforced the sense he took away from their first encounter just six months ago.
The official tick-tocks that McCain and his advisers have put out, as well as some interviews with participants, really do suggest that as of early last week, everyone but McCain assumed that he would pick Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or Joe Lieberman.
On Tuesday, a senior campaign official who participated in the final discussions began to hint to reporters that the pick might be transformative in the sense that it would anger right-wing Republicans and bring McCain back to the center.
On Wednesday morning, another senior campaign official who was part of the vetting process said that McCain had not indicated who he had chosen. On Wednesday afternoon, the Politico reported that McCain had made up his mind, but it wasn’t until that evening that McCain began to tell some of his friends. Until Thursday morning, he didn’t even tell his best friend, Lindsey Graham, a staunch proponent of Joe Lieberman. (Graham has never met Palin, nor have most senior McCain campaign officials.)
Later on Thursday, a few senior officials, including senior communications adviser Matthew McDonald, were tasked with putting together a messaging operation. McDonald worked through the night crafting talking points and scheduling surrogate phone calls.
The news media was chasing its own rumor—that campaign manager Rick Davis had given Fox News’s Carl Cameron word of the pick but had embargoed it until 6:00 p.m. ET. Reporters e-mailed Cameron to find out if this was true. “Not exactly,” he wrote back. (Cameron would indeed be the first reporter to formally break the news, but he did so the next morning after hearing from a backstage source at the rally.)
Late Thursday night, the campaign began to tell some of his surrogates that the pick would upend the “conventional wisdom.” Speculation swung to Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman. Governor Tim Pawlenty usually spends the night at his private home in St. Paul. Expecting to be picked, he camped out in the more formal governors’ mansion.
Late Thursday night, aviation buffs first noticed a curious series of out-of-the-ordinary airplane flight plans from Anchorage to Flagstaff to a small airport outside Dayton. (Why not Dayton itself? Campaigns routinely try to hide these flights by diverting them to tiny airstrips far enough away from cities and events, a practice that the Obama campaign used to good effect.)
The charter airplane was owned by a McCain donor.
Early Friday morning, most news organizations, acting based on those internet reports, scrambled to arrange feeds from their Alaska affiliates.
And Democrats began to book their researchers tickets to Alaska.