From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --
Some more interesting tidbits on Sarah Palin from the book, "Game Change." If you're looking for excerpts, there's a section on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on the St. Petersburg Times' politics blog, a chapter on the "shallow and callow" former VP candidate, John Edwards, in New York Magazine, and a section on Hillary Clinton at abcnews.com.
But on to Chapter 20, "Sarahcuda," after the jump:
On McCain’s pick of her:
When Palin met McCain, the team that was vetting her had been doing so for just five days, "less investigation than a potential assistant secretary of agriculture would receive." McCain's advisers, Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, weren’t "poking and prodding to find every possible weakness in Palin," the authors note. "They didn't explore her preparedness to be vice president. They assumed she knew as much as the average governor, and that what she didn’t know, she would pick up on the fly. They weren’t searching for problems. They were looking for a last-second solution."
His advisers were reassured by Palin's "preternatural calm and self-possession. Never once did she betray any jitters or lack of confidence." But in judging Palin, they were relying on vetting "so hasty and haphazard it barely merited the name. No one had interviewed her husband. No on had spoken to her political enemies. No vetters had descended up Alaska…Palin’s life still was a mystery to McCainworld. And she was still a stranger to McCain."
McCain, though, saw himself in Palin in her "outsider's courage" and the "willingness to piss all over her party. "He loved that she’d taken on that pork-barreler Ted Stevens, whom he despised."
After McCain decided on her, Schmidt was struck by Palin's serenity on the way back to Alaska – when he told her she seemed calm, "Palin nodded and replied, 'It's God's Plan.'"
But according to the authors, when President George W. Bush heard of McCain’s pick (on a TV in the basement of the West Wing), he at first thought it was Tim Pawlenty.
"But then he realized that the name was Palin, and he was completely baffled. (Where did that come from?)"
Vice President Dick Cheney "had a harsher reaction," the authors write. "Palin was woefully unprepared, and McCain had made a ‘reckless choice,' Cheney told his friends."
From Chapter 22, "Seconds in Command:"
The McCain campaign found soon after the convention that Palin "had a tendency to shade the truth." Had she really said 'thanks, but no thanks' to the Bridge to Nowehere. Well, no. Had she really sold the state jet on eBay? Not exactly…At McCain HQ, a white board was set up with a list of controversies the press was exploring…The campaign quickly discovered that consulting her about any issue on the board inevitably yielded a sanitized version of reality."
Palin had pledged "to banish Alaska temporarily from her thoughts and concentrate on the task at hand." But she and her husband, Todd, were "fixated on her reputation in the state," the authors report. (A claim elaborated on in the book "Sarah from Alaska" by Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe. Palin, they reported, was distracted by filling out a questionnaire from her hometown paper, the Frontiersman.) In Game Change, the authors report Todd "griped about how few McCain-Palin yard signs he saw when he drove around back home. Sarah voiced so much anxiety over her gubernatorial approval ratings that Schmidt promised to commission a poll in Alaska to prove her fears were groundless." (That poll was later scrapped.)
Palin had "substantial deficiencies," the authors report, and her "grasp of rudimentary facts and concepts was minimal." Those deficiencies became apparent on Sept. 10, when she was getting ready to fly back to Alaska to see her son, Track, depart for Iraq, the authors report. She was also preparing for her interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson.
"Asked who attacked America on 9/11, she suggested several times that it was Saddam Hussein. Asked to identify the enemy that her son would be fighting in Iraq, she drew a blank. (Palin's horrified advisers provided her with scripted replies, which she memorized.) Later, on the plane, Palin said to her team, 'I wish I'd paid more attention to this stuff."
As she got to work on preparing for her debate with Joe Biden, Palin's "bandwith was constricted; her road show was becoming a traveling circus-cum-soap opera. Her children – a pregnant, hormonal young woman; a lively teenage girl; a rambunctious child; a special-needs infant; and a son just decamped for Iraq – consumed a vast amount of her psychic energy."
The debate preparations were going so badly that McCain suggested they move them to Sedona, and called in Sen. Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic vice presidential candidate, to help out. "The situation was wildly unconventional already: a Democratic senator being imported into a top-secret lockdown to assist a Republican vice-presidential candidate whose mental stability was in question."
Palin herself had "lost faith in McCainworld. She felt belittled and lectured to by the senior staff; whenever an aide told her Schmidt was waiting to talk to her on the phone, Palin’s reflexive reaction was, ‘Do I have to?'"
"The truth was, the McCain people did fail Palin. They had, as promised, made her one of the most famous people in the world overnight. But they allowed her no time to plant her feet to absorb such a seismic shift. They were unprepared when they picked her, which made her look even more unready than she was. They banked on the force of her magnetism to compensate for her disarray. They amassed polling points and dollars off of her fiery charisma, and then left her to burn up in the inferno of public opinion."
Many of McCain’s closest advisers believed that if he were to win the presidency, it was essential that Palin "be relegated to the largely ceremonial role that premodern vice presidents inhabited…some in McCainworld were ridden with guilt over elevating Palin to within striking distance of the White House."
The Obama team had the same sense, the authors report. One adviser leading a focus group with swing voters watched as a swing voter "let loose with a string of not-unfamiliar broadsides against Obama," including raising questions about whether he is Muslim or born in the United States.
The adviser was confused, the authors report. "If you think all these terrible things about Obama, he asked the woman, how can you possibly be undecided?" Her response: "Because if McCain dies, Palin would be president."