Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 2, 2008

POST HOC VETTING.... After having watched John McCain for many years, I don't hold him in the highest regard. But even I, in my heart of hearts, never expected him to invite a total stranger onto the national ticket, and possibly put this stranger one heartbeat from the presidency of the United States, without a thorough vetting.

But that is precisely what's happened. John McCain's operation is not only reckless and irresponsible, it's backwards -- McCain picked Sarah Palin and then decided to vet her. MSNBC reported yesterday that Republican lawyers are now in Alaska looking into Palin's background; ABC News reported the same thing; and the New York Times ties it together.

Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin's background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice. The campaign was still calling Republican operatives as late as Sunday night asking them to go to Alaska to deal with the unexpected candidacy of Ms. Palin. [...]

At the least, Republicans close to the campaign said it was increasingly apparent that Ms. Palin had been selected as Mr. McCain's running mate with more haste than McCain advisers initially described.

As the Times explained, McCain hoped to get Lieberman or Ridge on the ticket, but was told the party would never stand for it. Pawlenty and Romney were deemed "too predictable." Scrambling, they decided to gamble on Palin, before they knew anything about her.

The McCain campaign did not conduct an FBI background check, did not talk to Republican officials in Alaska, and didn't even talk to Palin's next-door neighbors.

As ridiculous a choice as Palin is for national office, let's not lose sight of the real scandal here -- John McCain has the judgment of a small child. Tasked with the most important decision of his presidential campaign, McCain has managed to demonstrate incompetence, cynicism, and recklessness, all at the same time.

"[W]e are reminded," Eugene Robinson writes today, "if we did not realize it before, that the three things not to expect from a McCain presidency are caution, prudence and a willingness to always put the nation's interests above his own."

Those fundamentally unsuited for the presidency do things like this.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Expect them to get on the air at Fox News and other friendly outlets and LIE LIE LIE and claim that they did vet her and they found nothing wrong. They OWN the fucking airwaves.. they know this.


Posted by: just me on September 2, 2008 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

But... the lapel pin is sooooo big. Strictly Presidental material.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on September 2, 2008 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, that's just what mavericks do. They're unpredictable. They buck the trends. They don't take the responsible road. Oh wait--you mean that's not what you're looking for in a Commander-in-Chief?

Posted by: Incertus on September 2, 2008 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

of course, vetting now isn't worth much. which begs the question of what the RNC operatives are really doing in Alaska.

shutting people up seems the likely answer.

Posted by: zeitgeist on September 2, 2008 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of a classic article about decision-making in chess. The author describes the common and unfortunate process many players engage in, where they spend long periods of time looking at possible moves, discovering something to dislike in each of them, and then quickly banging out a move they've barely considered. This previously unconsidered move feels better to them precisely because they haven't looked at it long enough to see that there's something wrong with it too. Frequently it doesn't take their opponent long to tell otherwise.


Posted by: mrsaturdaypants on September 2, 2008 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Has anyone considered this scenario:

McCain chooses gun-toting, former beauty queen & right-wing Christian mom Sarah Palin for the campaign to motivate the GOP base and avoid having to campaign with a pro-choice VP. Assume McCain wins. A few weeks into the new administration Palin offers her resignation, saying the demands of being a Down syndrome mom, her daughter's new baby, son going to Iraq etc. are too much. McCain appoints Romney or Ridge to replace her.

Far fetched? Yes. Possible? With Sen. McCain it appears anything is possible.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 2, 2008 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a bit at a loss as to why they didn't do that to every R Gov and Senator who let them months ago.

Posted by: Crissa on September 2, 2008 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

a repub operative on Sqwack Box this morning affirmatively stated taht Obama was behind the Palin fake-pregnancy rumors and when the host called him on it, he stood by his statement. They have nothing left but lying and the hope (not altogether unreasonable) that the press will not call them on it.


Posted by: eric on September 2, 2008 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

mrsaturdaypants, I had a scholastic chess player on my once whose rating went up 350 points in a season by virtue of propping up against the clock an 3 x 5 card that said:


Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 2, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

McCain told Brian William, NBC evening news host, a couple of days ago that Palin was "absolutely" the most qualified person from all the potential choices to become POTUS should something happen to McCain.

If Palin was the most qualified, would she not have been one of the very first to be thoroughly vetted (instead of, as it now appears that she was the last to be vetted)?

McCain not only shows poor judgment he has to lie about it to cover up (unsuccessfully) his poor judgment.

Posted by: lou on September 2, 2008 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

"See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time." -Robin Williams

Posted by: EvilPoet on September 2, 2008 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain didn't have time to vet Sarah Palin; he was a POW for 5 1/2 years and didn't have a house or a table.

Posted by: DrDave on September 2, 2008 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

As I had posted before, all that worry that Obama wasn't hitting back hard on McAce was Obama's version of Ali's "rope-a-dope". He let McAce flail away on stupid punches with no direct hits and now the coup-di-grace: A 15 minute vetting of a V.P. candidate. Reckless? You bet. Surprising? No.

I am also not buying the "reasoning" used that he wanted to solidify his base. They hate him but would have held their collective noses and pull the leaver for this nincompoop at the end of the day. Nope. I think he did it to spite that base whom he also hates but has to blow to have a chance of winning this "election". He picked Palin to spite those worms for forcing him to back off from picking who he really wanted: LIEberman or Tom Ridge. That base is now electrified to see a pro lifer replete with footage being aired of her shooting an AK-47 (aimed at who?) But he's lost Independents and anyone else who is thinking clearly about the fact that he's 23 years older than the state from which he picked his V.P. Nauseating. Eugene Robinson hit it right on the nail head. What a bozo this McAce is, what a flaming bozo...

Posted by: Stevio on September 2, 2008 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

After a tumultuous weekend of news getting stranger and stranger, I agree with Hilzoy that the need now is to focus on myriad and manifest ways in which she is incompetent and the search was rushed rather than continue to dig into any questions of the pregnancy(ies). It's not that I don't believe there are lies being told about the pregnancy(ies), but when she resigns, the Republicans will cry victimhood of the liberal media and it may swing some middle ground people who would otherwise not support a wingnut like Palin.

Of course getting the media off a story that even tangentially involves sex is nearly impossible. BUT progressives need to pound home the faulty decision making process first and foremost and then focus on the dishonesty about earmarks, the abuse of power, the unfitness for office, etc as a subset of the incompetence.

In other words, stick to the more of the same script. She's GW Bush with breasts and sexy glasses. That's not what we need.


Posted by: Buffalonian on September 2, 2008 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

As an Obama supporter, I think Sarah Palin is an excellent choice.

Thank you, Sen. McCain. Now, you might want to have a doctor look at that gunshot wound in your foot.

Posted by: JC on September 2, 2008 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Your flop sweat is delightful, Orwell. I can practically smell your panic.

Thanks for the lift. You inspired me to donate to Obama again.

Posted by: Brad on September 2, 2008 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

The most ridiculous choice was when the Democrats selected an unknown and unproven politician who votes "present" instead of Hillary Clinton.

Wow, that's all you've got? Seriously?

We Democrats studied the candidates for eighteen months and then voted for Obama as our nominee. We liked what we saw, we think he's more than qualified for the job, and we chose him in keeping with Democratic and democratic practices.

John McCain met with Palin for fifteen minutes and then said, fuck it, let's put her on the ticket now and we can vet her later.

One candidate has proven himself in this race -- Obama. McCain is looking like an insane old gambling addict.

Posted by: TR on September 2, 2008 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

at first i was irritated that mccain was dominating the news cycle for days on end, sucking the air out of obama's awesome acceptance speech. but now, i'm not so irritated. no news is better than this news.

Posted by: just bill on September 2, 2008 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

You can be SURE that if "lawyers" are in Alaska to vet this "empty pantsuit" NOW it's all about CYA so they can provide cover to McSame and his "reckless" and irresponsible pick...this old geezer has no business even being considered and a former PTA parent and hockey mom (even if a gun-toting, creationist, evangelical) SHOULD BE regarded as a JOKE!!! Come on folks, it's just BIG JOHN'S humor!!!!!

Posted by: Dancer on September 2, 2008 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

McCain watched the Democratic convention and said to himself:

"Crap!!" (what do I do now?) "Shoot!!! (just do something)"

Now he's working on the "ready" and "aim" parts.

That's mavericky.

Posted by: lobbygow on September 2, 2008 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Now that I think about it, if we could somehow get the moniker "Crapshoot McCain" to stick, that would encapsulate the narrative the Dems need perfectly and succinctly.

Posted by: lobbygow on September 2, 2008 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Tasked with the most important decision of his presidential campaign, McCain has managed to demonstrate incompetence, cynicism, and recklessness, all at the same time.

You forgot "petulant". It appears when the Repub Daddies told him he couldn't have who he wanted, he stomped his foot, grabbed the first person available and said "There."

Posted by: martin on September 2, 2008 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Article from yesterday's NY Daily News about Bristol Palin's pregnancy being "common knowledge" for a while in Wassilla.


Posted by: phoebes in santa fe on September 2, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't that be 'Post Hack'?

Posted by: Dawgeral on September 2, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

i think buffalonian is right: there does not need to be any official campaign interest in the family stuff; the media will follow that on its own out of prurient interest.

Campaign Obama should, however, run ads with quotes from the Alaska media and Alaska elected officials about her lack of governing skills - and then have the tag line ask whether we can trust John McCain's judgment.

We want to make this pick a negative before she can really be introduced to the public by McCain.

Posted by: zeitgeist on September 2, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Palin was the most acceptable pick that would bring the religious right on board. Without them McCain had no chance of winning.

Posted by: bakho on September 2, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

PJ in Jesusland wrote: "Assume McCain wins. A few weeks into the new administration Palin offers her resignation, saying the demands of being a Down syndrome mom, her daughter's new baby, son going to Iraq etc. are too much. McCain appoints Romney or Ridge to replace her."

McCain might have that in the back of his mind, but I hope that scenario doesn't grow legs in the media. Floating a wink-wink meme that someone qualified will replace her after the election simply plays into the GOP's hands as they try to quell the storm and woo independents. The base won't believe it, so it won't hurt him with them.

The point is, he couldn't have Lieberman, he couldn't have Ridge, so in an angry, in-your-face fit of pique, he impulsively picked a darling of the far right. (You want pro-life? I'll give you pro-life...mutter mutter....and get off my lawn!)

We've had 8 years to see what an impulsive, spoiled C-student can do to this country. Another round? No thanks.

Posted by: itsmekaren on September 2, 2008 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

This jibes perfectly with John McPOW's shoot-from-the-hip, pull-it-out-of-your-ass style of doing things. Gee, wouldn't he make a great preznit? For the love of God, America, haven't you had enough of "leadership" by a man who "goes with his gut"? What the hell is the matter with you people? In just about any other country you'd care to name, John McPOW would not now still be a serious threat to thinking people's aspirations.


Posted by: Mark on September 2, 2008 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Obama has some sort of weird karma that makes his opponents self-destruct.

If you remember his Senate race back in 2004, his first opponent was Jack Ryan, who would have been a strong contender until it came out that he'd forced his ex to go to sex clubs and asked her to have sex with other men. For the actual election Obama went up against the ridiculous Alan Keyes.

In the primaries, Obama's most important opponent was Hillary Clinton, a prohibitive favorite until she hired Mark Penn to strategize her primary campaign, a man who was apparently unaware that major Democratic presidential primaries aren't winner-take-all.

Now we have McCain making the own-goal to end all own-goals, picking the unvetted Sarah Palin for his ticket after a 15 minute job interview.

Does he have some sort of stupidification spell that he casts on his enemies?

Posted by: jimBOB on September 2, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

They got out in front of the pregnancy thing, didn't they.

Vetting after the fact is the second smartest thing they could do.

It's a little late for the optimum procedure, but make lemonade, right?

Everyone ready for the photo op of Palin holding the one month old grandchild at the inauguration? It'll simply OOZE family values.

Send your checks in, people. Obama / Biden 2008.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on September 2, 2008 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

But let's not heap all of the blame on John McCain. You go to elections with the party you have, and this selection was largely pre-ordained by the radical nature of today's uber-conservative GOP. McCain has had to twist himself in knots to be the Republican nominee, and now apparently he's had to cave on the most important choice, that of running mate.

As many of us have said for a long time, the problem with the Republican Party is structural. A party that combines Wall Street capitalists who think greed is good, with right wing holy rollers who think everything is bad is an inherently unstable coalition. Throw in the neo-conservatives who want to destroy the whole world in the name of peace and prosperity and you have a party that cannot be governed, and cannot govern anyone who is not already part of this dysfunctional family.

Ideologues cannot be expected to act rationally, and practically. It's just not in their nature. So, we are seeing its results in this abomination of a Veep selection, the natural result of the needs of party outweighing the needs of the nation. That's why Republicans were so dispirited after the Democratic convention. The Democrats painted a vivid picture of what real national leadership would look like. No wonder the GOP needed a hurricane to change the subject!

Posted by: Ted Frier on September 2, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

"We STILL don't know exactly who Obama is"

Orwell, just because you've got your own hands over your eyes and clods of dirt in your ears doesn't mean the rest of the world is similarly handicapped.

A word of advice: if you're going to use George Orwell's name in a pathetic attempt to make yourself appear historically sophisticated and insightful, I'd recommend that you work on your ability to use the English language as well as Orwell did. It's "you're," not "your."

Remember, once upon a time Republican conservatives actually valued being educated and adept at languages. William F. Buckley even spoke French.

Posted by: bluestatedon on September 2, 2008 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

McCain: Country First. Vetting Last.

The Palin fiasco shows not only McCain's recklessness and bad judgment, but how completely captive he is to the GOP wingnuttery. He picked Palin at the last minute when they threatened to hold their breath until their faces turned blue if he picked a pro-choice VP. How mavericky!

Posted by: sullijan on September 2, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain has the judgment of a small child
...And the spine of a jellyfish.
He could not stand up to the right wing of his party and say this is my choice, I want Lieberman. Instead, he bends to the will of the people who gleefully speared and defamed him in 2000. He's putty in their hands, their brand new claymation action figure.

Posted by: msw on September 2, 2008 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

The three things not to expect from a McCain presidency are caution, prudence and a willingness to always put the nation's interests above his own."

Or in other words, McSame as Bush.

Posted by: Jeff S. on September 2, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Department of Major Minor Concerns

Palin always holds her mouth like she's posing for a fashion picture. Check Youtube for the Keira Knightly pout as she came forward to the dais when McCain introduced her to the public. That's someone who's really used to using her appearance to get her way.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 2, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Re: Gov. Palin, the phrase 'lead balloon' comes to mind. In other words, perhaps this pick is meant to be so mind-blowingly thick that, whoever McSame decides to trot out as a nearly-inevitable replacement, the GOP's reaction will be a sigh of relief rather than screams of objection.

Then again, this train of thought would probably require far too clever an individual than McSame has shown himself to be.


Posted by: Zorro on September 2, 2008 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

With all of this deconstruction of Gov. Palin's record as Council person and Mayor of Wasilla, her time as governor and her previous political affiliations - we are missing what a compelling personal and family narrative this woman has.

The focus on John McCain's judgment in this issue is important, but we should not forget what he envisions for the economy, foreign policy, energy, healthcare, etc.

He might as well be running on a 'bullet in every Americans head' platform.

Seriously, what does it take for people to see what a risk this man would be?

And to believe people actually believe he has a shot at this.

Posted by: ThatGuyt on September 2, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

If he absolutely wanted a woman as his running mate, McCain had a number of capable, intelligent female Republican politicians close to his own age to choose from, women such as Olympia Snowe and Elizabeth Dole.

The fact that he didn't choose any of them, but instead went with a much younger, not so bright beauty queen makes me realize that McCain was confused and this was all some horrible mistake:

He didn't think he was picking a vice presidential candidate -- he thought he was picking out his newest wife.

It's the only thing that makes sense.

Posted by: Stefan on September 2, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Obama has some sort of weird karma that makes his opponents self-destruct.

And don't forget his early opponents in the Illinois state legislatre races, one of whom spontaneously self-combusted (it's a very under-reported phenomenom) and the other of whom choked to death on vomit (not his own vomit, though, but then again you can't fingerprint vomit. The police said it was best left unsolved).

Posted by: Stefan on September 2, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

On the other side of the isle ...

A continuation of the Cheney Vice-Presidency ? ...

Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden received five student draft deferments during the Vietnam War, the same number of deferments received by Vice President Dick Cheney, and later was disqualified from service because of asthma as a teenager.

Chip off the old block ...

A son and a brother of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) are accused in two lawsuits of defrauding a former business partner and an investor of millions of dollars in a hedge fund deal that went sour, court records show.
The Democratic vice presidential candidate's son Hunter, 38, and brother James, 59, assert instead that their former partner defrauded them by misrepresenting his experience in the hedge fund industry and recommending that they hire a lawyer with felony convictions.

This last one may explain why Obama is against going after the kids/family members.

But I have to ask did anybody vet this guy ?

Posted by: Neo on September 2, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Since Joe Biden, unlike Cheney, wasn't an enthusiatic supporter of the Vietnam War who felt that everyone should go fight except for him, I guess I don't see what the issue is here....

Posted by: Stefan on September 2, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Is Neo getting his McPoints?

Perhaps a better name for a knuckle-dragger would be Paleo.

Or perhaps it's a cry for help. Give him the red pill to free him from the red kool-aid.

Honestly, Neo, what are you trying to say? That Biden is unqualified because there's a question mark about his son & brother's dealings? Does this mean that Palin told her daughter to go fuck her boyfriend & get pregnant?

It's a complicated world out there, Neo. Don't take the name if you won't open your eyes. Palin's not qualified to be president, Biden is qualified, given their respective experience. Try to deal with the situation that someone has fooled you (brainwashed?) into believing otherwise.

Posted by: BuzzMon on September 2, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK
As ridiculous a choice as Palin is for national office, let's not lose sight of the real scandal here -- John McCain has the judgment of a small child. Tasked with the most important decision of his presidential campaign, McCain has managed to demonstrate incompetence, cynicism, and recklessness, all at the same time.
Let's also keep hammering home that he had *months* to make this choice, but seems to have waited until the very last minute to choose. Such procrastination is not what we want in a president. Posted by: TG Chicago on September 2, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

But she has good gams!

Posted by: parrot on September 13, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Had to come back here & refresh my memory on what you'd written oh so very sanctimoniously about McCain's alleged poor judgement in, by your lights, not properly vetting Palin.

I suppose we can expect you & your readers to raise the very same questions about Barack Obama's highly questionable judgement & the astonishingly piss-poor job he did, in his first major test of executive management in office, vetting Daschle, Richardson, Geithener, Solis, Killefer et al ad nauseum, can we not?

After all, Barack Obama had over 2 months to vet this never-ending parade of DOCUMENTED criminally corrupt cheats he's nominated to the highest level of his government. McCain had all of two weeks.

You do want to hang on to at least a smidgeon of credibility here, don't you? It would be such a pity for you to be permanently branded throughout the fickle blogosphere with the reputation for being a gullible hypocrite too lost in a stupor of sycophantic suckuppance to be able to even pretend to be intellectually consistent.

Posted by: leilani on February 3, 2009 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK



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