Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

October 28, 2008

A 'SCRIPTED ROBOT OR AN UNSCRIPTED IGNORAMUS'.... The estimable Robert Draper, blogging at GQ, offers an interesting, behind-the-scenes look at the extent to which McCain's team scrambled after Sarah Palin joined the Republican ticket. (via Jonathan Chait)

Almost from the very beginning, the Palin pick created tension. An armada of handlers descended on McCain's running mate like the flying monkeys in The Wizard Of Oz.... [Tucker Eskew] and [Nicole Wallace] took charge of schooling the Alaska governor on message discipline. Two days later at the GOP convention, an adviser watched them coach Palin on how to answer routine press questions and warned Steve Schmidt that she was being overly managed. Three weeks later, Wallace arranged for the interview with her former CBS colleague Katie Couric, which proved to be a disaster.

Meanwhile, Palin's debate prep was going miserably, to the point where Schmidt had to peel off from McCain (who was having his own challenges responding to the financial crisis) and join Nicolle's husband Mark Wallace in simplifying Palin's prep so as to avert catastrophe. The latter efforts resulted in what one senior adviser would describe to me with palpable relief as "a campaign-saving performance."

I'm sympathetic to Eskew and Wallace, and not just because they're decent people. They've held their tongue from leaking what a couple of McCain higher-ups have told me -- namely, that Palin simply knew nothing about national and international issues. Which meant, as one such adviser said to me: "Letting Sarah be Sarah may not be such a good thing." It's a grim binary choice, but apparently it came down to whether to make Palin look like a scripted robot or an unscripted ignoramus. I was told that Palin chafed at being defined by her discomfiting performances in the Couric, Charlie Gibson, and Sean Hannity interviews. She wanted to get back out there and do more. Well, if you're Eskew and Wallace, what do you say to that?

I argued a while back that adding Palin to the Republican ticket was the most ridiculous development in presidential politics in at least a generation. With each passing revelation, I feel more confident in that assessment.

When McCain aides realize Palin doesn't have the foggiest idea what she's doing or what she's talking about, what do they do? I almost feel bad for them. Almost.

Steve Benen 4:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

The aides I almost feel sorry for. McCain and Palin not so much.

Posted by: Michigoose on October 28, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I do not feel sorry for them , not even almost. But I would like to know the true origin of the Palin choice. Does it track to the Dobson christian wing or to advisers pandering to their base?
Maybe this mess will send the religious fanatics back to the fringe where they belong...

Posted by: Richard Greenslade on October 28, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

As McCain has said, Governess Palin knows more about energy than anyone in America, and Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her a special feel for foreign affairs.

Most Americans will see all the liberal smears for what they are - baseless and scurrilous.

Posted by: Al on October 28, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Stockdale came across as a pretty poor choice of VP too after
his debate performance. Except of course, Stockdale was a
genuine hero and a pretty great person.

Posted by: Alphonse on October 28, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for that Al, I needed a laugh this afternoon.
"...proximity to Russia...", what a riot!

Posted by: Andy S on October 28, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Is Nicole Wallace the one I've seen frequently throughout the election on the various talk shows? She seemed particularly chummy with Republican Joe Scarborough and Mika the worthless sidekick.
If it's that Nicole Wallace, then no, I don't feel sorry for her. And being a McCain spokesperson, I'm surprised she ever held a job with the "librul media" and Katie Couric. Go figure.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on October 28, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

No pity.

Bury them in spite, and salt the earth they are buried in.

What's going to be forking hilarious is all the after-election admissions from the McCain team about how Palin really wasn't qualified to be president, after insisting for weeks that she was eminently qualified. I hope someone puts together a YouTube montage of each one of those clowns talking out of both sides of their mouths, lying their asses off to all of us, and of course most of us knew they were lying.

"The Daddy party" is on a drunken binge, and we need to make sure everyone sees how little regard they have for our safety. Putting Palin anywhere near the presidency is a gross violation of trust and we should beat them over the head with this for as long as they still have unrepentant Palinists among them.

Posted by: on October 28, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

No pity.

Bury them in spite, and salt the earth they are buried in.

What's going to be forking hilarious is all the after-election admissions from the McCain team about how Palin really wasn't qualified to be president, after insisting for weeks that she was eminently qualified. I hope someone puts together a YouTube montage of each one of those clowns talking out of both sides of their mouths, lying their asses off to all of us, and of course most of us knew they were lying.

"The Daddy party" is on a drunken binge, and we need to make sure everyone sees how little regard they have for our safety. Putting Palin anywhere near the presidency is a gross violation of trust and we should beat them over the head with this for as long as they still have unrepentant Palinists among them.

Posted by: Racer X on October 28, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sympathetic to Eskew and Wallace, and not just because they're decent people. -Robert Draper

Sorry, Robert, no deal. Neither or them are decent, and I have it on good authority the Eskew isn't even people.

Posted by: doubtful on October 28, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

All this I sort of knew or suspected.How she became Gov. would be an interesting read along with the true dope of the last 8 weeks. Now,I hear,that she is the test going forward? Either you're with Palin or against conservatives? Redenbacher is getting rich off the popcorn sales.

Posted by: ray on October 28, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sarah was picked to take some of the media glare off of McCain. Obviously the nonvetters didn't look much deeper than her tanned skin.

The McCaints gambled (as John loves to do anyway) and rolled snake(oil) eyes instead of a lucky seven.

Sarah likes being a leader of the pack, not a leader of sentient beings.

McCain believes he SHOULD be our next POTUS because his raw ambition says so.

Together, the two "look at me", non-leaders were never a good match, too much snake-oil causes friction.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 28, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

I was desperately hoping McCain would pick Palin five months ago. Now, I can't claim to have known the magnitude of the disaster, but I did know it would be a disaster.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on October 28, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

It'll be interesting to watch her history unfold. Some are saying that she will make a 2012 return; we could only hope... but I think one poster I saw said it best: "Sarah, I can see the end of your career. From my house."

Posted by: beans on October 28, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

"They've held their tongue from leaking what a couple of McCain higher-ups have told me -- namely, that Palin simply knew nothing about national and international issues."

Did he really need higher-ups in the campaign to tell him that? I thought it was pretty obvious from the get-go...

Posted by: imarx on October 28, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

The question was "what do you do": The answer depends on how bad you need the job. If you are financially able you resign from the campaign on the grounds you can not help elect someone you know is dangerous for your country. Yes, you should do that regardless of your financial condition, but.......

Posted by: Layne on October 28, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Pity the poor, not the pallid.

These bozos deserve the whole nine yards, point blank. Trying to sell garbage when gold was required given the state of the State. McAce deserves to be placed where he too is headed: The dustbin of History next to the clowns who guided him there. Not only did he secure his place but assured Bushit's via following him like the good lemming he proved to be, over the cliff. Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on October 28, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

In spite of the pitiful performance, the party will resurrect Palin as a presidential nominee in 2012 or 2016.

I say that after the election the blogosphere has to focus on educating the public and exposing the right wing media attack poodles until they are driven out of business by lack of support. They are what is destroying the fabric of our democracy with their propaganda and internal psych-ops at the service of a single party rule.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on October 28, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Governess Palin" -- Al's been reading naughty books again. Little Al needs a good spanking!

Posted by: Bob M on October 28, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

When McCain aides realize Palin doesn't have the foggiest idea what she's doing or what she's talking about, what do they do?

I understand the Japanese have some interesting customs that may apply.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on October 28, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sympathetic to Eskew and Wallace, and not just because they're decent people.

Decent people? Horse manure! Then what the hell are they doing working for the shameful clown show that is the McCain campaign?

Posted by: Gregory on October 28, 2008 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Fight to clean up the mess of corruption, infighting and selfishness in Washington."

McCain's website 10/28/08

Any infighting, selfishness and corruption in his own camp?

Nah.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 28, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

It says a lot about a campaign and a candidate that upon realizing the unthinkable, decides to hide facts to minimize the fall out.

There is no honor in continuing to trumpet a commitment to country, first, second or otherwise.

Posted by: ThatGuy on October 28, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

I would imagine that for McCain insiders, the last two months has been a surreal experience where each day some insane happening takes place that eclipses the insane happening from the previous day. By the time you've had enough, you've already incrementally accepted things that you would have been shocked at had they occurred in isolation.

Posted by: g on October 28, 2008 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Contrary to the title of this thread, I'm casting my vote for McCain Palin being "a comedy of scripted ignoramuses." Train wrecks like this just don't happen accidentally; someone had to build the train, lay the track, and put the train on the track; someone had to buy tickets for the train, to justify the train going anywhere; someone had to know that when the train left the station they'd forgotten to build the trestle-bridge that was supposed to span the absolutely-bottomless chasm that the train is now plunging into at a rate equal to Spaceballs' "Ludicrous Speed."

I wonder---will any of our descendants even remember the McCain/Palin catastrophe in a hundred years' time? Will it be recorded in our history books---or just in a few dusty joke-books?

Posted by: Steve W. on October 28, 2008 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think the "knowing" talking points from the campaign as a whole are actually worse than Palin's dumbness because they are deliberately fallacious. Take the complaint by McCain/Palin that a slightly higher graduated income tax (and not just the having, versus not) is "socialist" and then this is smeared against Obama. It is misleading and hypocritical. When are those who say they don’t like “redistribution” by tax rates, going to prove their honesty by opposing the current capital gains tax rate already being lower than the tax on people who, ironically, actually did work hard to produce new value and earn the money directly? (I mean the base CG tax rate before any inflationary “time” adjustments - I support indexing.)

Also, McCain wants to make the CG rate even lower! I don’t want my earned income to be redistributed to mostly worthless speculators! If we want to encourage real capital investment, then have a tax break such as deducting initial investment from taxable income, at the front end, instead of the current sop to traders. (You'd be surprised, how many people don't even consider than my selling XYZ stock to Mr. B brings me the money, not company XYZ.)

Posted by: Neil B on October 28, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Fuck them, this isn't China, they could have quit once they realized their job was going to be tricking America into thinking Palin was half as smart as Bush.

We have not won and there is still a chance she could have he power and position of Dick Cheney and the rationalization of a NYC cop on a 5 day meth binge. Then add in McCain's age, her hyper religious following and those two clowns are trying to convince the world Sarah Palin can handle the responsibility of the nuclear football (pronounced just like W does).

I never thought in my life I would be sad to see W leave, but if they win, holly Jesus H Mary, W will be missed by all.

There are truly scary people and then there are the good people who could have stopped them, but didn't. Powell could have stopped the invasion, these clowns could have quit, a paycheck is not worth the mess we are finding ourselves in. It's sad when call center employees have more integrity then campaign officials.

Posted by: ScottW on October 28, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

-Always Hopeful- Because I agree with your post-election reasoning, I'll have to say that I DON'T think the GOP will resurrect Palin in 2012 or 2016. If the election goes the way we want and the Dems proof themselves to be better at running the country than the current crop of clowns, they would be total idiots to bring back this dolt.

Posted by: whichwitch on October 28, 2008 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

It just occurred to me that the reason Sarah Palin stuck to her "I can see Russia from my house" line with such firmness may have been that she had only recently learned where Russia was.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on October 28, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

[Tucker Eskew] and [Nicole Wallace] took charge of schooling the Alaska governor on message discipline.

Shouldn't they have first gotten McCain to have a disciplined message? The old guy was all over the map. Who knew what his message was? Except, "I've waited a long time and the presidency should be mine."

Posted by: Dave In Texas on October 28, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Part of the problem for the McCain people is that the Palin pick caught them just as off guard as it did everybody else on the planet.

I think most of them were expecting Lieberman or Romney (maybe Crist with Jindal being the wild card).

McCain literally picked Palin without consulting most of his people. The far right was screaming they'd abandon him if he picked pro-choice running mate. He could see the Democrats coming together with a strong convention. The polls were running against him. He read a couple of articles praising Palin. Maybe heard a few words of praise. Put out a couple of feelers. Gave Palin a call (I believe it was Wed.) and made the decision on the spot.

Gambling everything on his gut.

I really do believe he caught his own campaign flat footed. Hence all the vetting being done AFTER the pick. The nearly incorherent defense of her qualifications. No one is his campaign was ready for her. They had done no thinking or planning for how to deal with her on the ticket. Hence, they made it up as they went along.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 28, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

I don't feel sorry for them, any of them. Palin is a fraud and bully (being pretty doesn't change the way her mind and instincts work), the McCain operatives presumably believe in GOP politics or they wouldn't be there, and the GOP itself is, in Palin, reaping what it sowed -- a blithering talk and word machine that tosses dangerous rhetorical bombs with bland impunity and has no education, curiosity, ethical understanding, taste, or compassion, who apparently believes in or says she believes in witch doctors who harass old women, whose entire personal entity circles the drain of her self-centered, greedy, absurdly ambitious, megalomanic incompetence and lavish waste of what others provide (specifically tax dollars spent on the sports complex she pushed for Wasilla that defaced and bankrupted the town). As for McCain: he's a bully who has always treated women badly and dismissively, always viewed them as usable material -- ah, forgive me, but schadenfreude is human and so am I -- the symmetry of it all.

Posted by: SF on October 28, 2008 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that while Gov Palin may have said some stupid things on her own...

...The worst mess-ups came with her trying to repeat the campaigns' terrible talking points.

Posted by: Crissa on October 28, 2008 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Resurrect Palin? From your keyboard to God's ear. She makes Dan Quayle look like a philosopher king. Most people have drawn a similar conclusion, too, or so I believe. Do you recall that Quayle had to be disabused of the notion he was presidential timber in '96 (or was it 2000?)? That process didn't take long, either, even though he had actually served in the senate and as VP, and came from great wealth. And another thing- do you honestly see the party pro's (i.e. the Tancredos, Brownbacks, and Huckabees) rallying to nominate someone they surely feel vastly superior towards? That's simply not going to happen. She will never possess the chops to win their allegiance, much less the favor of the reactionary fat cats who write the checks in that party. The closest she'll ever get to the Oval Office is if she takes a White House tour.

Posted by: JL on October 28, 2008 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Wallace and Eskew are "decent people?"

Decent people don't work to put something as sorry as Sarah Palin in charge of my child's future.

Want to argue about that?

Posted by: elnuestros on October 28, 2008 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting media phenom: Sarah Palin didn't say "I can see Russia from my house", Tina Fey did. Palin said Russia can be seen from certain parts of Alaska (true) but that isn't very relevant to FoPo experience.

Posted by: Neil B on October 28, 2008 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

"When McCain aides realize Palin doesn't have the foggiest idea what she's doing or what she's talking about, what do they do?"

What do you mean "when"? They're naive, incompetent, and locked into rigid GOP ideals and stereotypes, but they aren't stupid. They probably knew very quickly how utterly vapid, uninformed, and incurious she is. And they've already been doing it: trying their hardest to coach her into deceiving the voters and then, when that failed, blaming her for the failure.

Posted by: Shade Tail on October 28, 2008 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Even when Sarah Palin sort of makes sense, she has a weird sing-song quality to her voice. She is always emphasizing the wrong words so that the sentences appear to lack meaning. Which indicates that she doesn't know what she's talking about.

Posted by: Alexandra on October 28, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Even when Sarah Palin sort of makes sense, she has a weird sing-song quality to her voice. She is always emphasizing the wrong words so that the sentences appear to lack meaning. Which indicates that she doesn't know what she's talking about.

Posted by: Alexandra on October 28, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

She's ok. Initially looking like a threat, the lib media did a Goldwater, Tower, Clarence Thomas, Quayle, &ct., type of hatchet job on her that they do so well.

...Wallace arranged for the interview with her former CBS colleague Katie Couric, which proved to be a disaster.

Wallace may have been more loyal to Katie to give her this scoop than to McCain. Clearly a mistake giving Palin to the ultra-lib Katie Couric for a working over.

Posted by: Luther on October 28, 2008 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

No one in the "liberal" media had to do any sort of hatchet job on La Palin. She did it all to herself. Each and every time she opened her mouth, she revealed only her profound ignorance. All you need to do to see this is consider that all sorts of Republicans have been interviewed by Katie Couric, et. al. and none of them have sounded anywhere near as dumb. For pete's sake, she couldn't even name a SINGLE newspaper that she reads, which is about a soft a question as I've ever heard lobbed at anyone. Even if Palin had uttered a complete LIE, it would have been unable to be challenged, and at least it would've indicated that she's at least AWARE of newspapers by name.

Actually, as dumb as Palin is, she mostly makes me wonder about the collective smarts of Alaskans. If THIS nitwit commands a 60% approval rating, then holy cow, Alaska's collective IQ has to be lower than that of Louisiana's, Mississippi's, and Alabama's combined. I mean, whatever else I may think of the collective politicians from those states, none of them are this dumb.

Posted by: grapeshot on October 28, 2008 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

she mostly makes me wonder about the collective smarts of Alaskans. If THIS nitwit commands a 60% approval rating, then holy cow, Alaska's collective IQ has to be lower than that of Louisiana's, Mississippi's, and Alabama's combined.

Well, the reason for her high approval rating is that Alaska is running out of major political figures who are not felons.

Posted by: rea on October 29, 2008 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly