Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Palin, alone on the bus and snubbed by McCain

I found some even more interesting details of the bickering taking place between the McCain / Palin camps. GQ correspondent Robert Draper will be blogging on the campaign trail with this GQ Blog, with this fascinating post on just how bad the bickering has gotten between the McCain / Palin camps. From GQ Blog:

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. The day after the ticket made its debut, it was August 30 and the campaign staged a rally outside of Pittsburgh, on the field of a minor league baseball team called the Washington Wild Things. I remember seeing Tucker Eskew—an old Bush hand out of South Carolina who had never spent a day in McCain World until Nicolle Wallace recruited him to be Palin’s counselor—wandering around the premises, looking somewhat lost. He and 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? Your responsibility isn’t the care and feeding of Sarah Palin’s ego; it’s the furtherance of John McCain’s quest for the presidency.

On the other hand, it had to be hard for Sarah Palin—who has achieved all she’s achieved with a highly personal touch—to take all this ridicule under an enforced gag order. After being introduced to the world as one of the “Team of Mavericks,” she’s admonished not to be one. She’s being called out by some McCainites for not cleaving to all of the senator’s positions. The Republicans who fawned over her superstar looks are now shocked—shocked!—to learn that her much-admired wardrobe has been purchased with RNC funds. I’ve heard from one well-placed source that McCain has snubbed her on one long bus ride aboard the Straight Talk Express, to the embarrassment of those sitting nearby. It has surely been implied to the governor that she should be eternally grateful to have been plucked from obscurity. And yet the high water mark of John McCain’s campaign for the presidency unquestionably began on September 3, when Palin gave her nomination speech—and ended precisely twelve days later, when McCain went off-script—I have that on the authority of the person who participated in the writing of said script—and told an audience that he still believed the fundamentals of the economy were strong.

Even John McCain snubbed Sarah Palin on the Straight Talk Express! There is a fascinating love/hate relationship taking place between the McCain and Palin camps, and possibly even between John McCain and Sarah Palin. John McCain chose Sarah Palin as an obscure Alaska governor, for who the McCain campaign could mold into their own "Maverickess." The problem for the McCain campaign is that they never realized just how ambitious Sarah Palin really was--they never took the time to properly vet Sarah Palin. And as the McCain campaign attempted to over-manage Sarah Palin, Palin started fighting back. Hence, we're seeing the stories that are coming out of Sarah Palin "going rogue," talking off-script, and campaigning her own way. Of course, there was still the big problem in that Sarah Palin was completely out of her league in understanding what the vice president actually does, or even understanding the complex domestic, economic, and foreign policy issues that is the basic qualifications for the office. As it became quickly known at how unqualified Sarah Palin was for the office, especially in the aftermath of her disastrous interviews with both Gibson and Couric, Palin still demanded that she should have the right to go out in more interviews, even as the McCain campaign realizes what a disaster Palin was on these interviews. Do you feed Sarah Palin's ego, or do you limit her exposure for the good of John McCain's electoral chances?

The real kicker in this posting was how John McCain snubbed Sarah Palin on the Straight Talk Express. It is like these two met in Las Vegas, got married at the Elvis Presley Drive-Thru Wedding Chapel, and then woke up the next morning with both a hangover, and a sharp disliking of each other--warts, no make-up, and all. They really were not a "right" match for this race--both John McCain and Sarah Palin are extremely ambitious in their quest for political power. Both have shown the American public the serious character flaws they have. For John McCain, there is the question of his judgment in choosing Palin for his vice presidential nominee. If he made the first bad choice in his presidential career by selecting such and unqualified vice presidential pick, then how can we continue to trust McCain's judgment if he is into the White House? For Sarah Palin, it is the simple fact that she was so unqualified for the vice president's office, was shown to be so unqualified before the American people for the vice president's office, and yet her own ego demanded that the McCain campaign should let "Sarah be Sarah." They have become the two most mismatched presidential and vice presidential candidates that I've certainly seen--The Odd Couple for the Oval Office? It is a wonder that both John McCain and Sarah Palin have survived this long, even as the entire McCain/Palin campaign self-destructs before them.

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