Palin with “a level of viciousness and scurrilousness” previously unseen in American journalism

By Geoffrey Dunn

Well over three years ago, as I was conducting deep background research for my book, The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind her Relentless Quest for Power, I had an off-the-record discussion with one of John McCain’s closest advisors about Steve Schmidt’s participation in the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate. “Steve is undergoing some serious soul-searching about his role in all this,” the advisor said, “and he’s got a ways to go. But you should probably give him a call.”
At the time, I was trying to assimilate in my own mind how the “best and the brightest” in the Republican Party had so shamefully — and irresponsibly — landed on Palin as McCain’s vice-presidential selection during what many viewed as one of the most critical junctures in American political history. I devoted more than forty pages to that enterprise in my book, and it was, indeed, a complex, convoluted and highly flawed process that led McCain and Company to first contact Palin at the Alaska State Fair in the late summer of 2008.

Eventually, I made arrangements with Schmidt for an initial off-the-record conversation. I wasn’t sure what to expect. This was a guy who the likes of Karl Rove had nicknamed “The Bullet” and McCain had nicknamed “Sarge.” He had served as Dick Cheney’s communication director and was tasked with seeing the Supreme Court confirmations of justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito through the Senate. More recently he had salvaged Arnold Schwarzenegger’s flailing campaign in California. We didn’t exactly sit on the same side of the political fence.
As a former high school tight end with a bulky six-foot frame, Schmidt had a reputation for being both imposing and intimidating. Republican strategist Alex Castellanos once dubbed Schmidt “the perfect killing machine” in respect to his political messaging. When Palin’s vetting had come under fire in the days following her selection, Schmidt had issued an anger-fueled response accusing the national media of being “on a mission to destroy” Palin with “a level of viciousness and scurrilousness” previously unseen in American journalism. He was wrong. He and his cohorts in the McCain campaign had not fully nor adequately vetted Palin, and the national media were simply doing the job that he and his colleagues should have done.
I had decided in advance of our meeting that if Schmidt tried to inhibit my research into the vetting in any way I was going to push back, and push back hard. I wasn’t going to tolerate any of his tough-guy shtick or any of his spin-making prowess that I had read about during the campaign. When we met, Schmidt, with his trademark shaved head, was cordial, albeit cautious, in his remarks. What I found was not a right-wing ideologue, or even a cynical Republican apparatchik, but a young man then still in his thirties who was honestly and rigorously confronting not only his conscience but also his political values. Moreover, he was carefully examining his own recent journey during which the world’s oldest democracy had just conducted its national election for president.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dmoreno
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 09:10:53

    Because scara constantly has to steal the spotlight, she will be getting all the attention regarding this movie; but it will be interesting to see how Steve’s reputation can withstand the viewing this weekend. This may backfire and place even more blame on him that lies there already. Sure she is an idiot, but if not for him, only the poor people of Alaska would have anything to say. Now the whole world is burdened with this pathetic women and we can thank Steve. Mc Cain surely could have put his foot down, but he is/was too weak. I can tell he is remorseful, but he needs to use stronger language to condemn this nutjob.


    • akrnc
      Mar 08, 2012 @ 22:34:36

      If Steve Schmidt was able to coerce McCain into adding Palin to the ticket, then that’s one more reason as to why we should be so happy we dodged a bullet w/the loss of McCain/Palin. However, I think it was a number of people who were urging McCain to speak to Palin. If you have read the story, you’ll know the final decision was made by McCain and right before deciding, he spoke with his wife and then asked Palin to be the nominee. It says nothing about him going back to the staff and questioning their decision to speak to her. The only thing the staff did was convince him to meet with her, minimally vet her and then McCain alone made the final decision, not Schmidt.


  2. anAlaskanAlsoII
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 09:21:30

    I watched a screening of the film last night and it really was no fun going through all that again. They are still pushing the energy expert, taking on the Good Old Boys and fighting the oil companies meme, and her popularity in Alaska seriously.

    All that has been debunked. The only real thing out of the whole sordid affair was that Sarah’s personal home policy on Abstinence was a failure.


    • punchumgum
      Mar 08, 2012 @ 11:24:37

      I was thinking I would feel the same, like “didn’t we already suffer through this?” but then I remembered that 2008 did have its good moments, too.

      As for all that good stuff said about her during the campaign that wasn’t even close to true, I think by now everyone knows that Mrs Palin is a spectacularly stupid woman, a soap opera celebrity, and a thin-skinned quitter – and only the botz (and she) see her as a corruption-fighting pipeline-building energy expert.


  3. climber357
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 08:12:24

    ¨The Lies of Sarah Palin¨ is my favorite book about Sarah. There are many excellent reviews of the book on Amazon that do a far better job than anything I could write.

    I read it twice.


  4. LisaB2595
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 14:06:02

    To be fair to Steve (and the rest of the country), if you haven’t lived in Alaska, you don’t realize how small it really is. In any other state of the union, no one goes from mayor of a town of 5,000 (my son’s high school has over 3,600) to governor of the entire state. But Alaska is a very small pond in a lot of ways. Throw in a very unpopular incumbent, an FBI sting, and charm to spare, and you have someone grossly unqualified to office being elected.

    In other states, this doesn’t happen. I can’t blame the team for believing that “gosh, she really must have something on the ball because she’s GOVERNOR, for Pete’s sake.” You don’t expect people of Palin’s ilk to rise to the top office. She’s dumb, mean, and shallow. She’s an excellent self-promoter though, and you need time to see through the smoke and mirrors. The McCain campaign didn’t take that time.


  5. Kevin
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 15:33:10

    Lisa B, you want to be fair, but sometimes “fair” is harsh. How much time would it have taken to have discovered that although SP could echo Republican talking points, she couldn’t handle a debate or a press conference, she knew very little, and couldn’t think her way through the pros and cons of an issue? An hour of serious, probing conversation, at most? It wasn’t necessary to talk confidentially with Alaskan politicians or go through Alaskan newspaper archives to discover her past, since her inadequacy in the present was just beneath the surface and very easily exposed. McCain and his people must not have wanted to know, didn’t want to have that conversation, either because there was no other choice, or because they were seduced by her personal magnetism, wanted to believe in her, wanted to be liked by her, and didn’t want to risk bursting the bubble.


    • LisaB2595
      Mar 09, 2012 @ 03:43:31

      Where did I say the McCain campaign should not have properly vetted Palin before picking her? I didn’t. What I said was in the lower 48 by the time most people reach the governor’s mansion they are a lot more experienced and knowledgeable than Palin. I don’t blame them for the believing that included the governor of Alaska.

      I mean, if you find out someone’s in the NFL, you know they’re going to be a pretty good player. Years of training and scouting means the odds are very high the kid has real talent. I can’t blame the team for the assumption that Palin was qualified for her spot because no one expects the confluence of circumstances that resulted in her election. Mean, petty, know-nothings are pretty common in local politics and that’s where they usually stay.


  6. Rick
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 18:10:19

    In all honesty, the only reason Sarah Palin was elected was that the people of Alaska were so mad at Frank Murkowski and the Republican establishment because of all the crooked Legislators that they were looking for someone fresh. The Alaskan Republican Party knew Murkowski was in trouble and decided to run John Binkley. I was personally told by a lobbyist who had connections and spent the winters in Juneau that the powers that be had decided Binkley was going to be the next governor, no two ways about it. But the Republican Party of Alaska misjudged just how much damage Frank Murkowski, and Randy Reudrich, and Gregg Renkes had done to their credibility and how by filing ETHICS complaints against Reudrich and Renkes, Sarah Palin came off looking like the good guy. So Alaskans voted against the Republican Party when they elected Sarah Palin.

    Unfortunately that election proved that the saying, “The enemy of my enemy if my friend.” , is definitely not necessarily so. Sarah Palin was an unmitigated failure as Governor and the State is still paying for it with the Parnell administration. I hope someone who really loves Alaska will run against Parnell in the next election.


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