Members of Arizona Senator John McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign team have dissed McCain’s former running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, the New York Daily News reports — and in a big way:
In an expansive story in the August edition of Vanity Fair, a slew of senior members of McCain’s campaign team told reporter Todd S. Purdum that they suffer a kind of survivor’s guilt following the 2008 presidential election.
“They can’t quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be,” Vanity Fair reports.
During the campaign, there were reports of anonymous McCain aides describing Palin, the governor of Alaska, as a “diva” and a “whack job.”
The Vanity Fair article recounts how strained Palin’s relationship was with the McCain advisers. She maintained “only the barest level of civil discourse” with Tucker Eskew, the operative assigned to be her chief minder, the magazine reports.
She believed Steve Schmidt, McCain’s top strategist, had lied to her about conducting polling in Alaska – that was a “belief she conveyed to anyone who would listen,” the magazine reported.
As previously reported, Palin was so intent on delivering her own concession speech on Election Night that she wouldn’t accept advisers telling her that McCain had decided he would be the only one to speak. She took the issue up with McCain himself, discussing it on the walk from his hotel suite to the farewell rally.
Palin did not speak on Election Night. Only McCain addressed the crowd and the nation.
The Daily News article ends with part of the Vanity Fair article where a McCain staffer takes a swipe at Palin from the standpoint of early hopes that she was raw talent — and that his worst negative fears about Palin were confirmed after the election. In other words: it blasts her for her campaign and post campaign performance.
This piece will only likely add to Palin’s woes in the political imagery needed to perhaps not get the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination but win a national campaign. She is already the target of a slew of Sarah Palin jokes. Her admirers, on the other hand, see her as the wave of the conservative future and many are members of the talk radio political culture that’s highly influential in the GOP.
But the ongoing tensions between McCain staffers (as well as subtle and perhaps not so subtle hints from McCain himself that he thinks the GOP should shop around before choosing a 2012 Presidential candidate) underscore Palin’s failure to mend political fences on the most fundamental, basic scale: with her own running mate’s staff. Moreover, this split seems to have personal as well as ideological roots: although Palin is painted as a political diva it’s no secret McCain is less predictable politically than Palin and she seemed to be unhappy at some of his less conservative stands.
The bottom line: articles like this continue the flow of mainstream media news stories that don’t cast Palin in the best light — and not become of some media plot controlled from above. You can’t do articles such as the vanity Fair piece without there being sources who are eager to talk. The fact that McCain staffers seem eager to get this off their chests will not be lost on voters (including Republicans) who are not enthusiastic Palin supporters.
The Daily News also has this:
Palin refused to comment for Vanity Fair.
As someone who was in the news media this can be stated with certainty: when the subject of an unflattering story refuses to respond, it can indeed limit the impact of a story. But it also means the allegations hang out there and are taken by many readers to be true.
In this case, it will be instructive to see if the McCain sources — and McCain himself – are now showered with criticism from Palin supporters in the new and old media and talk show hosts. It will keep this story alive and spread its content.
In other words: this is a lose-lose article for Palin. She’s not being painted as a major talent and the wave of the future — but as a political dead-weight anchor and prima donna.
— From NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg via First Read:
Riddle us this: How is Sarah Palin going to be able to run for president when so many other Republicans, especially those who worked on the McCain campaign, are more than willing to criticize her? Todd Purdum has a piece in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, in which former McCain campaign aides unload on her — again. “They can’t quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be,” Purdum writes.
–And here’s the link to the full piece.
—Meanwhile, USA Today’s lively On Deadline blog offers some good excerpts from the piece (if you don’t have time to read it all now). Here is one:
On Palin’s CBS interview: “By all accounts, Palin was either unwilling, or simply unable, to prepare. In the run-up to the (Katie) Couric interview, Palin had become preoccupied with a far more parochial concern: answering a humdrum written questionnaire from her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman.”
–Another perspective from RealClearPolitic’s Tom Bevan:
Purdum’s piece is an absolute classic of the genre, complete with a slew of juicy, negative quotes from insiders and a smoothly crafted narrative that demeans and diminishes Palin’s accomplishments and portrays her as an ignorant white trash whack job who stumbled her way into the governorship of Alaska through a combination of raw ambition and blind luck.
Sarah Palin is one of those rare figures who evokes acute emotions in a lot of people. I’m not one of them, so it’s always been hard for me to understand why those who didn’t even know her name before August 28 of last year could either fall so madly in love with her or be driven into such an absolute blind rage over her.
Even more perplexing is the MSM’s continuing fascination with, and seemingly instiatible desire to destroy Sarah Palin. Why are Todd Purdum and Vanity Fair pulling out all the stops for a piece on Palin 10 months after the election? Is it because they fear she’s still viable as a national political figure, or simply that a 9,800 word hit job on Palin is the kind of delicious red meat VF’s readers can’t resist?
Either way, there’s the very real possibility that this kind of piling on Palin by the elitist MSM will actually improve her image outside the New York/DC corridor and make people in flyover country like her more, not less.
–And from Marbury:
Todd Purdum’s much-heralded Sarah Palin piece for Vanity Fair contains little in the way of news or insight. He was clearly hampered by the reluctance of McCain’s loyal staffers to make strong criticisms of Palin, for fear it might reflect badly on their boss. Even more importantly, his lack of sympathy, or just empathy, for his subject means that he hasn’t found anything interesting or new to say about her character. As a result the piece just reads like a string of cuttings.
FOOTNOTE: Due to some very quick editing there were some typos in the original first paragraph of this post. They have been fixed. TMV regrets the errors..
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.