Wed 22 Oct, 2008 10:25 am
NYT Mag Lifts Curtain On Palin Choice, Angst With Schmidt, Worry In McCain Campaign
by Sam Stein, Huffington Post
October 21, 2008
The New York Times Magazine is set to publish an explosive story this Sunday on the inner workings and combative personalities of what has been a wild few months for the McCain campaign.
The piece, written by Robert Draper and titled "The Making (and Remaking and Remaking) of the Candidate," breaks some new reportorial ground, including a growing weariness within a campaign that seems more interested in tactical victories and the next compelling narratives than an overarching strategy. Draper writes:
"By October, the succession of backfiring narratives would compel some to reappraise not only McCain's chances but also the decisions made by [Chief Strategist Steve] Schmidt, who only a short time ago was hailed as the savior who brought discipline and unrepentant toughness to a listing campaign."
Having interviewed several of the Senator's chief aides, Draper details the process by which McCain ultimately chose his running mate (New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was surprisingly high on the list). And the decision may have been even more impulsive than initially thought. Gov. Sarah Palin, who had never been on the VP shortlist, was advanced at the last minute by Schmidt and Rick Davis, and was picked after a chat with McCain at his ranch in Arizona.
From there, Draper tracks the campaign through Palin's widely praised convention speech, the roaring early campaign events, and then the first glimmer of doubts. There are additional, juicy nuggets that he uncovers earlier and along the way. These include the birth of the Obama-as-celebrity attack line -- the campaign felt it was on the wrong track, its pollster described their situation as "third and nine," and Schmidt "blurted out the epiphany concerning Obama. 'Face it, gentlemen,' he said. 'He's being treated like a celebrity.'"
Then there is Schmidt's -- perhaps fatal -- push for McCain to "go all in," leave the campaign trail and head to Washington to work on the financial bailout package.
"Schmidt evidently saw the financial crisis as a 'true character' moment that would advance his candidate's narrative."
Ultimately, Draper defines the McCain campaign in a series of different narratives: the heroic fighter, the country first deal-maker, team of mavericks, etc. His reporting will undoubtedly spur an early start to the campaign postmortems. Even McCain aides waxed skeptically about their bosses chances.
"Despite their leeriness of being quoted," Draper writes, "McCain's senior advisers remained palpably confident of victory -- at least until very recently."
Want to know the real reason McCain took Palin?
The last day of the Democratic Convention, Obama found an important message: This election is not about the 1960's. It's time to move on.
The last election was completely about the sixties and Vietnam. Well, the people now in their early forties who have kids in high school-in other words, people of middle age-were in kindergarten when the sixties ended. Nobody's interested anymore who did what in 1968.
McCain's big selling point is his POW status, which happened in the sixties. When McCain saw that Obama was about to make McCain's campaign theme largely irrelevant, he searched around desperately for a post-sixties figure to run with. That's how he ended up picking Palin.
It's clear it was a rushed decision.
That could be part of it. I thought he picked her because she's an Evangelical. the Rove types dislike McCain, she insured he'd get a cut of their support.
This, of course, has backfired because she's long on decoration, short on intelligence and depth and an expert spewer of invective against the Democrats.
She truly is a pitbull with lipstick.
McCain has run a lousy campaign. He still could win (please, no) but it's only because he's been the nastiest fear-mongerer on the planet.
They don't call him "No Drama Obama" for nothing.
When this story first appeared, conservatives immediately attacked the "lying" New York Times
. Years later conservatives on this site continued to refer to this story as a "low point in political journalism":
Former Top McCain Aide Says He Lied to Discredit a Times Article
“John McCain’s lie became mine,” Steve Schmidt wrote about Senator John McCain’s relationship with a female lobbyist.
The senior strategist for Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign said on Sunday night that he had lied to discredit a New York Times article that reported on Mr. McCain’s close relationship with a female lobbyist, a claim that the candidate and the campaign attacked at considerable length at the time.
The statement from Steve Schmidt, which he published in a late-night Substack post, was a remarkable turnabout for a former senior aide who once praised Mr. McCain as “the greatest man I’ve ever known.”
More than 14 years after The Times’s article appeared and four years after the Republican senator’s death, Mr. Schmidt let loose a furious personal assault on the credibility of Mr. McCain and his family.
“Immediately following the story’s publication, John and Cindy McCain both lied to the American people,” Mr. Schmidt wrote, adding, “Ultimately, John McCain’s lie became mine.”
Defending his long silence on the matter, Mr. Schmidt said in his post that he “didn’t want to do anything to compromise John McCain’s honor.” His post then questioned Mr. McCain’s judgment in choosing the relatively unknown governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his running mate and accused Mr. McCain of cowering before her — “terrified of the creature that he created,” he wrote.
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In an interview on Monday, Mr. Schmidt said he was motivated to speak up now in part because he felt he had been unfairly associated for nearly 15 years with Mr. McCain’s choice of Ms. Palin, which he called “a burden.”
Mr. Schmidt also accused Mr. McCain — a self-styled maverick who fought leaders of his own party as he pushed for stricter campaign finance restrictions and ethics rules around political activities like lobbying — of lying about one aspect of the article that particularly angered the senator.
The article, published on Feb. 21, 2008, reported that several people involved with Mr. McCain’s first presidential campaign, in 2000, became concerned that he and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, had a romantic relationship. It was an explosive and potentially damaging claim for a presidential candidate who positioned himself as a corruption-fighter committed to exposing Washington’s self-dealing ways.
The day after the article was published, Mr. McCain appeared with his wife, Cindy, at a news conference and stated that the article was wrong. “I’m very disappointed in The New York Times piece. It’s not true,” he said.
Mr. McCain continued to deny until his death that he had a romantic relationship with Ms. Iseman. Mr. Schmidt, however, said Mr. McCain had privately acknowledged an affair to him after The Times published its article. “John McCain told me the truth backstage at an event in Ohio,” he wrote.
Ms. Iseman sued The Times and demanded that it print a retraction of the article on its front page. Less than three months after she filed the lawsuit, she dropped it. The Times appended a note to readers at the bottom of the article that said it “did not state, and The Times did not intend to conclude, that Ms. Iseman had engaged in a romantic affair with Senator McCain or an unethical relationship on behalf of her clients in breach of the public trust.”
Mr. Schmidt did not name Ms. Iseman in his Substack post, though he made several references to private phone calls he had with a “lobbyist” he describes in disparaging terms.
Ms. Iseman did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
A spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said the paper stood by the article. “We were confident in the accuracy of our reporting in 2008, and we remain so.”
Mr. McCain’s daughter Meghan, a conservative author and former co-host of “The View,” said her family had no comment on Monday.
Steve Schmidt's statement:
I was so irritated when they stuck Palin in front of the country, it was unforgivable.