Palin started intense tutorials last week in a suite of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. Stephen Biegun, a longtime foreign-policy hand who last worked on George W. Bush’s National Security Council, ran what one participant called a “boot camp on McCain world.” Biegun and others briefed her on international issues. McCain’s top domestic-policy adviser, economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, led other sessions. Before Holtz-Eakin even got started, Palin let him know that she likes to get her study points on large index cards. “What we have to do is take all our accumulated policy and John McCain’s entire Senate history and get her comfortable with the campaign,” Holtz-Eakin told NEWSWEEK.
Others involved in the process say Palin has a long way to go, and they are watching closely to make sure she doesn’t get overwhelmed. Over the weekend before the convention, campaign aides made the uncomfortable decision to urge her to go public with her unmarried 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy in order to rebut salacious Internet rumors that the teen was actually the mother of Palin’s own newborn child. An aide, speaking anonymously because the matter is sensitive, says that Palin and her husband grew angry about the allegations. “Do I have to show them my stretch marks?” she asked one campaign official. In the midst of the drama, Palin had little time to interact with her family because she was shuffling from one briefing or prep session to another. (In St. Louis, a campaign aide took Todd shopping at a Saks Fifth Avenue, where he bought a new suit to wear to the convention.) At one point McCain, himself tied up in campaign duties, asked an adviser, “Can you make sure she’s OK?”