True or not? I’ll give you the “facts” as I’ve collected them and let you decide for yourself.
1. A guy named Andrew Halcro claimed this morning that eight people from Team McCain are checked into the local hotel in Wasilla and are poring through records. Who’s Halcro? He’s the independent who lost the gubernatorial race to her two years ago, and who was quoted sneering at her inability to articulate coherent policies in this weekend’s NYT. Not worth believing, right?
2. Wrong. ABC and NBC are also reporting that McCain’s people are on their way up there to try to beat the press to any hidden dirt.
3. Marc Ambinder claims to know from sources inside the McCain campaign that they’ve already been blindsided by the fact that she requested earmarks as mayor of Wasilla, that she supports a windfall profits tax, and that she doesn’t believe in man-made global warming. I’m skeptical about the last two; her positions are easily researchable on Google, as is the fact that she initially supported the bridge to nowhere. But like I asked this morning, if they knew about the bridge reversal, why’d they let her tout it on Friday knowing that it’d end up being gotcha’d?
4. Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, told WaPo this weekend that none of the final VP contenders were vetted more or less than the others and that all of them were subjected to a records review and FBI background check. Minor problem: The FBI says it didn’t do a background check on Palin (or on any other candidate, for that matter). Maybe Davis meant a background check equivalent to what the FBI routinely does for government employees?
5. Mark Halperin’s asking a lot of unanswered questions here that make it sound like he already knows, or has reason to know, the answer to each one is “no.”
Maybe McCain does know all the dirt already, like he apparently knew about Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy, and simply decided the upside was worth the risk. Or maybe he decided that since he was gambling the election by picking someone so inexperienced anyway, they might as well cut corners on the vetting on the assumption that there’s only so much trouble a hockey mom could have gotten herself into. I don’t think the public is so process-oriented that they’ll draw any sharp conclusions about his judgment in not fully vetting her; I think the risk is that she’ll die a death of a thousand cuts as the media exposes and then inflates a bunch of exceedingly venial sins (the Troopergate investigation being a notable exception), incorporating them into a larger narrative about how America can’t take a chance on a VP who might have outstanding parking tickets that no one even knows about. The point, in other words, isn’t to prove that she’s evil or corrupt, which she almost certainly isn’t; it’s simply to grasp at all available straws, no matter how short, and bundle them together in an “unknown quantity” narrative so that she’s perpetually on the defensive about such important matters as why she didn’t oppose the bridge to nowhere early enough. It’s the best possible contrast for Biden, too. Love him or loathe him, he’s been in D.C. since the Mesozoic Era. WYSIWYG. But Sarah Palin — did you know she served on the board of a 527 for Ted Stevens three years ago? Why, I’ll bet Joe Biden’s never even spoken to Ted Stevens.
Here’s the newest tidbit, straight out of the chute from ABC about a party Palin quit 12 years ago. Expect to hear the name “Robert Byrd” invoked tomorrow in the context of youthful political indiscretions subsequently forgiven by our progressive superiors. Exit question: Assuming, hypothetically, that I wanted to stop sniffing glue, this would be the wrong week for it, no?
Update: Politico puts it in perspective. The “ordinary gal” forcefield is a powerful shield indeed:
“Authenticity is the most important characteristic for someone seeking public office,” said Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. “Any news that comes out about her is not going to hurt her because it reinforces the point that she is authentically one of us.”…
Even the governor’s own Troopergate scandal, in which Palin is alleged to have exerted undue pressure to fire a state trooper, is suffused with an element that many families can identify with: one sister stepping in on behalf of another in an acrimonious dispute with a brother-in-law.
Powerful media organizations are beginning to pour resources into this story, so much more damaging twists and turns may await. But assuming the accusations don’t grow more serious, it is of a considerably different nature as an abuse of power than the last Troopergate scandal to rock the political world — the one in which Bill Clinton was alleged to use his state troopers in Arkansas to procure women as sex partners. That wouldn’t excuse Palin’s actions, of course, but it would frame them in such a way that could limit the political damage.
Update: Team Maverick tries to soothe a jumpy blogger’s fraying nerves.
Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser, said the campaign always planned to send a “jump team” to the eventual running mate’s home state to work with the nominee’s staff, help with information requests from local and national reporters, and answer questions about documents that were part of the review.
Culvahouse said Palin’s review, like others, began with a team of two dozen people culling information from public sources. The team reviewed speeches, financial records, tax information, litigation, investigations, ethical charges, marriages and divorces, for a number of potential running mates.
For Palin specifically, the team studied online archives of the state’s largest newspapers, including the Anchorage Daily News, but didn’t request paper archives for Palin’s hometown newspaper for fear the secret review would become public…
Palin then was sent a personal data questionnaire with 70 “very intrusive” questions, Culvahouse said. She also was asked to submit a number of years of federal and state tax returns. The campaign also checked her credit.