Must read: Jane Mayer on Sarah Palin

October 20, 2008

Sarah Palin (photo by scriptingnews cc-by-sa)

Sarah Palin (photo by scriptingnews cc-by-sa)

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker profiles Sarah Palin in this week’s issue and it’s not to be missed.

There are a number of extraordinary gems – especially the details about how Palin has very carefully constructed her “outsider” reputation by means of east coast publicists and a faux folksy demeanor. Nevertheless, my favorite passage discusses the lead-up to McCain’s decision on a runningmate:

By the spring, the McCain campaign had reportedly sent scouts to Alaska to start vetting Palin as a possible running mate. A week or so before McCain named her, however, sources close to the campaign say, McCain was intent on naming his fellow-senator Joe Lieberman, an independent, who left the Democratic Party in 2006. David Keene, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, who is close to a number of McCain’s top aides, told me that “McCain and Lindsey Graham”—the South Carolina senator, who has been McCain’s closest campaign companion—“really wanted Joe.” But Keene believed that “McCain was scared off” in the final days, after warnings from his advisers that choosing Lieberman would ignite a contentious floor fight at the Convention, as social conservatives revolted against Lieberman for being, among other things, pro-choice.

“They took it away from him,” a longtime friend of McCain—who asked not to be identified, since the campaign has declined to discuss its selection process—said of the advisers. “He was furious. He was pissed. It wasn’t what he wanted.” Another friend disputed this, characterizing McCain’s mood as one of “understanding resignation.”

With just days to go before the Convention, the choices were slim. Karl Rove favored McCain’s former rival Mitt Romney, but enough animus lingered from the primaries that McCain rejected the pairing. “I told Romney not to wait by the phone, because ‘he doesn’t like you,’ ” [American Conservative Union chairman Charles] Keene, who favored the choice, said. “With John McCain, all politics is personal.”

…Charles R. Black, Jr., the lobbyist and political operative who is McCain’s chief campaign adviser, reportedly favored Palin. Keene said, “I’m told that Charlie Black told McCain, ‘If you pick anyone else, you’re going to lose. But if you pick Palin you may win.’ ”

I can only imagine what would have happened had McCain selected Lieberman – they might have taken enough of the Clintonian center-right to win, but then would have been forced to govern without the support of either party. All in all a foolish idea that McCain’s advisors were wise to quash.

Equally interesting are the passages I’ve bolded for emphasis. In these (and other) moments, Mayer conveys a vivid sense of McCain’s testy disposition in the face of a difficulty.

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