You and Me (But Mostly Me)

Published: March 14, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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“It’s a story of when cynicism and idealism collide, when you have to do the things that are necessary to win to try to get in office to do the great things you want to do for the country.”

That was McCain/Palin campaign honcho Steve Schmidt commenting to Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe about his time spent with Sarah Palin. (It also says a lot about some political advisors who will rationalize most anything in order to win, but that’s a topic for another day.)

“Politically, she was a net positive to the campaign,” Schmidt said of the former Alaska governor. But she was a “net negative” because “someone was nominated to the vice presidency who was manifestly unprepared to take the oath of office should it become necessary and as it has become necessary many times in American history.”

If there is anyone out there who still believes Sarah Palin would make a viable candidate for the highest office in the land, please do yourself (and the country) a favor and watch and/or readGame Change.

Before watching the HBO film, I was more interested in watching an interview with the film’s director Jay Roach and writer Danny Strong by media analyst Howard Kurtz to see if the story was accurately told or some Hollywoodized version of the truth.

Director Roach explained that both he and writer Strong spent time with Game Change authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. “We were able to interview almost every character that appears on screen,” Strong said, “and several people within the campaign who don’t appear on screen.” The only exceptions were McCain, Palin and McCain speechwriter Mark Salter, who all declined interview requests.

Most astonishing for me, in watching the film was Palin’s breathtaking lack of basic knowledge. She doesn’t know that the Prime Minister is the political head of England. She isn’t aware that the attack on 9/11 came from al-Qaeda not Saddam Hussein, or that North Korea and South Korea are different countries. And she seems to draw an absolute blank about exactly what the Federal Reserve is.

Last Sunday’s edition of This Week with George Stephanopoulos had former Palin advisor Nicolle Wallace as part of the panel. Here’s the tail end of that show:

Stephanopoulos: … before we go, Nicolle Wallace, in honor of you, you served in the McCain campaign, so you have — Sarah Paulson played you in the movie “Game Change” last night on HBO. And we’re going to show a little bit of the clip here, talking about the infamous interview with Katie Couric.

(video clip)

[Julianne Moore as Palin]: You call that interview fair?

[Sarah Paulson as Wallace]: Yes, Governor, I do.

Moore: I certainly don’t. She was out to get me from the get-go.

Paulson: No, she wasn’t. The interview sucked because you didn’t try.

Moore: Well, what do you mean I didn’t try?

Paulson: You just gave up.

Moore: Nicolle, it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t properly prepped.

Paulson: You weren’t properly prepped because you wouldn’t listen to us.

Moore: I am not your puppet!

(end video clip)

Stephanopoulos: Well, the Palin campaign didn’t like it. How true to life?

Wallace: Well, true enough to make me squirm.

Apparently, a lot of people squirmed… throughout the campaign. Palin comes off distant, immature and irrational due to the fact that she refused to listen, learn and respond as someone running for the second-highest office in the land should.

If there ever was a shadow of a doubt as to Palin’s qualifications, McCain strategist Steve Schmidt set the record brutally straight on the Scarborough show.

“For me and the experience I had on this campaign is that there are worse things than losing,” Schmidt said. “I think the notion of Sarah Palin being president of the United States is something that frightens me, frankly. And I played a part in that. And I played a part in that because we were fueled by ambition to win.

“I think there are important lessons to learn. The reality is that both parties have nominated people in the last decade who are not prepared to be anywhere near the Oval Office. John Edwards in the Democratic Party. Sarah Palin in the Republican Party. And we ought to take a pause and understand how that happened, why it happened and hopefully it’ll never happen again in our lifetimes.”

Asked if he believed Palin had a future as a national leader in the GOP, Schmidt said, “I hope not. And the reason I say that is because if you look at, over the last four years, all of the deficiencies in knowledge, all the deficiencies in preparedness, she’s done not one thing to rectify them, to correct them.

“She has become a person who I think is filled with grievance, filled with anger who has a divisive message for the national stage when we need leaders in both parties to have a unifying message. . . . The lack of preparedness was a bad thing and the total disinterest in being more prepared and rectifying that is something that disqualifies.”

At one point in the HBO film, Palin challenges Schmidt with some cold facts. “I am raising millions of dollars for this campaign. Hundreds of thousands of people are coming to seeme, not John McCain, God bless him,” an angry Palin says prior to going on-stage to the chants of her fans. “They are coming to see me!

Hopefully, not as a future political leader.


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