Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 10, 2008
POLITICS: Palin Push-Back

As has often happened with Gov. Sarah Palin during the campaign, we've had a battery of headlines from a single report, putatively based on an unnamed source, and only later do we get the facts. Let's look at some of the McCain and Palin aides now going on the record to respond:

Let's start with Meg Stapleton, one of the few people on Palin's staff who wasn't originally a McCain aide:

Stapleton told ABC News the Fox News report on Africa and NAFTA was taken out of context. She explained that during a briefing session, someone asked Palin to explain the McCain-Palin stance on an issue, and as she was responding, "in the middle, she said 'country of Africa' and somebody instantly wrote it down and said, 'Oh, my God, she thinks it's a country.'"

But "she knows it's a continent," Stapleton said. "It was just a human mistake, just like Obama saying 57 states. I don't think anyone ever doubted that Obama knows there are 50 states."


Regarding the $150,000 worth of clothing, Stapleton claimed it was the campaign that said, "This is what you need as a VP candidate, and it was the campaign and/or the RNC [Republican National Committee] -- but it wasn't the governor -- saying this is what she needs."

Stapleton added that a New York stylist was told to go and make Palin look presidential, that Palin was simply presented with her wardrobe and staff and told, "Here's your people, here are your clothes."

The only items Palin remembers requesting from staff are toothpaste and coats for cold weather, Stapleton said.

Palin even saw a price tag of $3,500 on one suit jacket and said she didn't want to wear it, Stapleton said -- but she was told to wear it anyway.

Stapleton claimed there also was a directive to buy any and all clothes before Sept. 4, the day the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., ended, so that it could be buried as part of other convention costs.


Then we have McCain foreign policy adviser Steve Biegun:

He says there's no way she didn't know Africa was a continent, and whoever is saying she didn't must be distorting "a fumble of words." He talked to her about all manner of issues relating to Africa, from failed states to the Sudan. She was aware from the beginning of the conflict in Darfur, which is followed closely in evangelical churches, and was aware of Clinton's AIDS initiative. That basically makes it impossible that she thought all of Africa was a country.

On not knowing what countries are in NAFTA, Biegun was part of the conversation that led to that accusation and it convinces him "somebody is acting with a high degree of maliciousness." He was briefing Palin before a Univision interview, and talking to her about trade issues. He rolled through NAFTA, CAFTA, and the Colombia FTA. As he talked, people were coming in and out of the room, handing Palin things, etc. She was distracted from what Biegun was saying, and said, roughly, "Ok, who's in NAFTA, what the deal with CAFTA, what's up the FTA?" - her way, Biegun says, of saying "rack them and stack them," begin again from the start. "Somebody is taking a conversation and twisting it maliciously," he says.

More from Biegun and other more general statements of support on the record from Tracey Schmitt here. You can read Randy Scheunemann's defense here. On NAFTA:

Scheunemann suggested the Africa and NAFTA incidents were inaccurate.

"I was not present for all of her sessions, so I can't disprove that," he told ABC News. "I severely doubt that it is accurate. It's certainly not accurate in any of the sessions I had with her."

More here from Scheunemann and Nicolle Wallace defending Palin on the record ("The only thing I've seen her ask for is a diet soda.").

Steve Schmidt:

Steve Schmidt, the campaign's chief strategist, defended Mrs. Palin in an e-mail exchange with The Times concerning, among other articles, a Newsweek report that at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Mrs. Palin had greeted Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Salter in her hotel room while "wearing nothing but a towel, with another [towel] on her wet hair."

"The towel story categorically is not true," Mr. Schmidt told The Times in the course of telephone and e-mail exchanges over the weekend.

(The Washington Times report has more quotes from people properly noting, in any event, that the informality suggested by that story isn't exactly unusual on the campaign trail).

Charlie Black, on the NAFTA and other specific stories:

"Answer to all of this is no, except she was victim of hoax perpetrated by Canadian talk radio re Sarkozy," Mr. Black said. "Even then, she said nothing wrong in the call. We think she did an excellent job and added a lot to the ticket. 'We' includes John McCain."

And here, of course, is Gov. Palin's own response:

Believe what you want, but in my book when you have multiple named sources standing by specific accounts, and on the other side you have reporters making vague allegations purportedly based on the word of unnamed and unidentifiable sources, the people going on the record and giving specifics have the better argument.

You can watch more of Gov. Palin's most recent press conference back home in Alaska here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)

From Daniel Larison of The American Conservative:

"Yes, it is anti-Palin conservatives who have been drinking the Kool-Aid. That’s it. Let’s just pretend the last two months of pathetic excuse-making for Palin’s embarrassing failures never happened, and furthermore let’s pretend that everything we know about her does not show that she is uninterested in policy details and largely uninformed about the world beyond our shores. I could imagine people making excuses for her alleged geographical ignorance (a claim that was always likely to be false) because conservative pundits repeatedly made excuses for her demonstrations of ignorance. They seemed excited by how much she didn’t know. Can’t define the Bush Doctrine? The pundits had a ready-made answer, “Who can define it? It is a mysterious, changing thing that no one truly understands.” Can’t name a Court ruling other than Roe she disagrees with? No problem–evade the relevant issue and talk about how stupid Biden is! The rule was simple: the deeper the confusion and cluelessness, the more zealous the defense. I don’t much care for lectures about “drinking the Kool-Aid” from members of the personality cult."

Better send him to re-education camp, Crank.

Posted by: Magrooder at November 10, 2008 10:34 AM

Been reading the Buchananites again? Really, I stopped paying attention to that crowd like a decade ago.

Posted by: Crank at November 10, 2008 10:38 AM

Look, I don't doubt for a minute that there is so much sniping that it looks ridiculous. And don't forget, much of it came from the McCain camp. Nixon once said Lincoln was the first president. He was a crook, but once of the smartest (and stupidest I guess) presidents we've ever had. But she did look like an idiot in front of Katie Couric. That was a terrible sign, the beginning of the end, and well merited probably. If you can't handle Katie Couric, Putin is not a reachable thing. And the public knew it.

I happen to think that a party that hitches anything but a wagon to someone who speaks, in ANY capacity, for a secessionist group, needs its head examined. As a Democrat, I can only conclude: Pick Palin. Please.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 10, 2008 11:16 AM

Here is the problem with the defense of Palin or shall we say dumb blind loyalty to the unknown. Some unnamed source used the archive button on their email. Soon, official McCain memos will be leaked (wonder what they hold). I guess it will happen this week as Palin ramps up her attacks and fights back. If she fight back to hard the memos will come in bunches. We shall learn how skilled she is as a politician based on how she fights back knowing the other side has a smoking gun.

Posted by: javaman at November 10, 2008 11:18 AM

"we've had a battery of headlines from a single report, putatively based on an unnamed source, and only later do we get the facts."

The problem is, Crank, that people don't read, or remember, the pushback. They remember the headlines. And the headline has already stuck.

True story: Friday evening I was leaving my office at around 6 or 6:30, walking on 6th Avenue near Bryant Park. Someone just in front of me was already wearing a shirt that had on its back a picture of Africa and the line "Africa is a continent not a country".

The pushback is nice but it is not going to undo the damage.

Posted by: A.S. at November 10, 2008 11:35 AM

"who speaks, in ANY capacity, for a secessionist group, needs its head examined"

That is not a nice thing to say about (Southern) Democrats.

Posted by: Nobody at November 10, 2008 11:38 AM

So here's how it stands: In a relatively short span in public office Palin successfully fought corruption from Wasilla to Juneau, leaving the bodies of her opponents littering the landscape. She took on the oil companies that have lubricated Alaskan politicians for years, and beat them. She put through a major capital project that Alaskans had failed to achieve during more than two decades, and while doing all the above maintained her popularity above 80%.

I guess it's true--she's an ignorant Barbie-doll who has only succeeded in politics due to her looks. Why couldn't the Republicans have been wise enough to choose a Biden-like figure as VP?

Posted by: Dai Alanye at November 10, 2008 11:51 AM

The real question is why is the accuser anonymous? Have the media learned NOTHING?
Unnamed sources is how we got sold the bill of goods known as the Iraq War. The media is complicit.
Contrary to what sponge, Crank, etc all believe about me, I'm for transparent government and an open media no matter who is in charge (i'm just hoping for better choices than D and R--for the citizens, don't you know).

OTOH, I don't think this will bury Palin (even though FOX News is hoping it will) with her supporters (i.e. teh jeniuses). If you still support her after she couldn't handle a lightweight like Couric, nothing can knock you off her bandwagon.

Posted by: Berto at November 10, 2008 11:58 AM

In a dispute where you have McCain's telling silence on the one side and the evolving, trickling out explanations of Palin's friends, named or not, I venture that Johnny Boy's lack of outrage is weightier. It's not like we don't have corroborating evidence of her ignorance on international affairs from the Gibson and Couric interviews. The towel thing is unbelievably stupid, I agree with Crank about that. But the current desperate spin doctoring about Africa et al to salvage Palin's chances for 2012 isn't persuasive. As for the clothing, why is it so hard to believe that someone who would bill the state 17k for her kids' travelling expenses or 20k for her nights spent at home might go a bit "diva" with the RNC's expense account? If it's John Edwards getting a $400 haircut its elitist, but if its Palin racking up 150k in new duds for her family its the RNC's "fault".

Posted by: seth soothsayer at November 10, 2008 12:20 PM

Whether Palin has a future on the national stage or not is something time will tell. However, what is certain is if the sources of the anonymous hit job is revealed that person will have no future. Many things are forgivable. A lack of loyalty is not one of them. Look at it from the point of view of business. You may admire someone having the courage to publicly blow the whistle on their last boss for using company funds to put his secretary/mistress up in a near by apartment, but you wouldn't hire that person. In other words the coward feeding Carl Cameron and others may not realize it but he isn't helping himself like he may suppose. My own guess is the hit pieces against Palin are by a lower mid-level flunkie hoping to clear the playing field for their preferred candidate (Romney???). I doubt Romney or whoever the preferred candidate is has knowledge of the attacks or would approve since disclosure that it came from his camp would torpedo his own chances.

Posted by: largebill at November 10, 2008 12:37 PM

What has troubled me since the beginning is that the adulation of Palin from her supporters reminds me so much of the early adulation of a certain president-elect.

If you read some of the stuff at RS and other places, it is just exactly the same stuff that was written on the other side of the aisle about 4 years ago.

I am sure I am going to hear a long list of how it is different...but it have exactly the same feeling to me.

I do look forward to see how things evolve over the next few years...I am very much a proponent of Jindal and will be interested to see how the adoration of Palin impacts the rest of the field.

Posted by: CW at November 10, 2008 12:58 PM

You guys are incorrigible. I mean, I kind of admire your tenacity but I wonder if it's deliberate or if it's just stupidity shining through.

Not a single person reading this actually believes Palin thinks Africa is a country or that she didn't know who was in NAFTA. I don't think anybody who's smart enough to log in would believe some so incredible, especially with the facts in hand here.

So rather than dwell on those attacks and expose yourselves for the slandering shills that we actually know you are, you go back to old attacks that have already been debunked. You guys know--or should know--why Palin took a per diem. You know--or should know how much money she saved the state in persoanl epxenses. You know--or should know--what the story is about the clothing that her party bought is.

You're playing whack-a-mole. As soon as one attack is exposed as crap you go back to an old one that has already been exposed as crap and recycle that. And when those are whacked you scream "Couric!!" like that one, first interview, loaded with oddball questions and Palin's overly careful and defensive resposes, means much at all besides it was her first interview.

Of course, as has been noted here, some of this stuff sticks and you guys know it. So you'll keep playing whack-a-slander for the next four years and then have a hissy fit when your candidate takes one tenth the crap you're dishing out.

That's an awful lot of work to politically defeat such a dumbass as Sarah Palin, isn't it? Should it take this much effort if she's so dense? Four years of this? What about this woman has you guys in such a state? Is it because she likes babies? Is that it? Or is it because she wouldn't give guys like you a second look?

Posted by: spongeworthy at November 10, 2008 4:27 PM

The unnamed-source criticisms weren't very credible. Embarassing, of course, because the info came from Republican staffers, but not very believable.

Palin needs to get up to speed on a lot of issues, but she's not that stupid.

Posted by: MVH at November 10, 2008 5:22 PM

"The real question is why is the accuser anonymous? Have the media learned NOTHING?"

The media loves tabloid fodder, including what Cameron did. And why do they love it? Because the public feeds on it. $400 haircut, private squabbles, Joe to Plumber's tax debts, 'political elbow of the day'. We choose not to rise above it. They have learned to feed this.
As to anonymity, it's obvious - someone with either an axe to grind or seeks an advantage. Early reports said that a wealthy Republican donor got the bill for the clothing(honestly, haven't been paying attention). Maybe a wealthy donor who wants a second chance at the nomination.
Take Crank's post directly below this one - it is about a news report that cites an anonymous source, and was contradicted by anther anonymous source a day later.
The media knows that we (as a whole) don't really care, and won't either once an anonymous source comes out during the Obama administration that conservatives view as a negative. And, instead will be championed by the Right and decried by the Left. , in the comments, as what I'm seeing as a reversal.

It's why I don't watch the major news networks aside from snips, and despise Headline News (Fox is 2nd in Tabloid, MSNBC 3rd and rising).

Posted by: Dave at November 10, 2008 10:13 PM

Meh, missed the 'the' above, (name) the (occupation).

As to the rest - no, I don't think the Africa thing was more than a slip, no I don't think the NAFTA thing was more than getting things organized - though I also don't think she was asking how US Territories like Guam are treated under it.

Really, I view the leaks as someone with an axe to grind, and the people defending as 'not drooling on themselves stupid', since they can only benefit from denying it - though I do find it believeable.
Crank, the people you cite as named have a substantial personal and business interest in making sure they stand up against it - to neglect this facet entirely against an anonymous source is a bit of a gap. Steve Schmidt may be a lot of things, but I don't exactly view him as a teller of truth for truth's sake.

Though I think largebill is on to something.

Posted by: Dave at November 10, 2008 10:34 PM

"since they can only benefit from denying it - though I do find it believeable"

Poor posting day. Meant the denials are believable.

Posted by: Dave at November 11, 2008 6:22 AM

It sure is good seeing people going to the media to FINALLY stand up for Palin. She has been ran over by the media and hacked to pieces and it's really getting old. I wish the left wing illuminati would just move on already. Obamatrons--find something else to do--something positive even! or is that impossible for you?!

Posted by: mnotaro at November 13, 2008 12:28 PM

It's not the "left-wing illuminati" hacking Palin. It's Republicans.
But I'm definitely on-board with your suggestion. I say they look into the law-breaking and corruption of the last 8 years. Since we KNOW they broke the law on illegal spying of citizens, i thin k that's a good place to start.
I'm not too worried about the cries of "partisanship" coming from the Right. There's video and audio of a Who's Who in Republican circles all spouting about the importance of "rule of law" left over from the 90s.

Posted by: Berto at November 13, 2008 10:07 PM
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