McCain: Some People Say There’s a Woman to Blame …

John McCain was on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno last night, continuing his graceful exit from a bitter presidential race.

Nov. 11, 2008: John McCain talks about life after the presidential campaign with Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show. (NBC)

Nov. 11, 2008: John McCain talks about life after the presidential campaign with Jay Leno on the

In his first interview since conceding the presidential election, John McCain said Tuesday that Sarah Palin did not damage his presidential bid and he dismissed anonymous criticism aimed at her following their crushing defeat. “I’m so proud of her and I’m very grateful she agreed to run with me. She inspired people, she still does,” McCain told Jay Leno during a “Tonight Show” interview taped for broadcast Tuesday night. “I couldn’t be happier with Sarah Palin.”

In an interview that mingled flashes of humor with political analysis, McCain did little to deflect responsibility from himself. He alluded to the difficult political environment for Republicans nationwide and conceded, “I could tell you a lot of things that we may have made mistakes on.” He never listed them. “So, that’s the way it is,” he added.

Asked by Leno to address griping about Palin from unidentified McCain operatives in the days following the election, the Arizona senator said, “These things happen in campaigns. I think I have at least a thousand, quote, top advisers,” he scoffed. “A top adviser said? … I’ve never even heard of … a top adviser or a high-ranking Republican official.”

[…]

While shielding Palin from blame, McCain also steered around a suggestion that skewed media coverage tilted the election toward Obama. “One thing I think Americans don’t want is a sore loser,” he said.  “I knew I had a headwind. I can read the polls,” he said, in an obvious reference to a political climate soured by an economic crisis and unpopular Republican president and war.

What’s this say about the GOP brand? The “party has a lot of work to do. We just got back from the woodshed,” he said.

[…]

What about another campaign for McCain, who will be 76 years old in 2012? “I wouldn’t think so,” McCain told Leno, with a hint of resignation in his voice. “We are going to have another generation of leaders come along.”

Palin helped McCain with conservatives and likely hurt him on balance with moderates. Regardless, picking her was his call and casting blame on her would diminish his stature.  He’s far better off going back to the Senate and restoring his luster by helping his party rebuild itself than engaging in recriminations.

He’s right, too, that the next nominee is likely to be someone from a much younger generation and, I suspect, one not from Washington.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. This _doesn’t_ happen in every campaign, and it happened repeatedly in the McCain campaign — remember when McCain’s fired campaign manager spread the rumor that McCain slept with a lobbyist?

    The “leaker” who spread the Palin smear was undoubtledly McCain’s buddy and co-author Mark Salter. McCain is protecting Salter and throwing Palin under the bus.

  2. odograph says:

    Does anyone else find the construction ‘I’m so proud of her’ a little strange?

    It diminishes her even as it complements her.

  3. Floyd says:

    But the RNC knows…..It’s their own D@MNED fault!
    [and they deserve to be buffeted]

  4. anjin-san says:

    “One thing I think Americans don’t want is a sore loser,”

    True, and McCain, to his credit, has been anything but.

    The Wasilla Whiner should take some notes…

  5. sam says:

    But the RNC knows…..It’s their own D@MNED fault!
    [and they deserve to be buffeted]

    🙂 pretty good, Floyd

  6. Unsurprisingly, anjin-san remains as gracious in victory as defeat.

  7. DC Loser says:

    McCain looks very relaxed in all his post-election appearances. He must be really happy it’s finally over.

  8. LFC says:

    Speaking of Palin, I think this from the National Journal illustrates how long the road back to reality is for the GOP (emphasis mine):

    In the national Election Day exit poll, fully 60% of voters said they did not consider her qualified to serve as president if necessary, while only 38% thought she would be ready to step in. Those figures were daunting enough, but new calculations from the exit poll provided by the NBC News political unit show that outside of the Republican base skepticism about Palin’s credentials reached even more imposing heights. While 74% of Republicans thought Palin was qualified, just 35% of independents and 9% of Democrats agreed, the figures (first aired on David Gregory’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Monday night) showed.

    The fact that 74% of Republicans thought Palin was qualified is stunning. It really shows that the current GOP believes more in litmus tests than competence or even basic knowledge.

    WTF happened? I look at Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George HW Bush, and Dole, and though I certainly don’t agree with all of their stances, I wouldn’t call one of them incompetent or ignorant.

  9. anjin-san says:

    Unsurprisingly, anjin-san remains as gracious in victory as defeat.

    I give credit where credit is due (McCain). Palin has significantly lowered the level of public discourse in this country in a short period of time, and I have no intention of giving her a pass.

  10. LFC says:

    I’m with anjin-san on this one. McCain had his issues (as every candidate does), but Palin was a disgrace.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    Palin this, Palin that, lol.

  12. tom p says:

    I give credit where credit is due (McCain). Palin has significantly lowered the level of public discourse in this country in a short period of time, and I have no intention of giving her a pass.

    Anjin: I am sorry, you and I agree more often than not, but I do grow weary of the Palin bashing. Sure she an incurious, ignoramous, of a red baiting christianist Wassilla Hillbillie… I know plenty just like her here in Crawford Co MO, but they weren’t being put up to be next in line for the presidency (indeed, most of them couldn’t win an election for mayor).

    You give McCain a pass, but who put her up on the pedestal? Don’t blame her for being who and what she is. Blame the guy who gave her the audience.

  13. anjin-san says:

    Blame the guy who gave her the audience.

    No question about that. I am giving McCain credit for being stand up in the post campaign environment. As far as his campaign, well the Palin selection was but one very bad move.

  14. Janis Gore says:

    I can’t imagine what would have happened to her family if the ticket had won.

    What possible charm could DC hold for her husband? He’s a laconic outdoorsman, a champion snowmobile racer. What about missing the light and air in Alaska? Exchange that for a southern climate? And the peculiar hotbox of Washington?

    Poor guy would sweat a lot and bounce off the walls, I’d guess — or stay home.

    Ms. McCain didn’t appear to be all that thrilled, either, about assuming the role of First Lady. She seems a private person.

  15. Janis Gore says:

    The Republicans were testing. It’s fairly natural in US politics to switch between Republican and Democrats after term limits. That’s why the eminently lousy candidate John Kerry was run in 2004.

    So, who else could make a statement, and afford to lose outright. Sarah Palin.

  16. tom p says:

    No question about that. I am giving McCain credit for being stand up in the post campaign environment.

    Anjin: I think the difference between you and I is that I give him no credit for “being stand-up” in the post campaign environment. He has a long history of “being stand up” after he loses… as if all that passed before should be forgotten. And I do give him credit for the things he never said, but I give him no credit at all for stopping SP from saying the things she said.

    Towards the end, they knew they were losing, and said and did things which would undermine an Obama admin.