Palin’s Pregnant Daughter and the VP Vetting Process
After some unsavory rumors that Sarah Palin faking a pregnancy to protect her daughter surfaced, Palin revealed yesterday that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant but scheduled to marry the 18-year-old hockey playing father, Levi Johnston. One hesitates to delve into the story of candidates’ minor children, who are not public figures. Now, though, the focus has turned to where it should: The vetting process that yielded the unexpected selection of the relative unknown Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate.
There had already been reports that McCain and his inner circle decided on Palin outside the normal process set up to ensure that there would be no surprises. This revelation — of what was apparently an open secret in Alaska would seem to vindicate that charge. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell both report that a bunch of GOP lawyers are now heading to Alaska for “a deeper vet.” As Josh Marshall puts it, “Face It: They Didn’t Vet Her.”
Team McCain insists this is nonsense and that they were fully aware of the situation with Palin’s daughter. AP’s Liz Sidoti reports that,
Sarah Palin’s path to the Republican ticket started with her name on a list — and a team of some 25 people poring through public records searching for trouble spots without her knowledge. Then came the 70-question survey and a nearly three-hour interview.
Stoking the notion of a rushed examination, a timeline issued by the campaign indicated that McCain initially met Palin in February, then held one phone conversation with her last week before inviting her to Arizona, where he met with her a second time and offered her the job.
[Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., the lawyer who conducted the review] 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. Among the findings: Palin had once received a citation for fishing without a license.
Culvahouse then conducted a nearly three-hour interview. He said the first thing Palin volunteered was that her daughter was pregnant, and she also quickly disclosed her husband’s two-decade-old DUI arrest. The public search also unearthed details of the Legislature’s investigation into the dismissal of Alaska’s public safety commissioner, allegedly because he would not fire Palin’s former brother-in-law as a state trooper.
It sounds like, at a minimum, Team McCain valued maximum surprise and buzz from the announcement more than thorough vetting. Similarly, they seemed determined to avoid further annoying social conservatives, given that pro-choicers Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge were clearly McCain’s preferred running mates.
Drawing comparisons with George McGovern’s disastrous choice of Thomas Eagleton as his running mate, Jeralyn Merritt has started a pool: “What Day Will Sarah Palin Drop Out?” Given Palin’s popularity with the party’s conservative base and McCain’s own combativeness, I doubt it’ll come to that.
One wonders, though, why they chose Palin even with this story out there. ABC’s Jake Tapper asks the not unreasonable question, “What would the response be if Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and his wife Michelle had a pregnant unmarried teenage daughter?”