Thursday, October 30, 2008

Neocon weasels heart Sarah...

The Insiders

How John McCain came to pick Sarah Palin.

by Jane Mayer

“Here’s a little news flash,” Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska and the Republican candidate for Vice-President, announced in September, during her début at the Party’s Convention, in St. Paul. “I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly these past few days that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington élite then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.” But, she added, “I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion.”

In subsequent speeches, Palin has cast herself as an antidote to the élitist culture inside the Beltway. “I’m certainly a Washington outsider, and I’m proud of that, because I think that that is what we need,” she recently told Fox News. During her first interview as John McCain’s running mate, with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Palin was asked about her lack of experience in foreign policy. She replied, “We’ve got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual, and somebody’s big fat résumé, maybe, that shows decades and decades in the Washington establishment . . . Americans are getting sick and tired of that self-dealing, and kind of that closed-door, good-ol’-boy network that has been the Washington élite.”

Palin’s sudden rise to prominence, however, owes more to members of the Washington élite than her rhetoric has suggested. Paulette Simpson, the head of the Alaska Federation of Republican Women, who has known Palin since 2002, said, “From the beginning, she’s been underestimated. She’s very smart. She’s ambitious.” John Bitney, a top policy adviser on Palin’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign, said, “Sarah’s very conscientious about crafting the story of Sarah. She’s all about the hockey mom and Mrs. Palin Goes to Washington—the anti-politician politician.” Bitney is from Wasilla, Palin’s home town, and has known her since junior high school, where they both played in the band. He considers Palin a friend, even though after becoming governor, in December, 2006, she dismissed him. He is now the chief of staff to the speaker of the Alaska House.

Upon being elected governor, Palin began developing relationships with Washington insiders, who later championed the idea of putting her on the 2008 ticket. “There’s some political opportunism on her part,” Bitney said. For years, “she’s had D.C. in mind.” He added, “She’s not interested in being on the junior-varsity team.”

During her gubernatorial campaign, Bitney said, he began predicting to Palin that she would make the short list of Republican Vice-Presidential prospects. “She had the biography, I told her, to be a contender,” he recalled. At first, Palin only laughed. But within a few months of being sworn in she and others in her circle noticed that a blogger named Adam Brickley had started a movement to draft her as Vice-President. Palin also learned that a number of prominent conservative pundits would soon be passing through Juneau, on cruises sponsored by right-leaning political magazines. She invited these insiders to the governor’s mansion, and even led some of them on a helicopter tour...


Jane Mayer on “The Insiders: How John McCain Came to Pick Sarah Palin”

...Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jane.

JANE MAYER: Hi, thanks. Good to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Why don’t you tell us the story of the cruises to Alaska?

JANE MAYER: The cruises. Well, Juneau, Alaska turns out to be a major stop for cruise ships that come through Alaska, and there are political cruises, in particular, that are run by the conservative political magazines that stop there. And so, when Sarah Palin was elected governor, she learned that a number of those Washington insider elite members of the media would be trooping through Juneau. And despite the rhetoric that she’s got that is about, you know, sort of deriding them and saying she doesn’t, you know, seek their approval, in fact, she invited most of them to lunch and to other receptions that she threw. She even brought some up on a helicopter ride to go see a couple sites in Alaska.

So, she was courting some of those Washington insiders. In particular, they were the pundits that work for the Weekly Standard magazine, which is Rupert Murdoch’s conservative political magazine, and the National Review, the old conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley. So she made a great impression on some of these pundits when they came through. They enjoyed their lunches and receptions and went back and wrote fabulous stories about her, and this was one of the things that really got the ball rolling for her.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you know, Jane, if you could actually tell us the story—for example, first, I mean, you had the two magazines, the Weekly Standard had one cruise, and the National Review, Buckley’s publication, had the other. William—Bill Kristol and his crew came into town for the first lunch. Just describe it for us and their impressions, as you understood them from your sources.

JANE MAYER: Well, I mean, I interviewed many of them. They described her as completely charming. And an unusual dish was served, an Alaska dish, halibut cheeks, in the governor’s mansion. And she was—her little girl Piper popped in and asked about dessert. And Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes, who is a regular on a show called The Beltway Boys and writes for the Weekly Standard, and Michael Gerson, who was a former speech—top speech writer for President Bush and writes a column in the Washington Post, were all there with various family members of theirs. And they were smitten by her, especially Bill Kristol, who has really been beating the drums for Sarah Palin, pretty much ever since.

And then, the second group came in several weeks later. They were the National Review crowd, and it was a much bigger group. One of the things that interested me about that group was, among the dignitaries was Dick Morris, who is a political consultant and a very sort of cynical, savvy player in politics, the ultimate, really, Washington insider, in a way. All the kinds of people that Sarah Palin has said that she—you know, she’s such an outsider to, well, they were all at a reception for her there. And, in fact, Dick Morris sort of pulled her aside for a private conversation, which she then revealed later to the group, in which he said, “If you want to be successful politically, you’ve got to continue to hold onto your image as an outsider. Play up that outsider thing.” And obviously, she has. But it’s just so interesting to hear that really it’s a calculated strategy. It’s not just because she is an outsider; it’s a—you know, it’s a ploy, to some extent.


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