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‘McCain Didn’t Vet Palin’ Meme Has Serious Holes

Slippery prose and outright errors in the NY Times and Huffington Post. [UPDATED]

by
Tom Blumer

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September 2, 2008 - 12:48 am
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Two major elements of the developing meme that John McCain did not sufficiently vet presumptive vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin are highly suspect. Each contention is not provable, and there is strong reason to believe that each is almost completely, if not totally, untrue.

The first assertion is that McCain’s people did little if any vetting of Palin until a few days ago. The second is that McCain’s team has never looked at years of archived articles at Palin’s hometown paper.

The first claim has bubbled up from various sources on the left side of the blogosphere, culminating in this slippery prose found in this morning’s New York Times (slippery wording in bold):

Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin’s background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice. The campaign was still calling Republican operatives as late as Sunday night asking them to go to Alaska to deal with the unexpected candidacy of Ms. Palin.

Oh, that Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller is clever:

  • “now” — carries a quiet implication that McCain didn’t have a team on the ground earlier.
  • “more thoroughly” — a strong contention by Ms. Bumiller, with no direct quotes, that previous looks had been less than thorough.
  • The calls to campaign operatives are pretty easily explained. McCain played the nomination close to the vest until late morning on Friday. There’s no way his people could have tried to arrange trips to Alaska before then without tipping their hand.

Here’s an alternative explanation for the GOP flights to Alaska Ms. Bumiller didn’t consider: McCain has known all along that he would need to send a team to play defense in Alaska shortly after the Palin announcement, because Democratic opposition researchers would be fanning out all over the state.

What’s really rich though, is that by doing a small bit of digging Bumiller either failed to do, or failed to report, Alaska blogger Tom Lamb at It’s a Kwazy Life found this item from late May at Wizbang that likely debunks the Johnny-vets-lately charge (link was in original, and still works):

A tipster sent us word that John McCain’s VP advance man Arthur Culvahouse has been spotted in Juneau, Alaska. There’s only one reason he would be there — to meet with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin about the vice president position.

As the link within the excerpt indicates, Culvahouse, a high-powered DC lawyer, headed up McCain’s vice presidential search effort.

You’d have to gin up quite a conspiracy to believe that Kevin at Wizbang would have made something like that up out of thin air a full three months ago, or that Kevin’s tipster would have lied to him about seeing Culvahouse.

The second dubious claim was asserted Sunday afternoon by Sam Stein at the Huffington Post.

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