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The Diagnosis: The Makings Of A Palin-ectomy?

September 3rd, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

Try as they might, the McCain campaign is doing all it can to convince the public and the press that they have given Sarah Palin a thorough examination and found her fit to serve as the Vice President and assume the role of the presidency should anything happen to their 72 year old candidate.

Unfortunately, a number of second opinions…from qualified GOP operatives…are beginning to paint a much less favorable picture. In the following video, Peggy Noonan, a former Reagan speech writer and long standing GOP apologist…and Mike Murphy, a former GOP strategist…are caught off camera expressing their grave doubts about the Palin selection.

Clearly, the McCain campaign is attempting to manufacture a far more favorable GOP narrative and insure that party minions stay on message with a carefully crafted script. Unfortunately, the above video and the following transcript of a CNN interview with Ben Stein seem to suggest that a number of GOP pundits have serious doubts about the McCain selection.

O’BRIEN: That was Fred Thompson last night. One of the very few times that the economy actually came up in a speech. It wasn’t really the theme last night. Certainly it’s a fact of daily life, though, for tens of millions of voters who say it is the No. 1 issue for them as they pick a president.

With me to talk about dollars and jobs and votes is Ben Stein, a man of many achievements, including a best selling author. His latest work is called “How to Ruin the United States of America.” Almost sounds like a cookbook.

Mr. Stein, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

You have been —


O’BRIEN: My pleasure.

You have been a speech writer and a lawyer for President Nixon. Let’s talk first about Governor Palin’s speech. What do you think she needs to get across? And as a speech writer yourself, how do you navigate some of those tricky things, the controversy, with specifics that some people said they want to hear?

STEIN: I don’t think she has to do much. I think as one of your previous guests said, expectations are so low, if she basically can put one word in front of the other, people will be impressed. I don’t think anybody is going to be picking on her about her daughter, I don’t think anybody is going to be picking on her about a 22-year-old DUI for her husband. People want to know if she is a down to earth, pro-family, pro-life conservative. And I’m sure she’ll hit that one right out of the park.

I’ve met her. I’ve had a long, long, long conversation with her. She’s a fireball of a speaker and I’m sure she’ll do very well.

O’BRIEN: How about America’s energy economy? Talking economy with you today.

STEIN: Well, we —

O’BRIEN: Yes, go ahead.

STEIN: We’ve got some real problems with the economy. I mean, the economy is really a very serious problem. We’re not in a recession. But real (ph) wages in this country have not risen in 35 years under Republicans and Democrats. They have not risen. They are lower now than they were in 1973.

I’m told by people who know these kinds of things, that if you made all the banks in this country strictly accountable for their losses, most of the banks in this country would be insolvent right now. The real estate sector is in trouble, the auto sector is in deep, deep trouble, the retail sector is wavering, the finance sector is in real trouble. This administration has really got to get up off its back side and take some action, especially about the finance sector, right now.

O’BRIEN: What do you see in Governor Palin, or do you see anything in Governor Palin, that maybe she —

STEIN: I don’t see a thing about —

O’BRIEN: Yes, go ahead.

STEIN: I don’t think she has said a word in her whole life about the national economy, which contributes to making this one of the oddest choices in the history of presidential politics. I think this may go down as the most peculiar vice presidential choice there has ever been.

O’BRIEN: Well, expound on that a little more for me, because if I were a Republican strategist standing here, I would say, she’s got five kids, a woman who has managed — has executive experience. You know the drill. You’ve heard them around the clock coming on to talk about that. So what makes it odd for you?

STEIN: Look, they were selling themselves as the team, the ticket of experience. That’s out the window. They’re selling themselves as the ticket of steady habits. That’s out the window. They’re selling them as the ticket of people who are ready to deal with America in a foreign policy crisis. That’s out the window.

What we have now is back to, what you might call, fundamentalists, born again, backwoods, values of the United States of America. That’s fine. I love those values. I’m all for them. I believe in intelligent design, which I’m probably the only person ever to be on CNN who believes in that. But let us be fair about this, she’s a very different person from what John McCain was advertising himself as.

And in terms of the economy, as far as I know, she has absolutely zero background in it. That’s fine, neither did John F. Kennedy. But somebody’s got to get in there and fill her in on it really quick.

O’BRIEN: Is that doable? Again, back to the speech writing thing, which is how we began, that’s lot to learn before —

STEIN: It’s doable. It’s a lot to learn. It’s a lot to learn before a presidential campaign where you’re going to have people, very smart people, from the media picking her apart little bit by little bit.

She’s got to have around her very, very smart people, telling her the basics of the economy, telling her the basics of foreign policy, night and day. She’s going to have to be like that business in the “Superman” movie where the little super baby was traveling through space and they’re giving him a tape of all the knowledge in the world for him to absorb. She’s going to have to have people like Martin Feldstein (ph) from Harvard, probably the best Republican in Congress and America, around her every second drilling in her head what she has to know.

O’BRIEN: A lot to learn.

STEIN: She should have Henry Kissinger babysitting her. O’BRIEN: Well — duly noted.

Ben Stein, thank you. Appreciate the time.

We’re going to have more convention –

STEIN: Thank you.

If Ben Stein, an ardent ideologue, is willing to offer this level of criticism, one has to wonder how close the party establishment may be to outright mutiny. Even though I doubt John McCain would ask Palin to withdraw from the ticket, the damage may have already placed the Palin candidacy on life support. If so, there is little reason to believe that McCain’s presidential aspirations will be achieved.

While I realize the GOP has been quite successful in manufacturing credible caricatures for their candidates, the selection of Palin may finally push some members of the GOP punditry to jump ship. Yes, there is a concerted effort to hold the chosen position and defend the selection of Palin, but the tide of doubt may well be too great to withstand.

In fact, I suspect that a number of these pundits may feel their own reputations are at stake should they continue their efforts to carry the Palin candidacy…especially in light of the prevailing evidence and a growing list of disquieting contradictions.

The problem the GOP faces, by complaining about the media’s probing of the Palin candidacy, is an ever expanding awareness of the concerns that John McCain is prone to hasty decisions and the exhibition of an erratic temperament.

For years, McCain has been able to enlist the media in pushing his straight-talking maverick persona. Unfortunately, he may have miscalculated the degree to which members of the media would be willing to participate in advancing his presidential aspirations…at the expense of their own journalistic bona fides.

Yes, the McCain campaign may still succeed in spinning the Palin candidacy as something it isn’t…but if they do, I suspect they’ll need to do so without relying upon the media. Should they insist upon the further scapegoating of the media, the McCain campaign could well find itself overwhelmed and out maneuvered. As the election unfolds, John McCain may find that he misjudged his media might…pursuing a battle plan that went a bridge too far.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. 11 Responses to “The Diagnosis: The Makings Of A Palin-ectomy?”

  2. By steve on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    “It’s not that our liberal friends are ignorant… it’s that they know so much that isn’t so.”

    Ronald Reagan…

    Try reading your last five paragraphs out loud in a dark room and come back and tell us you were actually serious when you wrote them… geez.

  3. By Daniel DiRito on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply


    I find I prefer to read in the light. Perhaps you ought to give it a try…seriously!


  4. By steve on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    Um… okay…

    I don’t think we’re in the position to be feared. You and Ben Stein have NO IDEA what is gonna come out of this lady’s mouth tonight. None!! And I really respect Ben Stein… I think he is brilliant and his thoughts about the economy and Palin are absolutely true.

    Tell me what Obama knows about the economy… Oh wait! O’Brien didn’t ask Stein what he thought about Obama… So therefore you don’t know and can’t cut and paste it into a post.

    Maybe I was wrong… you need the lights on…

  5. By Lisa on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    Obama doesn’t have to know anything because he never gets challenged on anything.
    If Palin switched places with Obama it would be the same thing except she has a thicker resume.
    Obama has been the nominee for the highest office of the country for how long and we are still waiting to hear about his experience other than “change” but that got muted fast when his VP and his son are the same ol same ol. Another thing you’ll never see on the front page.
    She’s got 2 strikes against her she’s a woman and she’s a republican woman. It’s either 2 strikes or a double threat.

  6. By Daniel DiRito on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply


    The problem Palin faces tonight is matching her rhetoric to the reality of her record. The McCain campaign wants to quell any such analysis and they’re hoping they can portray the media negatively in advance to offset the criticism that will undoubtedly surface.

    I’m glad you like Ben Stein. If you can roll out 100 more Ben Stein’s to comment on the Palin pick, I’ll call you brilliant. I hope every GOP pundit will express their true views on the Palin pick. It will save the Obama campaign a whole lot of money.


  7. By steve on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    Off topic Daniel… but

    Explain to me the US magazine thing ripping Palin with “scandal and pregnancy” and Obama’s cover with the “warm and fuzzies”

    You have to believe, the media is staying off of Obama and showing him in a better light even if subtle… Where is Ben Stein talking about Obama? I am trying to actually find something…

    Palin is a nice looking lady, in a powerful job (a job equal to Obama) This lady hasn’t even got out of the gate yet and has been unfairly trashed…

  8. By steve on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    Found one:

  9. By Lisa on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    Good find Steve. Happy retirement.

  10. By Craig R. Harmon on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply


    I’m not sure what is meant by “party establishment” of whom you wonder how close to revolt they are. Could you fill me in?

    As for Stein, I agree with much of what he says: she’s inexperienced for sure. My first thought upon learning who McCain’s pick was, was:

    “But I thought Obama was too inexperienced to be president; what’s McCain doing picking an inexperienced pol to be one heart-beat away from being president? This is stupd!”

    My first thought upon learning more about Palin was:

    “He picked a pol under investigation for misuse of official power for some personal vendetta? McCain’s insane! The common wisdom now a-days is that Rupublicans are synonymous with corruption and scandal and this is whom he selects? This is stupid!”

    And so my first two thoughts about Palin were, “This [and by implication, McCain] is stupid!” I haven’t yet seen much to alter that assessment. Sarah Palin might surprise me. She might acquit herself well not just in protected quarters where everything’s scripted and with little chance of an unexpected and unprepared for questions being asked but also before the press with a true question and answer period and in debate with Biden. She may be a quick study. And, who knows, Presidents don’t need to have all knowledge; that’s what advisers are for, after all, but she’s got to have smart advisers and she’s got to be willing to listen to them and have the smarts to make a good choice among several opinions she might be given by various advisers. She’s got to prove that she is those things.

    On the other hand, I don’t agree with Stein on at least one issue. Her career in politics has been wholly state involved, that’s true, so she has never really had to think about national economy but she’s had to think about state economy, surely. She can’t, as governor (or mayor for that matter) possibly have escaped the necessity of having done so. Sure, the scale is much vaster nation-wide but the principles are such that they should apply no matter at what scale.

    Color me among the thoroughly skeptical. She’s got lots to prove and I won’t be easy to convince but I’m willing to give her a chance to prove herself. But first, she’s got to beat this trooper-gate thing soundly and convincingly. I think most of the criticisms and questions that have been raised about her have been mostly crap: much of it out and out untrue and much of it, even if true, so what but the two issues I raised are the real bears out to tear the Palin pick and, possibly, the McCain presidency, to shreds.

    I may not be a GOP pundit according to anyone’s standards but that’s what I really think about the Palin pick.

  11. By Lisa on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    Craig what I heard about her ex-brother in law is that he went after her nephew(I am assuning his son) with a taser gun.
    Just heresay but I would have to find more facts or see if it comes up anywhere.

  12. By Lisa on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    Here you go Craig. Amazing the only way to get the facts is to listen to that right wing media.

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