Like a lot of political nerds I was eagerly anticipating Game Change, the excellent HBO movie about the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin. Since I live on the
Civilized West Coast, it started at 6 PM here, and so I had to record it and watch it after the kids were asleep. Since I wasn’t worried about spoilers, it was kind of interesting checking Twitter during the live broadcast premier and checking the reactions of some of the people who were actually covering the campaign.
Anyway, there are plenty of reviews about the movie and I don’t see a need to add another one here. I liked it a lot. I thought it was simultaneously sympathetic to Ms. Palin as a person thrust into a difficult situation, and uncompromisingly brutal to her as a potential leader, and I think that’s exactly right.
Because I hate my brain, I watched this clip from yesterday’s Morning Joe, where McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt showed up to talk about his reaction to the film. It was an interesting discussion and Schmidt confirmed what many people already knew: that the movie was “very accurate” and that the vetting process for Palin had been rushed and had proven inadequate.
Schmidt goes on to say something that is pretty remarkable for its honesty, something we are not accustomed to from political operatives: that the selection of Palin was ultimately reckless, and that there are “worse things than losing.” He said that the decision to put Palin on the ticket was a political decision, and not a presidential decision, and that selection of a vice president should be a presidential decision. Considering that Schmidt was one of the people responsible for that decision, this really is an amazing admission, and he deserves credit for saying it.
I think the notion of Sarah Palin being president of the United States is something that frightens me, frankly, and I played a part in that. And I played a part in that because we were fueled with ambition to win. — Steve Schmidt.
That quote deserves to be called out as being refreshingly honest. Unfortunately, he kept talking.
The reality is that both parties have nominated people in the last decade who were not prepared to be anywhere near the Oval Office. John Edwards in the Democratic Party; Sarah Palin in the Republican Party. — Also Steve Schmidt, seconds later
I know John Edwards. I voted for John Edwards in a Primary in 2004. John Edwards was a candidate of mine. You, Sarah Palin, are no John Edwards. For good and bad.
This is just more of the “both sides do it” false equivalency crap that the media just can’t resist. Selecting Sarah Palin was a disastrous and ultimately disqualifying political decision by John McCain. She had no business being vice president. She was completely unqualified for the position.
Whatever John Edwards personal failings are, and they are certainly serious, he was not unqualified to be vice president when he was selected in 2004. Just as a small point of comparison, he very clearly understood that Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11. I’m just saying.
Further, the failings that Edwards exhibited in his personal life and campaign finance misconduct that resulted from it were not discovered in 2004 because, wait for it, they hadn’t happened yet. As much as Steve Schmidt would like to change the subject and drag John Kerry’s campaign and the Democratic Party down to his level of country buggering, there is no valid comparison to the selection of John Edwards and the selection of Sarah Palin as running mates.
You can make an argument that the country dodged a bullet by not electing Edwards to the vice presidency because his character failings would have eventually come to light. But that’s a completely different argument than saying that the selection of Edwards was a failure of vetting in the same way that the selection of Palin was. Schmidt and McCain didn’t see Palin’s flaws because they didn’t want to see them. They wanted her to help them win, and they overlooked the obvious because it was inconvenient.
And while we are comparing Democratic vice presidential candidates to Republican vice presidential candidates, let’s reflect just a bit on Joe Biden, who was not exactly an electric pick by Barack Obama. It wasn’t a gimmick. It wasn’t a potential successor to groom. It was a sober pick of someone who would be qualified to assume the presidency if necessary.
Any attempt at a “both sides do it” narrative by Republicans is self-serving and dishonest.