Excerpted below is a fantastic article in Vanity Fair detailing why top members of the McCain campaign came to loathe (with a capital L) Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Be sure to check it out!
… The caricature of Sarah Palin that emerged in the presidential campaign, for good and ill, is now ineradicable. The swift journey from her knockout convention speech to Tina Fey’s dead-eyed incarnation of her as Dan Quayle with an updo played out in real time, no less for the bewildered McCain campaign than for the public at large. It is an ironclad axiom of politics that if a campaign looks troubled from the outside the inside reality is far worse, and the McCain-Palin fiasco was no exception. As in any sudden marriage of convenience in which neither partner really knows the other, there were bound to be bumps. Palin had been on the national Republican radar for barely a year, after a cruise ship of conservative columnists, including The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, had stopped in Juneau in 2007 and had succumbed to her charms when she invited them to the governor’s house for a luncheon of halibut cheeks. McCain had spent only a couple of hours in Palin’s presence before choosing her, and she had pointedly failed to endorse him after he clinched the nomination in March. The difficulties began immediately, with the McCain team’s delivery of the bad news that the pregnancy of Palin’s daughter Bristol, which was already common knowledge in Alaska and had been revealed to the McCain team at the last minute, could not be kept secret until after the Republican convention.
… Palin maintained only the barest level of civil discourse with Tucker Eskew, the veteran G.O.P. operative who had been made her chief minder. A third party had to shuttle between them to convey even the most rudimentary messages. “She started to hedge her bets,” the same McCain friend says. “Frequently, she would be concerned about how something would play in Alaska. What? You’re worried about your backside in Alaska when there are hundreds of millions of dollars being spent?” One longtime McCain friend and frequent companion on the trail was heard to refer to Palin as “Little Shop of Horrors.”
… Election Night brought what McCain aides saw as the final indignity. Palin decided she would make her own speech at the ticket’s farewell to the faithful, at the Arizona Biltmore, in Phoenix. When aides went to load McCain’s concession speech into the teleprompter, they found a concession speech for Palin—written by Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully, who had also been the principal drafter of her convention speech—already on the system. Schmidt and Salter told Palin that there was no tradition of Election Night speeches by running mates, and that she wouldn’t be giving one. Palin was insistent. “Are those John’s wishes?” she asked. They were, she was told. But Palin took the issue to McCain himself, raising it on the walk from his suite to the outdoor rally. Again the answer was no.
… There is virtually nothing about Palin’s performance in the fall campaign that should have come as a surprise to John McCain. Had he really attempted to learn something about her before the fateful day of August 29, 2008, when he announced that she was his choice for running mate, he would easily have discerned all the traits that he belatedly came to know.
The narrative that the McCain campaign employed to explain Palin’s selection and to promote her qualifications—that she was a fresh-faced reformer who had taken on Alaska’s big oil companies and the corrupt Republican establishment, governing with bipartisan support—was never more than superficially true. In dozens of conversations during a recent visit to Alaska, it was easy to learn that there has always been a counter-narrative about Palin, and indeed it has become the dominant one. It is the story of a political novice with an intuitive feel for the temper of her times, a woman who saw her opportunities and coolly seized them. In every job, she surrounded herself with an insular coterie of trusted friends, took disagreements personally, discarded people who were no longer useful, and swiftly dealt vengeance on enemies, real or perceived. “Remember,” says Lyda Green, a former Republican state senator who once represented Palin’s home district, and who over the years went from being a supporter of Palin’s to a bitter foe, “her nickname in high school was ‘Barracuda.’ I was never called Barracuda. Were you? There’s a certain instinct there that you go for the jugular.”
… More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—“a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy”—and thought it fit her perfectly. When Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig’s condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God’s, and signed it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.”
… As Palin has piled misstep on top of misstep, the senior members of McCain’s campaign team have undergone a painful odyssey of their own. In recent rounds of long conversations, most made it clear that they suffer a kind of survivor’s guilt: they can’t quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be. They quietly ponder the nightmare they lived through. Do they ever ask, What were we thinking? “Oh, yeah, oh, yeah,” one longtime McCain friend told me with a rueful chuckle. “You nailed it.” Another key McCain aide summed up his attitude this way: “I guess it’s sort of shifted,” he said. “I always wanted to tell myself the best-case story about her.” Even now, he said, “I don’t want to get too negative.” Then he added, “I think, as I’ve evaluated it, I think some of my worst fears … the after-election events have confirmed that her more negative aspects may have been there … ” His voice trailed off. “I saw her as a raw talent. Raw, but a talent. I hoped she could become better.”
… McCain has delivered his own postmortem on Palin with the patented brand of winking-and-nodding ironic detachment that he usually reserves for painful political questions, an approach that simultaneously seeks to confess his sin and presume absolution for it. In November, he told Jay Leno he was proud of Palin and did not blame her for his defeat, but by April, when Leno asked him about who was running the Republican Party, McCain declined to mention Palin: “We have, I’m happy to say, a lot of choices out there: Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Huntsman, Romney, Charlie Crist—there’s a lot of governors out there who are young and dynamic.” McCain went on, “There’s a lot of good people out there, and I’ve left out somebody’s name and I’m going to hear about it.” When I ask Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime speechwriter and co-author, about that comment, he says simply, “McCain always talks unscripted,” and adds that he has heard “not one word of regret” about Palin ever pass McCain’s lips. McCain’s daughter Meghan, who has continued the blog she began on the campaign last year, has said that Palin is the one topic on which she will have no public comment.