What is Vetting?

Shouldn't it have been McCain over Palin?

Last weekend, or maybe the weekend before that, I saw the HBO movie “Game Change,” about the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign based on the Mark Halperin book.  It stars Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin (and you’ll wonder if you’re not watching Sarah Palin, she plays the character so well), John McCain is portrayed by Ed Harris, and Woody Harrelson plays Steve Schmidt the campaign strategist and public relations manager who ultimately gets blamed for the Palin choice.  A choice which, at least, Halperin believes was the undoing of the McCain bid for president.  It’s a well done movie, and you should catch it if you get a chance.  But, one of the things that kept popping up in their discussion of choosing Palin as McCain’s running mate was the fact that the vetting was not done very well.  In fact, they didn’t vet her on foreign policy knowledge at all.  So, I knew all this, but I didn’t know what “vetting” was, and, of course I had to find out.  I mean, I knew what it was per se, but had never heard the term.

The definition of vetting is:  Formal and thorough examination (usually by an expert) prior to grant of approval or clearance.  The man responsible for vetting Sarah Palin, was A.B. Culvahouse Jr., a former White House counsel, a man with four decades of Washington experience, and the chairman of the international law firm O’Melveny & Myers.  Probably, no,  most probably, very few had ever heard of Mr. Culvahouse until he was asked by John McCain in 2008 to vet his republican vice-presidential possibilities.  Now he’s the man who vetted Sarah Palin.  Portrayed in the HBO movie by John Rothman, he supposedly asked Mrs. Palin the stock questions by phone, not in person, and was satisfied with her answers.  Saying, in fact, that “She gave a very thoughtful answer to all those questions. People who are more experienced, more savvy—maybe some of them gave less savvy answers.”

The bottom line was Schmidt thought Culvahouse would vet Palin on foreign policy and Culvahouse thought the McCain people had surely done that.

We know what happened to Sarah Palin and the McCain bid for the presidency, but I didn’t know how bad it really was behind the scenes.  At least as portrayed, again, in the HBO movie and the Halperin book.  I watched the “Saturday Night Live” skits, and read all the bad liberal press articles, and heard all the faux pas, usually right after they happened, but the lack of foreign policy knowledge she possessed was staggering.  For example, she believed that President Bush and the Queen of England got along splendidly so she didn’t see any problem with England pulling out of the Iraq War.  She had to be told, not reminded, that the Queen is the head of state, not the head of government as is the Prime Minister.

I voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, but I knew he wasn’t going to win.  I wasn’t going to blame the whole thing on Sarah Palin though, she did raise more money for the McCain Campaign in several months than he had been able to do from the beginning.  She picked up the poll numbers for the McCain campaign, almost closing the  widening gap by herself.  The community activist with a couple of years of experience in the U.S. Senate, would win.  Not because he was the most qualified, but because he was the most charismatic and he was, by most accounts, an African American.  Obama gave some pretty damn good speeches.  “Yes We Can,” and “Change We Can Believe In,”  “Change” versus “More of the Same,” were woven in a tapestry of oratorical excellence.  And most of us were scared to death that the 72-year-old McCain, in perfect health, but a reformed smoker, and a man who had been treated for skin cancer, might just die on us in office and leave us with…Sarah Palin.

At the end of the movie, Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt are sitting at the hotel bar, more or less waiting expecting the worst.  Schmidt says,”Still think she’s fit for office?”  Rick Davis, McCain’s Campaign Manager replies, “Aw, who cares.  In forty-eight hours no one will even remember who she is.”

Boy he was wrong about that.  WTF

And, just so you know, I don’t think starting a war on pornography in the U.S. is going to help the Santorum campaign, or his Google search engine problems either.  It will be impossible to do, and a waste of taxpayer money.  Maybe he should pick Sarah Palin as a running mate, if he wins the nomination.  She’s got to have learned some foreign policy by now, and she’s already a household name, and she has cool glasses.   



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8 responses to “What is Vetting?

  1. I really have to see that movie. I heard it was good. I also worked in politics for years and never heard the term vetting until the 2008 election.

    Self-disclosure, I’m an Obama groupie. But, truly, I recognize he was somewhat irrelevant in the 2008 election’s turnout. Historians were actually calling the election well before the primary battles even started — based on history. History shows that any time one party holds the presidential office for two consecutive terms, the alternative party will always win the office the following term. That’s pretty much the way it’s always been with the main exception being the election of George Sr., which most historians consider an anomaly since Ronald Reagan was extremely popular at the close of his second term. Then I also have to defer to the words of James Carville: “It’s the economy, stupid.” So if the economy is good, the party in control has a better chance of staying in control. But I know you already knew that.

    In other words, based on history and the 2008 economy, I don’t think McCain would’ve won no matter who his running mate was and no matter who his opponent was.

    The End. 🙂

  2. Shannon

    You know me, I couldn’t leave it. I’ll just say that I disagree with you about this movie. But do agree that McCain didn’t have much of a chance, for a number of reasons.

    • You saw the movie and didn’t like it? or You saw the movie and don’t think it was historically correct?

      • Shannon

        Saw it and thought it wasn’t historically correct and therefore did not like it. I think that it was clearly from the point of view of some staffers anxious to put the blame for the mistakes of that campain on anyone other than themselves. I’ve seen plenty of interviews with Sarah Palin and while I think she did make some mistakes, she is hardly the idiot she is made out to be. In fact, I’ve read interviews with people that met her during the campain who comment on her almost photographic memory. HBO is definately left leaning and I really didn’t expect better. I think that someone thought she would be in the middle of a primary campaign right now so it’s a perfect time to put out a movie that makes her out to be an unstable nitwit.

      • Nope, I agree with you on most of what you say. I think they realize the campaign power she has, Sharron Angle, for example. Remember, Mark Halperin co-wrote the book the movie is based on, and is political analyst for MSNBC…Is there anyone left in the media who isn’t left-leaning? I still contend the movie was well-done. Filmed in Santa Fe by the way.

  3. I came. I read. And I’ll leave now before I get into any trouble.

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