It’s been three days since Election Day, and the post mortems are rolling in. Today, The New York Times is weighing in on the rocky relationship between John McCain and his unlikely running mate.
“I think it was a difficult relationship,” said one top McCain campaign official, who, like almost all others interviewed, asked to remain anonymous. “McCain talked to her occasionally.”
The disputes between the campaigns centered in large part on the Republican National Committee’s $150,000 wardrobe for Ms. Palin and her family, but also on what McCain advisers considered Ms. Palin’s lack of preparation for her disastrous interview with Katie Couric of CBS News and her refusal to take advice from Mr. McCain’s campaign.
But behind those episodes may be a greater subtext: anger within the McCain camp that Ms. Palin harbored political ambitions beyond 2008.
As late as Tuesday night, a McCain adviser said, Ms. Palin was pushing to deliver her own speech just before Mr. McCain’s concession speech, even though vice-presidential nominees do not traditionally speak on election night. But Ms. Palin met up with Mr. McCain with text in hand. She was told no by Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest advisers, and Steve Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s top strategist.
On Wednesday, two top McCain campaign advisers said that the clothing purchases for Ms. Palin and her family were a particular source of outrage for them. As they portrayed it, Ms. Palin had been advised by Nicolle Wallace, a senior McCain aide, that she should buy three new suits for the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in September and three additional suits for the fall campaign. The budget for the clothes was anticipated to be from $20,000 to $25,000, the officials said.
Instead, in a public relations debacle undermining Ms. Palin’s image as an everywoman “hockey mom,” bills came in to the Republican National Committee for about $150,000, including charges of $75,062 at Neiman Marcus and $49,425 at Saks Fifth Avenue. The bills included clothing for Ms. Palin’s family and purchases of shoes, luggage and jewelry, the advisers said.
I haven’t heard of the arrival of the GOP forensic clothing accountant, and I expect that Palin and the RNC will want to keep this below the media radar. I have a picture in my mind of some guy in a suit with horn-rimmed glasses, a skinny tie and an adding machine walking through the Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport, past the stuffed polar bear, heading for the rental cars, with shiny shoes, and a steely glint in his eye.
Yes, I know he’ll have a laptop, but somehow the image of a guy going through Sarah Palin’s pile of shoes, with a stack of receipts and that little tape that pops out of the adding machine, piling up on the floor is too delicious of an image to give up.
Will he bring empty bags to pack up for his return flight? Will he just ship them out in boxes? Will they end up at her favorite consignment shop, “Out of the Closet”? If so, will she buy them back for cheap? Will the Palin-bots that attended her welcome home event at the airport snap them up and hang them in their closets just to feel the fabric? Will some guy be drinking champagne out of her red stilettos?
But more interesting still is implosion occuring in the Republican Party itself, both inside and outside Alaska. The meme that “Poor Sarah is getting torn to shreds by the Democrats” is persistent, but the fact that this latest round of horror stories is coming from the McCain campaign shoots that one in the foot. You can almost smell the smoke coming from the collective brain of the GOP when they realize that in one person simultaneously lies the best hope, and the potential death knell of the party as they know it. This confusion mimics what’s been going on here in Alaska since Palin became governor. Many Republicans in Alaska can’t stand Palin. Many Democrates like her…..or I should say, “liked” her. Past tense. Before she threw them under the bus during the Troopergate investigation, and before she accused our new president elect of “palling around with terrorists.”
Now she returns home with a strange sort of clout. She lost, but she got to run. She may be responsible for John McCain losing the election, but she may be the next great hope for the GOP. She may be a pariah. She may be President. She may be loathed by lawmakers and loved by the people. We’re going to be smelling smoke for a while.