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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A heartbeat away

The Times carries a serialisation of Race of a Lifetime, a new book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin which offers an insight into how fortunate we were not to find John McCain and Sarah Palin in the White House this time last year.

The book reveals that advisers to John McCain were taken aback by how little Mrs Palin knew about politics and history when she was confirmed as Mr McCain's Republican running mate after a cursory, 12-hour selection process:

Heilemann and Halperin write: "Palin couldn't explain why North Korea and South Korea were separate nations. She didn't know what the Fed [the Federal Reserve] did. Asked who attacked America on 9/11, she suggested several times that it was Saddam Hussein. Asked to identify the enemy that her son would be fighting in Iraq, she drew a blank. Later, on the plane, Palin said to her team: 'I wish I'd paid more attention to this stuff'."

They coninue: "She continued to stumble over an unavoidable element: her rival's name. Over and over, Palin referred to Obama's running mate as 'Senator Obiden' – or was it 'O'Biden'? – and the corrections weren't sticking." In the event, Mrs Palin famously strode on stage, stuck her hand out and said: "Hey, can I call you Joe?"

Soon Mrs Palin began to show a still more disturbing propensity, the authors write. "It wasn't long before the signs appeared that Palin was going rogue. She thrashed Obama for 'palling around with terrorists'. Palin said that Obama's pastor, Rev Jeremiah Wright, should be fair game and implicitly criticised McCain for not leading the charge."

They write that Mr McCain was shielded from the full force of his own campaign team's dismay at Mrs Palin's unfitness for office, but that his staffers held serious discussions about what to do if he won the election, placing Mrs Palin's hands on the levers of power.

"Some in McCainworld were ridden with guilt over elevating Palin to within striking distance of the White House," the authors claim, adding that while Mrs Palin's fans in the US public continued to cheer her on, the national media and political establishments – once so ready to give her a chance – dismissed her as "a hick on a high wire".

Still there is always 2012.
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