September 2nd, 2008
05:50 PM ET
2 years ago

McCain camp defends VP vetting process on Palin

McCain's camp defends vetting process, stating only one red flag came up.
McCain's camp defends vetting process, stating only one red flag came up.

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - John McCain insisted Tuesday his vice presidential vetting process was thorough, as his campaign tried to calm concern that more surprises about Sarah Palin were coming.

To that end, a source intimately involved in McCain's VP vetting process called CNN to give an account of her background check.

This official said a 25-person team, led by Washington attorney A.B. Culvahouse, started by compiling reports on 20 top VP contenders, using only public documents like disclosure forms, public records, newspaper articles, and interview transcripts.

That information was eventually presented to McCain, and to top campaign advisers Mark Salter, Steve Schmidt, Charlie Black and Rick Davis, the only four aides involved in the highly secretive process.

Once McCain and those aides narrowed the choices to a short list, Palin and other contenders were contacted and asked for documents a credit check, a call for tax returns, and additional financial disclosure forms.

The official tells CNN that all of those on the short list – including Palin – were asked to answer 70 “intrusive” questions, including: Have you ever paid for sex? Have you ever been fairly or unfairly accused of sexual harassment? The questions were also described as some basic queries now asked of presidential nominees, like whether or not they ever hired illegal workers or neglected to pay taxes for nannies.

In one of her answers, Palin told McCain aides about her husbands DUI arrest 22 years ago.

Then, Culvahouse himself, along with a few associates, interviewed Palin for three hours. During that interview, she revealed her teenage daughter's pregnancy - and was warned it would become public if she were picked. "She said she'd have those conversations with her daughter," the official familiar with the conversation tells CNN.

From the start of the vetting process, one red flag was a state investigation into whether Palin improperly dismissed Alaska’s Public Safety Commissioner for not firing her ex-brother-in-law.

CNN has been told McCain investigators spent considerable time looking into the so-called “Troopergate” affair - interviewing Palin's lawyer, and quietly talking to others involved - and decided the facts were on her side.

This source, who was intimately involved in vetting Palin, admitted that aside from interviewing some of the figures involved in Troopergate, they did not talk to character witnesses in Alaska, and did not look at clips about her from the newspaper in her hometown of Wasilla, because it is kept on microfilm and was hard to view without compromising their secrecy.

CNN is told that Culvahouse, one of Washington’s widely respected power lawyers, was called by McCain one last time before he officially asked Palin to join him on the Republican ticket. The presumptive Republican nominee asked Culvahouse if, based on what he unearthed, he was confident the little-known Alaska governor's background would withstand scrutiny – and was given a confident go-ahead by the attorney.

But it is unclear whether Culvahouse gave McCain any political advice on whether Palin is a qualified or wise choice, or left that to the small group of political advisers involved.

The McCain camp would not reveal precisely when this vetting process had taken place, how long they had spent on it, or who else was vetted.

However, sources close to Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney tell CNN they were all put through at least the first stage of short list vetting.

McCain himself only met Palin in person once, at a National Governors Association meeting in February of 2008, and spoke with her by phone on another occasion two days before bringing her to Arizona to offer her a spot on the GOP ticket.


Filed under: John McCain • Sarah Palin
soundoff (129 Responses)
  1. jeanette

    I HOPE CNN dosen't let John McCain tell them how to report news – it's obvious that McCain thinks everything he does is okay, and also obvious that he thinks he's above reproach.
    When I heard that he cancelled his interview on CNN because he dosen't like the way Campbell Brown questioned the qualifications of Sarah Palin, I was not surprised at all. And I hope CNN dosen't keep treating him or Palin with kid gloves.
    They are running for the highest office in the USA, and everything about them needs to be reported. And the fact that Palin is so under qualified is even more reason to keep digging.

    September 2, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. Sharon

    It seems like McCain threw a bunch of names in a hat and Ms. Palin one the prize. Being the Vice President is just as important as the President because if something happens the VP will need to take over. Is Ms. Palin qualified enough to lead this country if McCain cannot fulfill his term as President?

    September 2, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  3. What a Joke

    The Palin family is a episode of Maurry waiting to happen. Who knowse what antics will ensue. This family seems better suited for Jerry Springer, not The White House.

    This abstenance education is a joke, because this girl obviously couldnt abstain from keeping her legs closed. This is a prime example of why sex education is so important in this country.

    September 2, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  4. Beth

    Nobody knows nothing. Leave this family alone. This is politics at it's lowest.

    September 2, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  5. John in Binghamton NY

    Can CNN stop letting GOP talking heads tell us that any questions about Palin are sexist???

    She was mayor of a large 7/11 for a few years and then governor of a state that is smaller than most major cites for less than 2 years.

    Maybe she is OK, but the fact that this was just sprung on us with the election just around the corner scares the **** out of me.

    We have had 2 years or more to get know Obama and I like how he has stood against the pandering of people like McCain with his stupid gas tax. Obama was smart enough to know what economist knew and honest enough to tell the people the truth they didn't want to hear.

    September 2, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  6. Eric Ragle

    Help me out, how was Obama's comments the least bit sexist?

    September 2, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  7. Verlin, Florida

    I'm been a registered independent for years and it's perfectly clear to me who will run this country for the next four years – McCain and Palin.

    September 2, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  8. Anne E.

    This vetting process doesn't sound anywhere near as thorough as Sen. Obama's - it calls into question McCain's judgment. If he can't pick a qualified VP candidate and hire competent people to oversee the vetting process, how can he possibly lead the country?
    HRC was right: NO WAY, NO HOW, NO MC CAIN. PERIOD.

    September 2, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  9. DIANE ANDERSON

    OBAMA IS DOING AN OUTSTANDING JOB RE: SARAH PALIN SAYING THE SUBJECT OF HER FAMILY IS OUT OF BOUNDS. THE NEWS MEDIA, CNN, LARRY KING, WHO LAST NIGHT ENRAGED ME BY GOSSIPING REPEATEDLY ABOUT MRS. PALIN'S YOUNG DAUGHTER, WAS THE WORST KIND OF PANDERER . CRITICISM AND DISAGREEMENT IN POLITICAL AREAS IS ACCEPTABLE. CRUEL, MALICIOUS CONJECTURE, IS NOT. THE MEDIA IS ACTING IN A PROVINCIAL AND SOPHOMORIC WAY. SHAME ON YOU.

    September 2, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  10. warren

    If it"s even a close race Americans are crazzz! Obama is the man for the job..McCain is crazy.

    September 2, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  11. Bitter Woman in Pensylvania

    This is soooooo said Ms. Palin can call Hillary a whinner but nobody can have their say.I'm so sick of the comments say this or that about Palin,.When she accepted the nomination she opened herself and her family to public opinion.Hillary and Obama was what makes her any different.I however do feel for her daughter but she have her mother to thank for this.And as far as McCain thinking that the american people will vote for Palin because she is a woman how stupid do he think we are.Hillary stands by herself and I haven't seen another woman in the political history like her and doubt if there will ever be.I will go with Obama because even though Hillary and Obama diagreed how they will make it better for the american people they both wanted the same.I listened to her speech last week and she is as determined to elect Obama as she was to win the nomination

    September 2, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  12. Denise

    Give it up, McCain!!! She was NOT vetted!!!!
    Now, you are throwing a temper tandrum and cancelling interviews because you do not like it when grear news reporters question her selection.
    This is a bad call! Bad judgment!

    September 2, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. Independant (Ohio)for Obama/Biden

    I was willing to think he had made a blunder; rather than face the fact that he purposely selected her and has genuinely poor judgement!
    This woman may be our President. That makes all bets off as far as criticism and questions.

    September 2, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  14. North Carolina

    I'm tired of hearing that she has more experience than Obama. Being mayor of a 7000-person town that you lived in your whole life is not "executive experience." But that's not her fault. It's McCain's fault for picking her. And if he did know about all of her issues beforehand, it just shows how desperate he is.

    Obama was nominated for the presidency by millions of voters *over* more experienced candidates, after getting to know him over several years. If experience were all that mattered, then 90-year-old senator Robert Byrd would be the nominee. Palin never would have survived a primary race – McCain and Romney would have torn her apart. McCain plucked Palin out of the abyss without even knowing her. She's going to have to withstand the same scrutiny about her past as everyone else.

    September 2, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  15. Republican Mephisto

    Once upon a time, Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, brimming with pride over his successful campaign for a second term in the white house off-handedly remarked to the press that he would follow George Washington's example and only serve two terms. Within moments he regretted making that comment, and spent the rest of his post-presidency years trying to get back into the White House. Fast forward 100+ years and you can bet there are some members of McCain's staff who have dope-slapped their heads and wished they could take back their choice of vice-president. And it truly might be in their best interests if Palin say some family emergency has come up to recuse herself from the position. Because otherwise, this is going nowhere except defeat.

    September 2, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  16. Flashback

    Who is taking care of the children while she is on her ego trip. What kind of mother is she? She does not have any type of communciation with her own daughter. There is no excuse for teen pregnancy in this day and age, where was her mom when the lessson of moral values should have been instilled. If she can not manage her own family (children) , how will she manage our country.

    September 2, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  17. jeanette

    Do any of you really want either McCain or Palin answering that dreaded 3am call.......
    John McWar will "push the button" and who knows what his TOKEN WOMAN will do.

    I really fear for our country if those 2 win the White House.

    September 2, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. AKRON, OHIO HILLARY SUPPORTER

    I WONDER IF MCCAIN DONE THIS TO WIN THE ELECTION BY LETTING THESE THINGS COME OUT ON THE PALINS KNOWING THAT IT WOULD BE A BIG DISCUSSION ABOUT IT TO WIN OVER THE SUPPORT OF WOMEN. THIS WOULD MAKE IT SEEM AS THOUGH SHE IS BEING ATTACKED FOR NO REASON, AND THE WOMEN WOULD COME CRAWLING TO PALIN.

    SORRY WILL NOT WORK!

    September 2, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  19. J. Neumann

    Sarah Palin = Harriet Miers

    September 2, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  20. Jim

    The Palin affair has reached a new and important level. It is no longer a question of Gov. Palin's qualifications, ideology, background, conservative values, family issues, etc. Or a question of Obama's qualifications, policies, values, experience, etc. Or a question of the media's bias, spin, etc.

    The overriding question now is McCain's JUDGMENT and DECISION PROCESS! McCain has failed in his first and most important presidential decision – to select a qualified VP running mate – and the majority of Americans know it.

    September 2, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  21. MIKE J.

    The Republican Party must think the rest of America is just a stupid as they are and are willing to fall for anything!!

    STAND STRONG
    for CHANGE

    or

    FALL HARD
    for Palin!!!!

    September 2, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  22. Nevada Independant

    This is so ridiculous!
    And, how hilarious that Carly Fiorina is actually defending Palin's "executive experience". Ms. Fiorina must have to hold back her laughter as she toes the party line with those kinds of statements. Ms. Fiorina knows darn well what it takes to be an executive and she knows even better that Palin is not up to the task.

    September 2, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  23. Nunya

    Please... this was a masterful job of vetting and political theater. Just imagine the advance scripting...

    "And when her daughter's pregnancy is revealed by the media, we can blast them for attacking her family. Then she can announce that her daughter is keeping the baby and marrying the father, and the religious anti-abortion groups will ride to her rescue and get energized!"

    Once you are aware of all the pieces that were in place, it's as predictable as pledges against taxes...

    My hat is off to the master manipulators...

    September 2, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  24. Zed

    Fiorina finished running HP into the ground so shes helping the GOP do the same there ;) how convenient that everything is all of the sudden sexist ..

    September 2, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  25. carol

    They can't win this one. They look stupid either way. If they knew everything about her and still chose her – they made a mistake. If they didn't know anything and chose her – they still made a mistake.

    She is not qualified to be "a heartbeat away from the presidency". That's it. It's not sexism, it's not her kids, it's a fact.

    The thought of McCain getting elected scares me – but McCain dying and HER becoming president scares the hell out of me.

    September 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6