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. Amy

    For all you Obama supporters out there – why don't you pay attention to what your man is saying....ummmm...his parents weren't married when he was born and he's got a pretty shady background himself. Even Obama knows this is a worthless thing to talk about! And I quote from a CNN article:

    Obama said reporters should "back off these kinds of stories" and noted that he was born to an 18-year-old mother.

    "How a family deals with issues and teenage children, that shouldn't be the topic of our politics, and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that's off-limits."

    September 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  2. Lisa M.

    Bad choice. Sarah Palen needs to remain the Gov. of Alaska. At least that way she will see her infant son and try to keep an eye on Bristol's pregnancy. I am a feminist and I never left my son overnight until he was at least 2 years old. I was gone all of four days. A baby in particular a special needs one needs his mom everyday.

    September 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  3. Stephy

    why can't any republican give a straight answer when asked if Palin is the most qualified candidate. They know this woman is just being used to get the female vote. The sad part is she is a willing participant.

    September 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  4. Bob

    Hey folks. Wanna know why Palin has done so well with managing finances in Alaska? Gee, maybe it's not too hard when you have a) oil money coming out of every pore, b) no state tax, c) enough oil money to give every man, woman and child that's a resident a rebate check each year even though they never paid a cent...

    Oh. I'm SORRY. Did I suggest that Palin isn't as capable as she's being made out to be. My Bad. She's got breasts, so I musn't attack her (despite all this supposed skill and experience, toughness, innate ability, etc.). Musn't hit the lady, even verbally, even though she's running for the 2nd highest office in the land.

    McCain picked her in part because she's a heck of a lot more photogenic than he is (sorry, but it's true – does that make McCain sexist or smart? Guess it depends on your party). He picked her because she shores up his weak voter base in key points. He picked her because she's a woman, and he needed to appeal to angry Hilary voters who were gullible (again, does that make him smart, or sexist?). That's what they vetted her for, not her extensive experience.

    Get a clue.

    September 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  5. kathryn Creegan

    Sarah needs to graciously resign and praise John Mcain for honoring her with the VP role in view of the findings in only four days. She should not continue to distract or detract from this election.
    kathy

    September 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  6. John

    What was John McCain thinking? Did he know anything about Sarah Palin before he chose her to be his VP?

    It sure doesn't seem like it...

    September 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  7. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just the Fact that she has never been to Iraq Or any other country for that matter .

    Isn't National security our main priority . !!!!!!!!!!!

    If the president only had to deal with domestic affairs she may be a extraordinary choose .

    We don't know this person . It was unfair of John McCain to force people
    who support HIM, to also support a person they do not know at all.

    If they claim to be comfortable with this they are lying through there teeth

    September 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  8. Arkansas Undertaker

    If Gov. Palin cant stand the heat then she needs to get out of the kitchen.

    For all you women that think that Governor Palin is being picked on, this is all our politics are about now a days. And Bristol's pregnancy is just more red meat. Sad buty true.

    September 2, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  9. sue

    It is even scarier that she was vetted & he picked her anyway...This is what he was looking for...McCain is a slimmy man, who hides behind young 17yr old pregnant girls & being a POW...he is acting like a very old man by asking people to go easy on him...John, you not running for Grandfather of America-you want to run for president, you have to deal with all the questions.
    Obama, has been put through the wringer & then through another & another–and rightfully so-why is it that a person that no one has heard of must be left alone–again acting very Bush like!!!

    September 2, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  10. Thomas Baird

    My Fellow Americans:Of course McCain defends Palins Vetting process. What else would one expect Him to do? Admit He made a mistake?The Republican party will nothing but be positive on Palin and defend Her on what ever shows up.They have decided to stand united on McCains VP pick Palin even if it s not the best most qualified choice no matter what happens, She would have to quit or resign as His running mate,because McCain cant fire her ,she already has been Vetted and hired by McCain as His VP choice.Seems to me this is more about who you want to give your vote too. If you want more of the Republican same of thelast 8 years then vote for McCain/Palin who by the way are members of the Republican Party. They represent the Republican Party. The last 8 years has been controlled by a Republican administration and Bush was there nominee back in 2000.We dont want or need and cant afford 4 more
    years of a Republican administration. They have shown us how they cant run the country, its worse than when Bush started not better.We need change. Iam a Independant, I give my vote to who I believe will be best for America and the American People. So who is running for
    real change and isnt a Republican?
    Obama/Biden will bring
    a new Leadership and bring
    in a new administration and over the next 4 years with a new President and Vice President and a new administration perhaps we will see and receive real positive change we the people
    desperately are in need of if you know what I mean.

    September 2, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  11. ARMY VET! C.Ross

    What a bunch of whiners, I think the seriousness of this whole issue is that you all realize its time for the DRAFT to be brought back. That's right keep talking smack, and lets just see where you end up? The fact is that in every war America has had any involvement in, with the exception of the Civil War. The American economy has flourished. I guess you might say all the WHINERS got weeded out making room for more productive citizens. How you like me now. FYI my mother gave birth to me on May 11th, 1974, She was only 17 at that time.

    September 2, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  12. Kitten for Obama

    I have a problem with Sarah allowing her daughter to go through this trauma just so she can become a spotlight to further her career. Leave the daughter out, if the mom is making this kind of judgement for her 17 year daughter to be put on the front page of the newspaper and TV that is already poor judgement. If it meant for her to put her career aside so she can really be there for her daughter then that is what you would call making a life time decision. Sometimes you have to give up some things for your children but it pays off in the end. I wonder if she has ever been there for her daughter if so maybe she wouldn't have made the wrong choices. She is head strong for this position I wonder why. One thing about Hillary, she didn't put anyone before Chelsa and neither did Laura Bush, Jackie Kennedy and many others. Take a hint Sarah go back home to your kids they really need you. THINK!!!!!

    September 2, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  13. April Garlow

    There is nothing about Sarah Palin that makes her a worse choice for vp than Obama would be for vp. Everything being said smacks of gender bias. She is an outstanding example of how hardwork, commitment and determination can compete with priviledge,money, and the old boy network .Children and their behavior, really are part of her personal life and have nothing to do with her qualifications.

    September 2, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  14. Enlightened Voter

    NoMcSame – sorry but you forgot one...surge.

    September 2, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  15. Truth hurts

    There is a difference between vetting and attempted supression. McCain blew it, plain and simple!!!!

    September 2, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  16. Steve

    Governor Palin is a great choice for VP. She's a Washington outsider. She's a reformer. She has executive experience. She has similar experience in public office to Barrack Obama, which is relatively little compared to John McCain, but she is not at the top of the ticket. She has tremendous life experience. She will be working under the expert tutelage of the best foreign policy mind in politics, John McCain. She should be all ready to take over by January if need be, but God willing we'll get eight years from John McCain.

    And Barrack Obama has "one speech he made in 2002."

    September 2, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  17. Eric

    I still haven't heard anything that I don't like about Palin. Like the other guy said I've fallen hard for her too.

    Experience may be a bit of a concern, but less so as the VP candidate. I think McCain will hang around for at least a few years and she'll be ready. So much better to have the inexperience at the bottom of the ticket than at the top.

    September 2, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  18. canon critic

    In fact, while the Republicans like to point out that Governor Palin has made more "executive decisions" (whatever this means) than Senator Obama, she has therefore also made more of these kinds of decisions (whatever they are) than Senator McCain! The argument in favor of Palin cuts both ways. Moreover, clearly–and I mean CLEARLY–neither Obama or Biden are participating in whatever online attacks are out there against Palin. If anything, both have gone out of their way to approve of McCain's choice.

    September 2, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  19. Rose

    We have heard so much about how McCain's choice for VP would be someone who could step right in and be commander in chief. Well, I certainly believe he made a poor selection. What concerns me most is the fact that she was (is?) a member of the AIP whose vice-chairman talks about American soldiers as having been occupation forces in Alaska and how AIP members need to infiltrate our political parties to further the AIP's agenda. I am a Republican; however, I will not be voting for the McCain/Palin ticket.

    Additionally, Palin can't hold a candle to Hillary Clinton. So, let's not even go there.

    September 2, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  20. Lee from SoCal

    I’m sorry but Sen. McCain looks as if death may be at his back door. Lets face it, he is old and whom ever his VP is will eventually be President. That being said, if Gov Palin dose not have the upper hand, control and a handle over her own house hold how can we think she can handle running our country. Yes teenage pregnancy is an epidemic in the U.S. but our first and second family should be picture perfect and a family to aspire to be like. Also as a resent mother whom just returned to the workforce, I believe that a mother with an 18 month baby with Down syndrome should be home as much as possible with her child. I am sure that being Governor taxes long hours but being VP this child will never see her and with such a disability that child should have all her attention. I fell McCain is looking for a pity vote.

    September 2, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  21. Linda

    Please! The Republicans, who trounced on Hilary every chance they got during the primaries, need to quit using her in defense of Palin. If Palin is so qualified, they shouldn't have to keep using Hilary. Not every woman is going to vote for her, just because she's a woman. Palin's views are not necessarily my views. I am going to vote for the candidate that most closely shares my views. Voting for Palin just because she's a woman would be like voting for someone just because they're gay. I don't like any body just for any label that is placed on them. I am gay, but I don't buy Melissa Ethridge records just because she's gay. I don't buy any of her records because I don't enjoy her music. I don't believe in the vote for so and so, cause they are this or that. It has to be someone who has something to say.

    September 2, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  22. John in Binghamton NY

    Don't you people know that its sexist to question anything???

    And anything some reporter or blogger does that is bad is all Obama's fault???

    This is all the GOP has and I wonder how long it will work. Are people really stupid enough to be fooled a 3rd time??? I think so, but we shall see.

    September 2, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  23. Richard

    Ms Palin may be well be a nice person. However if one looked at her resume obectively you would be hard pressed to select her as VP of the United States Of America and possible leader of the free world.

    Don't we want the best qualified individual. Is this really the best the is out there? Am I to believe this is really as good as it can be?

    It is an insult to those that have served in this position to believe Ms Palin's education and experience qualifies her for this very important position. Lets remove the emotion and start thinking clearly once again. Lets look for the best qualified candidate.

    September 2, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. Bob

    Sadly, there are a lot of voters who will vote based on whether they think the other person is "like them", even if it's only a shallow marketing ploy. I remember one person quoted as saying he voted for Bush because he could imagine sitting down with him for a beer. Great decision making skills there. Kind of buys into the good ol' boy schmalz (notice how Palin struggled to remember that republicans say "nucular power", not "nuclear power". Musn't let on that she might have an education. That would make her seem liberalist and elitist.

    Nope, she's NOT a wealthy power broker from Washington, like McCain. Nosirree – she's a soccer mom from Mooseville, AK. Salt of the earth, just like you and me....NOT. Do you for a moment think that as governor she led an average life, with the average resources of Mr. & Mrs John Q. Public? How did she get all that experience in "executive decision making" if she was busy being soccer mom?

    Watch out Dems; it's the same old same old from the Republican spin machine. Bobbin' and duckin' and weavin', but never on the issues, and always on the attack – even when they pretend to be nice (that's when they'll stick the knife in)

    September 2, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  25. Nevada Mom

    As a mom I have to defend some of the criticism Gov. Palin is receiving right now from people questioning whether she can do the job of VP, given all of the challenges in her personal life right now.

    I heard on TV this afternoon that the campaign feels that people are attacking her for choosing to be a working mom.
    Give us a break. That isn't the critique.
    The issue some are taking (myself included) is whether or not she can handle, specifically, the job of Vice President of the United States of America while also having a newborn with Down syndrome and a pregnant teen daughter.
    Of course women can work and be mothers.
    But, this isn't any ordinary job. This is a job that requires enormous commitments of time and self. Let's just take off our phony politically correct hats and look at this for the real issue that it is.
    Any person with a newborn baby (never mind a baby with special needs) would tell you that the stress of having a newborn affects every part of life, including work life. That's just a human thing, to be worn from the care of a newborn.
    Governor Palin might make a terrific VP in another several years, once this turbulent time in her maternal life eases a bit. But, for now, let's get honest and admit that she is filling her plate fuller than she can manage.
    And, we will have the pay the price for her overestimation of her ability to juggle.

    September 2, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
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