April 17th, 2009
08:23 PM ET
13 years ago

Palin as VP pick: 'high risk, high reward'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.mccain.palin.flag.gi.jpg caption="A.B. Culvahouse said Palin would have 'made a great vice president.'"]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A.B. Culvahouse, the attorney tasked with leading the vetting process for Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate, said Friday that he thoroughly scrutinized Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and said that he "came away impressed."

McCain's vetting process came under scrutiny after numerous surprises about Palin popped up in the weeks after she was tapped as his vice presidential pick. Culvahouse said he and his team of 30 lawyers knew everything, including the fact that her teenage daughter was pregnant. He suggested that the campaign staff that talked to the media may not have been fully informed, which "led to the impression that those issues had been withheld."

"Gov. Palin told us everything. Everything except the pregnancy of her daughter was on a response to the written questionnaire," Culvahouse said Friday at a Republican National Lawyers Association National Policy Conference. "She told me there was one issue she wanted to talk about when we went in for the interview. We knew everything going in."

Culvahouse said they started with 26 candidates who didn't know they were under consideration. Once the list was narrowed down to six, each person was given a survey with 74 questions, which he said included specific questions, like "have you ever been unfaithful," but not "what the meaning of is, is."

"Me and two of my most cynical partners interviewed her and we came away impressed," Culvahouse said of his interview with Palin. "I think she would've made a great vice president."

He said he gave her three "leading" questions, asking if she was prepared to use nuclear weapons, why she wanted to be vice president, and if the CIA located Osama bin Laden, but shooting him would result in civilian casualties, what would she do. Culvahouse said she "knocked those three questions out of the park."

Culvahouse said McCain was the "decider," but that he was not allowed to pick anyone that had not been vetted. But when McCain asked him for the "bottom line" on Palin, Culvahouse said the Republican nominee liked the "risk" involved.

"I said, John, high risk, high reward," Culvahouse said. "His response, you shouldn't have told me that. I've been a risk-taker all my life."

Filed under: Extra • John McCain • Sarah Palin
soundoff (270 Responses)
  1. yuri

    Palin pick will be a parody and people who still pry for a place of VP to put her in ought to ponder over it like a pack of plain party politicians. We personally think it's a prescription for a perilous pandemonium.

    April 17, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. Scott the Independent

    If Culvahouse vetted Palin and he came away impressed I want to know what his level of education accomplishment is and what grades did he get. A high schoo drop out would know she is not competent enough to run a Burger King franchise; she can't even run Alaska with it 700,000 residents. Did he bother to ask the average Alaskan?

    April 17, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  3. X Republican

    Bad decision! Turned me away from the Republican Party. She's a disgrace to all women.

    April 17, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  4. katiec

    Well, it certainly was a high risk but do not see what the reward was.
    To pick a completely incapable, unqualified, unintelligent person for the second highest position in our country was totally irresponsible
    for our country and us.
    Being a risk taker might be ok in the game of cards but not for the
    future of our country.
    The leading questions were all about war and killing. Right up her

    April 17, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. C W

    Picking Palin had nothing to do with her being qualified and everything to do with pandering to the Republican "base" (great term, BTW, since "base" means "vile").

    She's a polarizing airhead who can't string together a grammatically correct English sentence. Hypocritical, mean-spirited and the consumate victim, never admitting a mistake or taking responsibility for her actions and their consequences.

    And apparently, she was the "home run" the Repugs were looking for. 'Nuff said about John McCain and the whole current Republican leadership: They only care about being in power; they do not care about the American public nor the long-term future of our country.

    April 17, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  6. John in Ohio


    April 17, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  7. bk

    I think she would have made a great VP, but the media was out to destroy her, CNN, ABC, CBS and Msm the Obama supporters.

    April 17, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. Greg

    The fact that McCain went with "high risk, high reward" is the reason I'm thankful he's not our president.

    April 17, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. J.Crobuzon

    Sarah Palin did exactly what I wanted her to do – wreck the GOP forever. Good thing McCain kept mixing up Palin and Pawlenty, since Pawlenty would have actually seemed like a politician instead of a pinhead.

    April 17, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  10. Bill in Callifornia

    AND PRESIDENT TOO! Once the Obama effect has drained everyone of energy and money and the political pendulum swings back to the right (as it ALWAYS does) she will be the presidential candidate of choice. The middle of the road independents and conservative leaning democrats will welcome honesty and straight talk after years of double speak and political correctness.

    April 17, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. Mike Buchanan

    "You shouldn't have told me that, you know I'm a risk-taker". It's only the Presidency of the United States.

    April 17, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  12. KJL

    What has he been smoking?

    April 17, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  13. patriot

    ""Me and two of my most cynical partners interviewed her and we came away impressed," Culvahouse said of his interview with Palin. "

    I love it!! A guy who doesn't know the most basic rules of grammar saw Palin as an excellent choice for the ticket! Imagine what the rest of his "team of 30 lawyers was like!" Uh hyuck!!

    April 17, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  14. kate

    Why doesn't Mr. Culvahouse tell us exactly what she said when she "knocked those three questions out of the park." And why did Mr. Culvahouse think it involved "high risk" in picking her? A large part of the American public apparently knew better than the vetting team.

    April 17, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  15. McCain

    A risk-taker, yes, McCain was. There is such a thing as a smart risk, however, and McCain never proved his capacity to be smart enough for the job – especially through his choice of Palin.

    April 17, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  16. Bobbie in Maryland

    Well, the risk paid off, didn,t it, John?

    April 17, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. shucks

    did she tell you she wouldn't denounce the racial slurrs being yelled by her followers, did she tell you she was going to divide the country with her religious views, did she tell you she would disgust so many Americans that people would turn out in record numbers just to see she wasn't given a snowballs chance in hell to win the election. Did she tell you that she didn't have the sense of a flea? If this was a good job of vetting I would have really loved to see a bad one. Now even McCain has nothing good to say about her. Don't defend incompetence it just makes you look the fool.

    April 17, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  18. Jamie

    Considering Palin's secessionist sympathies (hubby had joined a group and some of them says she did too although she's seemed to distance herself), maybe she could be the VP choice for Texas' Perry should he decide to run. They'd be a Dream Team...for Democrats.

    April 17, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Betsy Ross

    Palin has been an embarrassment to John McCain from the giddy up.

    April 17, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  20. BJK


    April 17, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. Minnesotan

    Yeah, he did a great service for our country! He helped elect Obama.

    Thankyou so much for all you have done.

    April 17, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. Julie

    Well, maybe he and the "two of his most cynical partners" should have asked her the really tough questions like...what publications do you read?

    Man, were his standards really that low that they were actually impressed with her? Did they realize they were interviewing her for VP of the United States, not a weather girl on a news channel?

    Big risk, no reward. Her political career stops in Alaska.

    April 17, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. jake

    i would love to know what her response was to shooting Osama bin Laden but casualities would be involved...

    you know....her stance on "right to life" and everything!

    April 17, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. Bethie in TX

    I'd say: "high risk, no reward". What did McCain get out of having Palin on board? A few weeks of tabloid-like attention and a temporary bump in the polls.

    Culvahouse should be honest and admit that the vetting process was superficial. 3 questions? Maybe she had prepared answers for those. Why did she do so terribly in TV interviews–like with Charlie Gibbs and Katie Couric? Even I know what the Bush Doctrine is!

    April 17, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. Truth Oriented

    And what had Culvahouse been smoking???

    April 17, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
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