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. kcl

    Did you really expect him to say, "We screwed up!!" ?? I can't imagine her in the current situations had something happened to McCain. That image scares the living daylights out of me.

    April 17, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  2. Daryl from Seattle

    Then that just means a pair of idiots was vetting an idiot if they actually knew all there was to know and still came away impressed.

    April 17, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. Simmy

    Let's see if this gets printed....

    If he vetted Palin he's not a lawyer I'd trust to handle my money. He might have Madoof tendencies....

    April 17, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  4. Molly Weasley

    Sarah Palin is not a dumb woman, but she's intellectually lazy and incurious. Her problem is that she has spent her whole life not bothering to do any hard work or bothering to learn the vast number of things you need to know to govern.

    If she ever wants to be taken seriously as a candidate (very unlikely), she needs to spend time intensively learning about the world. I don't think it's going to happen.

    April 17, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  5. Spencer

    Well I sure am glad that risk did NOT pay off for him!

    April 17, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  6. Taniel

    A crucial story is developing in Alaska as we speak. The already-old battle between Sarah Palin and the legislature escalated dramatically when the legislature rejected her nominee for A.G. – the first time something of the sort has happened in Alaska history! Palin better think of quitting her job in 2010 if she wants to run in 2012.

    April 17, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. ch

    This woman is a dynamic speaker and she speaks from the heart. If she gets out there in front of the American people with her message for this country it is over for the democrats. The American people will fall in love with this woman and her message. Jean A
    Jean – sorry dear. The American public had PLENTY of chances to hear Palin's message during the campaign and all MOST of us heard was a woman with extreme views who was WAY out of her league intellectually.

    Get real – Sarah Palin will never be embraced by the vast majority of Americans who want SMART and COMPONENT leadership

    April 17, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. Tulsa

    CW..... "the base" is also the english translation for Al Queda.

    April 17, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  9. Big Al

    If Palin is irrelevant, it's difficult to understand the efforts that CNN has gone to in order to discredit her.

    April 17, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  10. Parnell from Winnipeg

    I don't know how things work in the United Staes but here, in Canada, lawyers are not supposed to breach confidentialities – particularly when they tell only part of the story. Aside from the breach of ethics this gentleman displayed in discussing the matter, aside from the poor judgment he displayed in his recommendation, aside from his abuse of Her Majesty's English, if those are the three key questions he asked of Governor Palin, he doesn't sound like a very good lawyer – he or his partner.

    April 17, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  11. Rachel

    Palin is great. I will vote for her when she runs in 2012. I think the country is realizing what a mistake they made by electing Barry.

    April 17, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  12. John

    If John McCain is so willing to regard his VP pick as a "gamble," what else would he have been tempted to "gamble" with had he achieved the office of the presidency?

    Sorry. I don't want a president who "gambles."

    April 17, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. Jeff Corgan

    Sorry to be so blunt, but why are Republicans so stupid?

    April 17, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  14. Tulsa

    to shane...
    Actually, as a Democrat I hope she is the Republican candidate in 2012. We need to give President Obama a second term.

    April 17, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  15. Amanda in TN

    Gee, John, thanks for taking such a big risk with the future of this country. You picked a dingbat who couldn't even define the role of the office for which she was running. I shudder to think of what else she didn't actually know.

    April 17, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  16. Al, California

    Now, extremists and religious lunatics – can you repeat this as Palin & Plumber 2012? Please. We'll have good laughs.

    April 17, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  17. susanj

    Impressed with that moran. I can't see how anyone in their right mind thinks this woman could be president of the United States. She's full of hate and Stupid beyond belief.

    April 17, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  18. Tulsa

    @Serving Our Country April 17th, 2009 5:13 pm ET
    Turns out that many military men and women serving are changing their minds and wish they had voted the McCain/Palin ticket. I hope Obama learns fast. I wish him good luck. We'll give him a chance, but still let him know when he's wrong.
    proof please.

    April 17, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  19. Stephen

    The Republicans want to play Texas holdem with a 2 of spades and 3 of hearts? Boy I wish I could get in that hand. These people have not figured out the odds and I suspect they won't until the mid term elections. Palin is a $25 bet.

    April 17, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  20. Cruzan Obama Mama

    This is a bunch of BS and they know it. The only credentials they considered for Palin is that she is a woman and they hoped that the Hillary voters would go for it. If they were fully aware of her daugther's pregnancy then why did they hide it at the convention? Do they still think we are stupid? They can stop all of the spinning now, the campaign is over, and the right person (THANK GOD!!!) won.

    My opinion of Palin will never change. She is not qualified, a disgrace to all women and working mothers everywhere, and the biggest hypocrite of all times. She has singlehandedly knocked women back into the 70's with all the ignorance she displayed during the campaign, The way they handled her with kid gloves made me feel like I was in the twilight zone. If she was the high reward that McCain & Repubs were waiting on, then they are really lost. WHAT A MESS!!!!!

    April 17, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  21. Serving Our Country

    Palin's choice for VP by McCain pushed many over the top to vote for McCain, especially in the military. We saw great potential and common sense. We were happy, and still are, even after the loss in November. We were looking for "common sense change" with the right values, something we find lacking in the Democratic Party today.

    April 17, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  22. maina

    How can any reasonable person have interviewed Sarah Palin and come away impressed? Impressed with what? The depth of her knowledge on foreign policy? Her extensive, articulate responses to domestic policy questions? Her ability to grasp the complexity and nuances of governance? The woman has repeatedly demonstrated that she can not put together a cohesive sentence on her own. And, this person thought she was impressive??

    April 17, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. John Hargis Sr

    BS, republicans are trying to save face once again, party garbage, all of it.!!!!

    April 17, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  24. Karen R, El Paso TX

    So tired of hearing "Yes you can see Russia from Alaska." I can see Mexico from my house but that doesn't make me an expert. You can also see Canada from Alaska, So what? That does not make Her an expert on either country. She needs to give that tired horse a break!!

    April 17, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  25. AJL

    I would like to hear what her answers were to those "leading questions". If she is going to try again for VP or even President in the next election, it would be nice to know how she would deal with the U.S civilian causualties an assassination of Bin Laden would cause. Especially now that some (if not all) of the U.S "experts" on Middle East politics feel that Pakistan is going to degrade into the same warlord structure as Afghanistan. For those of you not up on current events, Pakistan has a rather substantial nuclear arsenal. And how far would she go in using our nuclear arsenal. Both in an offensive role or in retaliation of an attack on U.S citizens both here and abroad. The third "leading question" about her reasons for wanting to be V.P is totally absurd. If that was really an important part of their vetting process I am really worried about the direction our country would take if THIS specific Republican leadership was in control. It must have been a throw back to her beauty pagent days. A test to see if she had matured as well as aged since then.

    April 17, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
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