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. marykay13

    "Me and two of my most cynical partners...

    Maybe next time the Reps should vet their vetters on proper grammar.

    Oy vey.

    Now I know why her answers "knocked" him out of the ball park. She probably said "Me and McCain would...." After that, she had him in the palm of her hands.

    Why is the Reps detailed "vetting" process coming out 6 months after the election. (Clue to you guys: there are no do-overs.)

    April 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  2. james

    Obviously the risk didn't pay off. Too bad she couldn't hit those softball questions from Katie Couric out of the ball park.

    April 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. Sam I Am

    Obviously McCain's vetting team was incredibly incompetent. if Palin was the best they could come up with, out of all the well-educated, well-informed, and politically-savvy women in the conservative house, these guys should return their paychecks.

    The simple fact that they're having to explain why they chose Palin shows problems. Has any other vetting team had to do this? Nope. While we may not have agreed with the choice, at least the choice was of a competent person, made by competent people.

    It is clear to me and millions of other Americans that McCain's advisors were in no small part the reason he lost the election. His team was constantly blind-sided by a team that was supposed to be new to the game. He was almost continually out-maneuvered. His attempts at character assasination did nothing but terminate his own campaign. His campaign was already going down in flames when Palin was selected. Palin just added weight to the downward spiral. Those that might have voted for McCain, no matter what, left in droves and voted Democratic after Palin opened her mouth.

    McCain didn't lose the election. Culvahouse and his team did.

    April 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  4. DeedleBug28

    This is great stuff! Even with all the mistakes made in McCain campaign and throughout the Bush Administration, the Republicans still can't admit their mistakes. If they continue to live in this Alternate Reality, the only "house" they'll be retaking in 2012 will be the outhouse! You guys are right – Sara Palin was an EXCELLENT choice and should be the cornerstone of the party for as long as she lives!!

    April 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |

    The Republicans just keep "throwing" people on stage to see
    which one "sticks" like glue.

    April 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  6. Republicans Suck

    You have got to be kidding me.

    April 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  7. Ed E

    I can't believe they came away from interviewing that goofball Palin impressed! What am I missing???? There's a lot of Republicans that deserve a lot of respect but she certainly isn't one of them. If she performs well in 2012 I will lose all respect for most American voters. Especially after 8 years of Bush Jr.

    April 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  8. 30m-Democrat-voted Clinton then McCain

    I also think she would have been a good VP. She would have been more qualifed than our current president.

    April 17, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  9. Really? You're kidding.....

    If Culvahouse is telling the truth and he actually believes that Ms. Palin is not only qualified, but would have made a "great vice-presisdent," then God help the United States of America.

    I too, was a McCain supporter until the disasterous pick of Palin.

    April 17, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  10. Robert of Overgaard

    What in the world was he impressed by? She could not answer basic questions about current events, finance, world events, etc.

    And please, all you GOP apologists; stop with "the liberal media did her in". If she was really all that smart and capable, nothing would have been able to do her in. She did herself in. She's a ditz.

    April 17, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  11. KJ

    Culvahouse should have done what Couric did and interview her about any issue of substance. It would have been immediately obvious that she was in way over her head. I think picking her for the VP candidate was a disaster and well could have cost McCain the election. It shows you that even a bunch of well qualified attorneys can suffer from a terminal case of "group think"....(sounds like another place called Wall Street...)

    April 17, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  12. arithmetic is liberal

    Serving Our Country April 17th, 2009 5:33 pm ET

    That speaks alot for his intelligence and common sense. Qualities that Palin surely surpasses him in both categories. Even the layperson can see that.

    It seems from what I've seen that ONLY the layperson can see that.

    April 17, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  13. james

    Great work. The nation and the world thanks Mr. McCain and his crew for their skillful work. It was a truly patriotic choice that resulted in the required outcome. Couldn't have worked out better for all of us.

    April 17, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. Witness to a Circus

    The Republican core loves Palin, who a vast majority of Americans and the world sees as a complete clown - The Republican Party has become the clown of American and world politics. What an amazing disparity between realities. Religious fundamentalism and Republican fundamentalism are indistinguishable from one another in so many ways.

    April 17, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  15. please

    Serving Our Country April 17th, 2009 5:33 pm ET

    "Its disheartning to know that our Prez had less experience than the Rep. VP pick. She has been an extremely successful govenor. We ended up with the least experienced person as president. A known drug user. That speaks alot for his intelligence and common sense. Qualities that Palin surely surpasses him in both categories. Even the layperson can see that."

    Wow there are dumb posts and then there is this one. Serving nobody, your post takes the cake.

    You seem to forget your cocaine using DWI exalted leader that was in charge of the country for 8 years. Your selective memory is great.
    I got news for you – YOU LOST – get over it.

    April 17, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. T in the Big D

    Is it April fools day again? What a joke..the elections over .. McCain gambled and lost with Palin and she has been exposed for the FRAUD she is. What's the point?

    April 17, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  17. Hmmmmmm

    Then the question remains.......who vetted Cuvahouse? He failed John McCain miserably.

    April 17, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  18. KW, Vail AZ

    This guy being impressed with Sarah Palin doesn't say very much about him. He must not have asked her any questions about current events.

    April 17, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  19. Robin

    Come on people, is Biden doing any better?

    April 17, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  20. counting crows

    Palin lost McCain the election. Period. She proved herself to be incompetent by not knowing her ... from her elbow, and he proved himself to be incompetent by choosing her as his running mate. The country is far better off without either of them at the helm.

    April 17, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  21. Ann

    Independent voter
    God Bless President Obama, VP Biden, the First Families and "Bo""

    Oh God, change your name. You don't seem like having an 'independent mind'. Too bad you have the right to vote.

    April 17, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  22. Rob in vegas

    "I've been a risk-taker all my life"

    NOT what we need as a president in a time of war and economic crisis. especially for someone that admitted to being weak in economic issues.

    Yes, high risk high rewards, but thankfully not a reard they deserved for a poorly vetted person. She may have hit the answers out of the park for the people asking those questions, but it doesn't mean they were the right answers for the issues of this COUNTRY!

    Obama hasn't been perfect, but no president ever has, and no president ever will be. There is no such thing as perfection. Fact remains, that between the two choices, the right one was none the less made.

    April 17, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  23. Open book..

    It was an open book test and she had 48hrs to complete the 74 questions....And it was multiple choice. Plus she was awarded 25 points from the beginning to make it fair because it took her 5 years and 4 colleges to get a 4 year degree....LMAO!!

    April 17, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  24. Viet Vet

    @Domina- -In a Word– NO

    April 17, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  25. Serving Our Country

    ReaganTMan...you are so right! I don't even think anyone can argue against that.

    April 17, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
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