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. citizen

    Did this nut job donate the clothing that was purchased for her yet?

    April 17, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. Chas

    Thank you to the McCain vetting process for giving the American people a real president who will get things moving and done.

    Now, if you still belive this junk about Palin – there must be some Republican bridges you can still buy.

    April 17, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  3. David P. Kronmiller

    Two things about Palin really bothered me:

    1) Her inability to answer fairly basic questions in not one but several interviews showed her to be less then ready for a high pressure situation and it exposed her weak understanding of U.S. , World and Government history. Prior to her being picked as his VP she seemed confused even as to the role of the Vice President.

    2) She used her family in a way I thought was horribly inappropriate and embarrassing and unfair to them. The fact that she hid her pregnancy from her own Alaskan staff and then after the birth went right back to work, despite her child's condition, showed a skewed sense of responsibility. To then parade out her daughter's pregnancy while preaching abstinence and then now later, vilifying her grandchild's father, was also inappropriate. If my infant child had special needs and if my teenage daughter was pregnant the last thing I would do is run for national office and expose my children to that limelight.

    The media did not treat her unfairly – or not more so then any other candidate or public figure – many Palin supporters obviously weren't paying attention during the LONG Democratic Primary where Obama was constantly criticized, vilified and dragged through the media gauntlet. By the time Palin emerged he had already gone through his national media vetting – we were just getting to know her even up until election day.

    Oh – and folks – McCain lost – and if he got momentum because of her appearance by his side then she also must hold SOME of the blame for him losing the election. McCain's lack of support for her now shows what he thinks of her.

    April 17, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. patriot

    Why do so many Palin supporters insist the once the rest of us realize that Obama is not up to snuff–as they claim to realize now–that we will turn to the likes of Palin for leadership? Personally, I am being open-minded about assessing Obama's performance to date, and I think he has a chance of being a great President. But if when 2012 rolls around I feel differently, I will vote for someone else of Obama's stauture, intellect and education, not someone like Sarah Palin (nor anyone else whom this dim-bulb Culvahouse character and his "team of lawyers" are impressed by!)

    April 17, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  5. Paul

    So McCain likes high risk. Good thing he's not president.

    April 17, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  6. mr

    Oh we'll be back, my dear little liberals. Enjoy your 4 years!

    April 17, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Orlando Resident

    I guessing there weren't any gotcha questions asked like what magazines do you read!!!

    April 17, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  8. Kelby In Houston, TX

    RWE April 17th, 2009 5:33 pm ET

    "she wasn't picked to get the votes of the self proclaimed intellectuals on this message board. she was picked to attract rational and informed americans."

    She was picked because Obama did not pick Hillary. McCain saw what he thought was an opprotunity to get the Women vote. He thought all women would vote for his ticket because he had a woman running with him.

    The media did not attack her. They couldn't. She was kept from the media for weeks on end...no interviews. And most informed rational Americans watch the news. read magazines and surf the net for their news. And this polarizing figure with her venomous rhetoric made her Campaign rallies look and sound like KKK rallies.

    No, the truth is that McCain and Palin thought that they could win with poor white un-educated un informed ignorant voters. They did not know that the "self proclaimed intelectual" now outnumber them.

    April 17, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  9. Ain't life strange?

    I know all of you people on the right... the conservative Palin supporters... are upset with the people on the left... the Palin hating liberals. You right wing fanatics don't like your super star called a moron, Tundra Barbie, stupid, dangerous and all of the other hateful things those liberals have been saying. All that hate talk really clouds the real issues. I guess this can be reduced to the rediculous for the sake of simplicity... just for those who have a hard time wrapping their hands around complex concepts. When someone like Palin runs for office, stands in front of these HUGH crowds she is so capable of attracting, and allows them to spew bigotry, hateful slurs, and threats on the lives of others without once telling these right wing fanatics that type of attitude is unacceptable in our modern day America... then I have to conclude she supports that. And that's why I don't support her or anyone like her. There is no room in the land of the free for the ignorant nature she condones.

    April 17, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Jan

    Well I guess we know where the problem started then. I can't understand what is wrong with this guy that he thought she was all that. She was totally out of her league.

    April 17, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    @ Serving Our Country

    First, try going to wikipedia.org and looking at their bios. It's quite clear that Obama had more experience. What your GOP programmers love to gloss over is that he was in the IL state legislature (constituency of approx. 200K) for 8 years while she farted around as mayor of Wasilla (population approx. 6K) for 6 years and then basically did nothing for 2 years until running for governor.

    Second, the "known drug user" comment is abhorrently ignorant. People do silly things when they're young...things like spreading their legs with no protection and getting pregos right before mommy gets picked to run for VP or telling a TV interviewer that you read "all the magazines and newspapers...whatever they put in front of me" because you can't name one. The institutions Obama attended and his track record not only while attending those schools, but also in public life thereafter, bespeak a man with better education and more intelligence than every other candidate who ran...not to mention the words that come out of his mouth (hint: I'm pretty sure you'd never hear him claim that seeing Russia from Alaska is an indicator of foreign policy experience).

    Stop simply internalizing and regurgitating what you're told. Do some independent research on the interwebz...or are you afraid the comforting repetition of LImbaugh's daily affirmations will be torn asunder by what you may find? Google is the GOP's worst enemy.

    April 17, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. Serving Our Country

    If Voters would have done any vetting, Obama would have lost. Instead they voted in another untrustworthy democrat that could read a tele-prompter.

    April 17, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  13. Jojo82

    This says something about the Republicans who were impressed by Palin. Why would he keep talking about “high risk, high reward?” The high risk did not result in high rewards, McCain and Palin lost by quite a drastic margin.

    April 17, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. KS Dem

    Do you think McCain realizes that the financial giants that have fallen in recent months probably had the same mindset? "Big Risk, Big Rewards." Ask AIG how that worked out for them.

    April 17, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. Ron

    if I was looking for pure evil (aka Dick Cheney's replacement), I'd come away impressed too.

    April 17, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  16. sempdog

    Law degrees come in which cereal box these days ?
    Culvahouse and his 50 helpers must have been "impressed" by how much Palin resembled Tina Fey as well. Vetting with stupidity.

    April 17, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  17. Arlene - Atlanta

    I wish that the press would stop covering her.

    April 17, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  18. Marilyn, Powell Ohio

    As a mother of five daughters, I would NEVER vote for Sarah Palin; she's out of her element. Furthermore, I can't stand the sound of her voice. If this is the leader of the Republican party, God help us all, please! Culvahouse doesn't use any better grammar than Palin.

    April 17, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  19. Serving Our Country

    Please...I didn't lose..the country did.

    Yes i'm over it, I wish the new Pres. the best. Hope he does well.

    Its good to voice opinion. Its an American right. As a soldier I defend your right to have your opinion. I'm not sure you would give me the same courtesy.

    April 17, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  20. Tina

    What happened in the time between them being so impressed with her and what we saw? I can't believe it was media slanting because everything was consistent – and building slowly – such as the blatant the way she made sure to annunciate Obama's middle name as if it was some proof that he was a secret terrotist to the cumulation of that tactic which ended in crowds at rallys chanting "kill him" (yes, have we all forgotten that?), and the distinguishing between "Real" Americans and all the rest. Nothing that can be said about the questionnaires she completed or her disclosing everything to them or her answers to tough questions that she "knocked out of the ballpark" will ever make that okay.

    We can all agree to disagree, but we need to do what is right for EVERYONE, not just those who agree with you. Exclusion, Hatred and Religious Ideology is what Sarah Palin stands for – but, it is not what America stands for.

    April 17, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  21. Gene

    I'm curious to see that questionnaire.. I wonder if they asked her about anything that would pertain to actual legal knowledge of anything, including current events. Because those are the questions that completely stunted her.

    If the questionnaire was just asking what her views were.. that's pretty much an empty way to vet someone. Vetting should be based on knowledge, not just opinions.

    April 17, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  22. Jason Perrone

    What a pack of lies. Who cares anyway? Thank God she never made it.

    April 17, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  23. catmom

    High risk because he knew that she was not qualified. McCain chose her because he thought Hillary supporters and women were stupid and would vote for him because he chose a woman as his Vice President.

    For all those who continue to believe that Palin was much more qualified than our current President, get a grip. It took her six years and five different colleges to get a degree in journalism, enough said. We understand Republicans like mediocre but, been there, done that with Bush and see where it led us.

    April 17, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  24. Tom I.

    Clearly if the people charged by McCain to select a finalist list of VP candidates were impressed by Palin, then and now, then McCain had the wrong people on that assignment.

    She did shore up McCain's support amongst the right wingnuts of the Republican Party, and he was getting very lukewarm support and financial contributions from them. His campaign should have kept her profile lower, so that they could have reaped the benefits from the right-wingers without exposing her so much to the independents and undecideds, where she hurt the ticket.

    It certainly is wonderful to read these Palin articles without having to worry about her being a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Otherwise I would be scared to death.

    April 17, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  25. MarcH

    You have another article on the Ticker that says Palin has been mostly out of the spotlight since November. But I just counted 5 ticker articles about her right now. You have something about her or her family every single day, week after week, month after month. What would it be like if she were still in the spotlight? Obsessed or what?

    April 17, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
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