A ‘scripted robot or an unscripted ignoramus’

A ‘SCRIPTED ROBOT OR AN UNSCRIPTED IGNORAMUS’…. The estimable Robert Draper, blogging at GQ, offers an interesting, behind-the-scenes look at the extent to which McCain’s team scrambled after Sarah Palin joined the Republican ticket. (via Jonathan Chait)

Almost from the very beginning, the Palin pick created tension. An armada of handlers descended on McCain’s running mate like the flying monkeys in The Wizard Of Oz…. [Tucker Eskew] and [Nicole Wallace] took charge of schooling the Alaska governor on message discipline. Two days later at the GOP convention, an adviser watched them coach Palin on how to answer routine press questions and warned Steve Schmidt that she was being overly managed. Three weeks later, Wallace arranged for the interview with her former CBS colleague Katie Couric, which proved to be a disaster.

Meanwhile, Palin’s debate prep was going miserably, to the point where Schmidt had to peel off from McCain (who was having his own challenges responding to the financial crisis) and join Nicolle’s husband Mark Wallace in simplifying Palin’s prep so as to avert catastrophe. The latter efforts resulted in what one senior adviser would describe to me with palpable relief as “a campaign-saving performance.”

I’m sympathetic to Eskew and Wallace, and not just because they’re decent people. They’ve held their tongue from leaking what a couple of McCain higher-ups have told me — namely, that Palin simply knew nothing about national and international issues. Which meant, as one such adviser said to me: “Letting Sarah be Sarah may not be such a good thing.” It’s a grim binary choice, but apparently it came down to whether to make Palin look like a scripted robot or an unscripted ignoramus. I was told that Palin chafed at being defined by her discomfiting performances in the Couric, Charlie Gibson, and Sean Hannity interviews. She wanted to get back out there and do more. Well, if you’re Eskew and Wallace, what do you say to that?

I argued a while back that adding Palin to the Republican ticket was the most ridiculous development in presidential politics in at least a generation. With each passing revelation, I feel more confident in that assessment.

When McCain aides realize Palin doesn’t have the foggiest idea what she’s doing or what she’s talking about, what do they do? I almost feel bad for them. Almost.