It all comes back to judgment

IT ALL COMES BACK TO JUDGMENT…. The infighting among McCain campaign staffers got a little tense over the weekend, with the bulk of the tension surrounding Sarah Palin — one faction believes she’s to blame for the campaign’s problems, while another believes McCain’s aides have misused her and failed to take advantage of her strengths.

Far be it for me to pick sides in this squabble, but it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s very hard to teach an unprepared student who hasn’t done her homework.

“Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic,” said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the “hardest” to get her “up to speed than any candidate in history.”

Robert Draper spoke with one of the campaign’s senior advisers not too long ago, asking him a straightforward question: “Leaving aside her actual experience, do you know how informed Governor Palin is about the issues of the day?”

After pondering the question for a moment, he said, “No. I don’t know.”

Now, in the context of the internecine campaign conflict, this might seem to give the McCain/Bush faction an edge — Palin took on a task she wasn’t prepared for. Aides worked hard to bring her up to speed on Government 101, but she simply wasn’t ready. Given this, the McCain side of the campaign divide finds it easier to blame Palin for its troubles.

But there’s still one key flaw: if Palin was hopelessly ignorant and unable to learn the basics, why on earth did McCain pick her? If the McCain/Bush aides hope to gain an edge by preemptively blaming Palin for a defeat, it doesn’t exactly clear their boss — McCain chose Palin to be one 72-year-old heartbeat from the presidency. If she’s the disaster who gets the blame, it’s still McCain who bears responsibility for the fiasco.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.