Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin greets supporters after returning to Anchorage, Alaska on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008.
CTV.ca | Knives out for Palin: McCain aides tell tales of diva
WASHINGTON -- Sarah Palin wasn't aware that Africa was a continent and she and her brood behaved like a band of "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," aides to Republican John McCain are telling prominent news organizations.
Less than 24 hours after McCain lost the presidential election to Democrat Barack Obama, those close to him apparently wasted no time burning up the phone lines to dish the dirt on Palin, the Alaska governor who portrayed herself as a sensible hockey Mom when she was chosen the Arizona senator's running mate in late August.
If the anonymous McCain insiders are to be believed, Palin, a 44-year-old mother of five, was unaware that Africa was a continent, arguing that South Africa was simply a region of the larger country of Africa.
She also didn't know the three countries that are in the North American Free Trade Agreement, namely Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
A call last week by a Quebec radio prankster pretending to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly became a fiery source of tension between the already feuding McCain and Palin camps. An aide to the Alaska governor, Steve Biegun, OK'd the call without discussing it with McCain's people or the U.S. State Department.
The Los Angeles Times reported that an outraged Steve Schmidt, McCain's top strategist, organized a conference call after the prank -- which revealed Palin to be ill-informed and naive -- made international headlines and brought further ridicule to the campaign.
He demanded to know who had arranged the Sarkozy call and questioned why anyone would have agreed to such an unusual request without clearing it with top staff.
Biegun immediately took responsibility.
"I was fooled," he told the L.A. Times in a report published Thursday. "No one's going to beat me up more than I beat myself up for setting up the governor like that."
The leaked stories about Palin's alleged antics throughout the campaign are appearing in publications that include Newsweek magazine and the New York Times just as Republicans gather Thursday in Virginia to discuss the future of the party.
Many in the party's ultra-conservative wing are enthralled by Palin and her socially conservative views, and hope to make her a presidential candidate in 2012.
"I'm not doing this for naught," Palin said recently when asked about her aspirations.
Yet soon after she was chosen McCain's running mate with very little vetting, his campaign insiders say they became queasy with the growing knowledge that Palin was desperately unqualified and ill-prepared to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
They attempted to bring her up to speed on the issues of the day, but she refused any efforts to prepare her for a string of disastrous interviews with CBS's Katie Couric that proved extremely damaging to the McCain campaign.
The McCain insiders have told various news organizations that Palin nonetheless threw angry temper tantrums over their mishandling of her when the Couric interviews went badly.
The most salacious of the stories leaked -- with many more supposedly still to come in the days to follow -- involve Palin's infamous US$150,000 spending spree at some of the most expensive stores in the United States.
Despite her self-styled image as a down-home working mother opposed to big government spending, the aides told Newsweek she behaved like anything but: she spent tens of thousands of dollars more than the US$150,000 originally reported on clothing, accessories and luggage for herself and her family.
One senior aide told the magazine that she was told to buy three suits for the Republican National Convention and hire a stylist, but instead, the vice-presidential nominee began amassing costly goods from stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
At one point during the campaign, Palin's youngest daughter, seven-year-old Piper, was photographed carrying a US$790 Louis Vuitton bag.
Two sources told Newsweek the goods were bought by a wealthy donor, who was flabbergasted when he saw the bills. Palin also allegedly instructed low-level staffers to buy her new clothes with their credit cards, something the McCain campaign only discovered last week when the aides tried to get reimbursed.
Palin aides had a different version of events, with several telling the Los Angeles Times that she was outraged by the amount of money being spent on her clothing, adding she was naive about what the clothes cost.
"The very first day of shopping, there was a $14,000 price tag and . . . she was absolutely shocked," one of the Palin insiders said.
Another told Newsweek: "Gov. Palin was not directing staffers to put anything on their personal credit cards, and anything that staffers put on their credit cards has been reimbursed, like an expense."
On Wednesday in Phoenix, Palin said: "There is absolutely no diva in me."
Nonetheless, a Republican party lawyer is reportedly heading to Alaska to inventory and retrieve the clothes still in Palin's possession.
The tensions between the two camps reportedly continued even into election night, when Palin met up with McCain at the Biltmore hotel in Phoenix with a concession speech in hand that she wanted to deliver before he took to the podium to address his crestfallen supporters.
Much to her chagrin, she was told by senior McCain aides that such a speech would be inappropriate since vice-presidential nominees do not traditionally speak on election night.
The relationship between Palin and McCain, in fact, had deteriorated in the final days of the campaign to the point that they were seldom talking.
"I think it was a difficult relationship," one top McCain campaign official told the New York Times. "McCain talked to her occasionally."
On Wednesday, Palin disputed suggestions she contributed to McCain's loss, but said she was apologetic if she had.
"I don't think anybody should give Sarah Palin that much credit that I would trump an economic time in this nation that occurred about two months ago," she told CNN. "If I cost John McCain even one vote, I am sorry about that because John McCain, I believe, is the American hero."
And both of them hardly talking to one another and pretty much putting distance between each other by the time the election came around?
Could you even imagine if they actually won?
What a nightmare.