Contrary to widespread reports, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin disclosed her daughter’s pregnancy and any other sensitive issues to the John McCain campaign before he chose her as his running mate, A.B. Culvahouse Jr., who was in charge of the vetting process, told a conference of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Friday, Culvahouse said that while McCain’s staff was not aware of some of the issues and “probably should have known” about them, McCain was aware of them. Rather than disclosing it in a questionnaire, Palin told the lawyer verbally about her daughter’s pregnancy, he said.
Praising Palin, Culvahouse said, “Me and two of my most cynical partners interviewed her and came away impressed.” Palin would “have been a great vice president,” he said, something that he told Sen. McCain.
A partner in O’Melveny & Myers, Culvahouse said Palin hit particularly tough questions “out of the park.” They included whether she was prepared to use nuclear weapons and whether she would order the CIA to shoot Osama bin Laden even if that would cause the deaths of civilians.
“She filled the room; she had great presence,” he said. “She had a lot of capacity.”
Culvahouse said 26 contenders were on the long list of possible vice presidential choices, but in his view, they were not all vice presidential material.
“We all know people with a long list of qualifications ... who, at least in my mind, may not be qualified to be vice president,” the former counsel to President Reagan explained.
Among those on the list, Culvahouse said that McCain was leaning toward tapping his friend Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) for the ticket. But McCain was advised against it because of ballot access issues.
“Five states have sore loser statutes,” Culvahouse said, “[making] it very difficult for someone who’s not a member of the Republican Party to become the vice presidential nominee if they only switch parties to become a Republican shortly before the convention.”
Culvahouse conceded that Palin was not a safe pick, but he also said that no member of the field could match the qualifications of Dick Cheney when former President George W. Bush picked him to be vice president.
“Dick Cheney may be the only Dick Cheney,” he said, noting the former vice president’s previous White House experience and service as secretary of defense.
Culvahouse had a team of 30 lawyers helping him. However, “John was the decider,” he said.
Culvahouse said he only learned he had been chosen to lead the vetting team when it was publicly announced. The campaign had asked if he would be involved in legal policy issues after he and another lawyer hosted a fundraiser for McCain in October 2007. Culvahouse had agreed that if McCain won the Republican nomination, he would help with vetting. He didn’t hear from the McCain campaign for months after that.
Then, during a press conference in Miami, when asked who would lead his vice presidential vetting effort, McCain announced that Culvahouse had the job.
After the vetting process was over, McCain asked him for his “bottom line” on Palin.
“John,” Culvahouse said, “high risk, high reward.”
“You shouldn’t have told me that,” McCain responded. “I’ve been a risk taker all my life.”
Asked recently by Jay Leno to name great Republican presidential contenders for 2012, McCain pointedly left Palin off the list.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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