- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008




Whatever the intention of the anonymous leaker (or leakers) from the McCain campaign who spread nasty rumors about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in the end they did not so much trash the image of Caribou Barbie as they ended up tarnishing the public’s perception of their G.I. Joe, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

It tells you everything that the Palin smear stories come from anonymous staffers. There is no documentation. There is no way to prove the rumors false. Think graffiti in a junior high school girls’ room.

It started before Sen. Barack Obama won the election, when an unnamed McCampaign staffer called Mrs. Palin a diva. Cable news then reported that a McCampaign aide called Mrs. Palin a diva — with “diva” in quotes. A “top McCain adviser” told Politico.com that Mrs. Palin is a “whack job” — more quote marks, from an unknown maligner.

Newsweek reported that when campaign strategists Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter went to Mrs. Palin’s hotel room, she greeted them clad in a towel. Mr. Schmidt later told The Washington Times that the episode is “categorically … not true” — but the graphic impression lives on.

You may have read that Mrs. Palin did not know which countries are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement — hint: There are three such countries and they’re all in North America. I’ve seen Mrs. Palin stumble during this race, but I do not believe that the Alaska governor was not acutely aware of a treaty that regulated trade with her next-door neighbor, Canada.

Don’t take my word for it. CNN’s Campbell Brown announced Friday that some unnamed McCain staffers “have been launching grenades at Palin and her supporters. Some of their allegations, we at CNN have found to be patently false.” They may be patently false, but there is no way Mrs. Palin can prove they are false. Hence there is no way she can outfox the disinformation campaign.

On cable news and talk radio, specific names are presumed to be the sources of the leaks. The subjects have denied they are the leakers, but that doesn’t matter. Once their names are in currency, they are presumed to be the sources, just as Mrs. Palin is presumed to be the ditz.

I’ve talked to some McCampaign biggies and all denied being the source of this sleaze. All refused to talk on the record, lest they extend this sorry story.

OK. What has been Mr. McCain’s excuse? Finally when he appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” Tuesday, Mr. McCain made a statement that put the kibosh on this unnamed-sources pile-on.

Because from where I sit, the view is of a campaign run by people so protective of their own precious backsides that they have been slinging all matter of mud — including charges that are, as Miss Brown put it, “patently false.”

The longer Mr. McCain waited to refute the rabid rumors spread by those who want to blame Mrs. Palin for the ticket’s loss, the more his judgment appeared suspect. After all, Mr. McCain picked Mrs. Palin. If Mrs. Palin was cartoonishly uninformed, if she was Gidget on the hustings, Mr. McCain did not look better. He looked worse.

Also, Mr. McCain looked worse for failing to control his own people.

The political press corps doesn’t win any awards in this episode, either. Remember when the pack would not jump on National Enquirer stories about John Edwards’ relations with Rielle Hunter and child - because the story had not been nailed down? It seems there is a different standard for Sarah Palin - to wit, anything goes.

Debra J. Saunders is a nationally syndicated columnist.



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