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“McCain Can’t Afford To Drop Sarah. They Won’t Let Him Anyway”

by Charley James --

Despite numerous calls from serious conservative columnists over the last week for John McCain to drop Sarah Palin from the Republican ticket, she’s not going anywhere regardless of her debate performance.


“She’s our lifeline to the money coming in from evangelicals and the far right,” says my contact at McCain headquarters in Virginia. “Without their cash, the campaign would be struggling to raise money. McCain can’t afford to drop Sarah.

“Don’t take this the wrong way but Palin is, well, she’s our cash cow,” he tells me, somewhat embarrassed at his awkward metaphor.

As I reported on September 26 and again on September 27, two sources inside the McCain campaign, and three inside Barack Obama’s, are providing me with information for a book I want to write after the election.

The McCain headquarters source is someone I’ve known for roughly 30 years and has been my interpreter of the conservative movement ever since. Along with a woman I dated centuries ago who works in a key swing state campaign office, I’ve had a unique, insider’s look at the McCain operation since the primaries.

“Besides, they won’t let him anyway. (Grover) Norquist, (James) Dobson, Roger Ayles, and Karl (Rove) would strangle McCain if he dumped her,” he confides. “Quiet word around here is they’re the ones who told McCain he couldn’t have Lieberman and pushed Palin on us.”

Say That Again?
Wait. This is news! John McCain did not choose his own vice presidential candidate?

Until now, the McCain campaign’s public posture is that McCain selected her based on a short meeting he had with her a year or two ago at a National Governor’s Assn. meeting and then summoned her to Arizona for the now-famous four hour chat. I beg my contact to let me use this piece of information now. Our ground rules are that nothing I am told can be published until after November 4, a rule that three of my contacts allowed me to bend slightly for last week’s two articles.

“Yeah, why not,” he agrees after a somewhat lengthy pause. “It can’t hurt us now anymore than everything else that’s happening.”

The four evil names rattle around in my head: Rove, Ayles, Dobson, and Norquist.

Finally, the choice of Palin makes some sense; not much, but some. Yet it was clear right from the start that McCain was doing somebody’s bidding in choosing an unknown lightweight governor to be his running mate. It turns out that the esteemed doyens of the right wingnut fringe of the Republican Party – Norquist and his once all-powerful “Americans For Tax Reform,” James Dobson’s hate-mongering “Focus On The Family,” Roger Ayles and his Republican talking point network Fox News, and Karl “Bush’s Brain” Rove – did the choosing. Talk about king makers or, in this case, queen makers. McCain managed to go through the motions of “interviewing” Palin but, apparently, he had as much say in the process as I did.

I ask my friend if this is rumor, an open secret or confirmed fact.

“It’s an open secret about a rumor that’s been rumbling around here for weeks,” he tells me somewhat vaguely. Then he adds an even more cryptic comment, “Would I go to Atlantic City with McCain and place a bet on it? Probably, but I’m not sure.”

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The half-hearted joke referred to McCain’s fondness for high stakes casino gambling and his deep connections to casino lobbyists was revealed in several articles this week in The New York Times.

Gruesome Implications
I don’t put much stock in conspiracy theories but, if this one is true, it has truly gruesome implications for the country.

Assuming that McCain won’t live out his term, then Sarah Palin and her own, living, breathing handmaiden’s tale would become president. A Tabula Rosa on which the known and unknown manipulators of far right policies and politics would be able to write large their own vision of America – a vision that does not include anything close to mainstream political thought on either side of the political spectrum.

Compared to a Pres. Palin, by comparison George Bush would seem like a Renaissance man, a 21st century Thomas Jefferson.

Suddenly, Naomi Wolf’s draconian vision of the United States under another Republican president seems much more frighteningly real than it did yesterday.

True, there’ve always been insiders working the strings in American politics, starting with Mark Hannah in Ohio during the McKinley administration to New York City’s Tammany Hall and Harold Ickes to Arthur Goldberg. But they’ve always been mainstream people who generally had the country’s best interests at heart. Not in the history of the United States have a cabal of extremists gathered so much power inside a seemingly mainstream political party that they literally dictated to a party’s presidential nominee who would be his running mate simply because it suited their own, perverse end. defines a maverick “an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party.” So much for McCain’s self-professed image of being a “maverick.” Nowhere in American history can I find a reference to a politician so craven that he allows his desire for the presidency to be bastardized – swallowed whole – by powerful fringe elements of his party.

The news about how Sarah Palin came to be the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate is not just disturbing, it is terrifying. How did this happen in America? Hopefully, as the remaining days of the campaign slide past, enough Americans will shake their heads in disbelief at both McCain and Palin – each person having their own reason – and shout “Enough!” as they pull the Obama-Biden lever in the voting booth.


The Grand Old Party was founded by Abraham Lincoln. Somewhere, the nation’s greatest single president is weeping.

Charley James

If you're born in Milwaukee, you are born a Democrat. And so I gravitated naturally to liberal politics, first as journalist and then an activist. I've been writing since I was eight years old and, after working in newsrooms for far too long, I have devoted much of the past decade as an independent investigtative jouralist. When not writing about politics or George Bush, I scribble out essays on the peculiarites of modern times.

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