My first week on the job here at Crooks and Liars, I went on CNN Newsroom with Rick Sanchez to talk about an investigative piece co-written with Max Blumenthal about Sarah Palin's longtime dalliances with Alaska's far-right elements, particularly the secessionist Alaska Independence Party.
At the time, the McCain campaign blew us off publicly. And unfortunately, none of our colleagues in other media settings picked up on the story and asked further questions about the issues it raised -- particularly at a time when the McCain campaign was busy accusing Barack Obama of "palling around" with "terrorists" and extremists.
Now, it turns out that my short appearance on TV threw Sarah Palin into a tizzy and provoked a quarrel with Steve Schmidt of the McCain campaign. This from a CBS story by Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe:
Internal campaign e-mails exchanged three weeks before Election Day offer a rare look at just how frustrated then Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had become with the manner in which top McCain campaign aides were handling her candidacy. The e-mails, obtained exclusively, also highlight the power struggle and thinly veiled acrimony that pervaded the relationship between Palin and the campaign's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt.
The episode in question began when an investigative report published on the left-leaning Web site Salon.com raised questions about Palin's relationship with members of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) when she was mayor of Wasilla. The AIP's platform calls for a vote giving Alaskans the option to secede from the United States. It had already been widely known that Todd Palin was a registered member of the AIP from 1995 to 2002 and that Governor Palin had taped a recorded greeting at the party's 2008 convention.
On the morning of Oct. 15, Palin was aboard her campaign jet and en route to New Hampshire when she happened to catch a disparaging CNN segment that touted the Salon.com story, complete with a provocative graphic at the bottom of the screen reading, "THE PALINS AND THE FRINGE."
While shaking hands after a rally later that afternoon, someone on the rope line shouted a remark at Palin about the AIP.
The comment set her off. She worried that the campaign was not sufficiently mitigating the issue of her alleged connection to the party, which despite a platform that harkens more to the Civil War than the 21st century, continued to play a serious role in Alaska politics.
Palin blasted out an e-mail with the subject line "Todd" to Schmidt, campaign manager Rick Davis and senior advisor Nicolle Wallace, copying her husband on the message (all of the e-mails are reprinted below as written).
"Pls get in front of that ridiculous issue that's cropped up all day today - two reporters, a protestor's sign, and many shout-outs all claiming Todd's involvement in an anti-American political party," Palin wrote. "It's bull, and I don't want to have to keep reacting to it ... Pls have statement given on this so it's put to bed."
Schmidt hit "reply to all" less than five minutes after Palin's e-mail was sent. "Ignore it," he wrote. "He was a member of the aip? My understanding is yes. That is part of their platform. Do not engage the protestors. If a reporter asks say it is ridiculous. Todd loves america."
This clear cut response from the campaign's top dog carried an air of finality, but it did not satisfy Palin. She responded with another e-mail, adding five more names to the "cc" box, all of whom traveled on her campaign plane. They included her senior political adviser Tucker Eskew, senior aide Jason Recher, the lone traveling aide from her Alaska office Kris Perry, press secretary Tracey Schmitt and personal assistant Bexie Nobles.
Palin's insertion of the five additional staffers in the e-mail chain was an apparent attempt to rally her own troops in the face of a decision from the commanding general with which she disagreed. Her inclusion of her personal assistant was particularly telling about her quest for affirmation and support in numbers, since the young staffer was not in a position to have any input on campaign strategy.
"That's not part of their platform and he was only a 'member' bc independent alaskans too often check that 'Alaska Independent' box on voter registrations thinking it just means non partisan," Palin wrote. "He caught his error when changing our address and checked the right box. I still want it fixed."
Now, the problem with this response is that it's just factually false. Palin's connections with the AIP ran much, much deeper than Todd's paper affiliation. As we explained in the Salon story:
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