As McCain and Palin rail against the HBO movie Game Change and Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace and various campaign alum who say it’s accurate, but don’t have the guts to go on the record, lo and behold, memos from the fall of 2008 suddenly fall into Politico‘s lap like ripe fruit (“MCain Aide Memo: Shield Schmidt,” by Maggie Haberman).
These memos, from just before the election, are focused on preventing Schmidt, McCain’s senior strategist, from taking the hit for the loss and lay out a media strategy to get DC insiders to defend him and his reputation. The memos were from a McCain senior adviser, Brian Jones, who worked at Mercury Public Affairs (MPA) to two MPA executives. Schmidt also worked for MPA.
“A week out from the election, named and unnamed sources of the political punditry are beginning to pin some of the blame for McCain’s likely defeat on Steve Schmidt. … [A] well organized and coordinated effort is needed to defend Steve’s good reputation. … It is critical this defense be smart and soft…. We cannot be seen coordinating a pre-election defense effort. That being said, I believe we should in the course of natural conversations with friendly reporters begin to provide positive messaging — off the record.”
There is more about getting out a not-Schmidt’s-fault spin from friends with “our message points” and about booking Schmidt himself for interviews.
Schmidt told Politico he was unaware of these memos or efforts, but clearly the intent of the leak is to make him seem self-serving and focused on saving his own tush even before the ballots were cast.
I believe that Game Change places too much blame for Palin on Schmidt and not enough on campaign manager Rick Davis. Then there were the GOP Great Mentioners who had been pushing Palin for over a year — folks like Dick Morris, Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, older guys seduced by her looks and flirtatiousness when they met her in Alaska.
But in defense of the McCain campaign, I think it’s reasonable to assume that any one of our fifty governors has a certain level of very basic knowledge — what the Federal Reserve is; why there is a North Korea and a South Korea; that the Prime Minister runs Great Britain, not the Queen. While the meetings with Palin before she was announced were obviously not inquisitive enough, I don’t think they could have imagined her staggering level of ignorance.