Palin - vetted or not vetted?

Jake Turcotte

It's Day 2 of the Republican convention, but hurricanes Gustav and Sarah have disrupted everything. Gustav - literally.  Sarah - figuratively, as in McCain running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Tuesday night's theme is "Serving a cause greater than self." But the media's got a different theme: "Was Sarah vetted?"

No official word from Vegas, but oddsmakers just may make the media's theme the favorite in this contest.

Perhaps it was appropriate that John McCain was asked about the vetting process at a firehouse today.

In attempting to put out what has become a media firestorm, McCain told reporters, "My vetting process was completely thorough, and I'm grateful for the results."

Among the chattering classes, however, skepticism rules the day.

Headlines this morning range from: The Atlantic's "They just didn't vet her" to NPR's "A look into the GOP VP vetting process" to MSNBC's "Just how well was she vented" to Reuters' pretty good summation of the week thus far with their "A perfect storm: politics, babies, bloggers, and a hurricane."

But what set everything off - like a match to a barrel of gasoline was a New York Times story by Elisabeth Bumiller.

Bumiller wrote, "Republicans close to the campaign said it was increasingly apparent that Ms. Palin had been selected as Mr. McCain’s running mate with more haste than McCain advisers initially described."

This led to a fiery response from the McCain campaign. The response, attributed to spokesman Michael Goldfarb, said Bumiller had "opted to make up her own version of events" in writing about the vetting process comparing her article to an Associated Press story.

"The AP quotes Steve Schmidt saying the campaign was prepared to send a "jump team" to the home state of whoever was selected for the second spot," reads Goldfarb's statement. "But Bumiller has her own version: 'A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice.' A Republican with ties to the campaign? How about a Republican on the campaign? It's not as though the leadership of this campaign was unwilling or unable to talk to the New York Times, in fact, they were already on the record answering these questions.
"And Bumiller writes that Governor Palin "was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party." Not true, and unsourced. Governor Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982.
"Ms. Bumiller, if you'd like to try reporting instead of writing fiction, here's a link to our press line."

The Anchorage Daily News however, spoke to a number of individuals from next-door neighbors, to former colleagues, to state legislators, to the FBI - all with the same story: No contact from the campaign.

"But in Alaska, it was hard to find anyone who had been contacted by McCain's campaign," the article reads.

"We're not a very big state," said a former Alaska Speaker of the House. "People I talk to would've heard something."

Even overseas journalists are wondering about the vetting process. The Guardian asks, "Was Palin vetted at all?"

All this has led, the blog site "Talk Left" (a liberal blog site) to set up a pool asking visitors for predictions as to what day Palin will drop out of the race.

Drop out of the race? Well, certainly there is no word of that. And these things can flame out as quickly as they sparked up. But credit Reuters, once again, with summing it up well:

"John McCain wanted to create some buzz with his pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate -- but not this kind of buzz."

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