Republican Sen. John McCain, who lifted former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin out of obscurity to be his vice presidential partner last year, isn’t saying much about Palin’s new tell-all, blame-all book. But Steve Schmidt, who managed the campaign and is a chief target in the book, doesn’t think much of “Going Rogue.”
In the book, written with Lynn Vincent, Palin attacks Schmidt, communications aide Nicolle Wallace, Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson; says Schmidt cursed in front of her 7-year-old daughter, Piper; says she was billed $50,000 for the cost of her own vetting and says she resisted the campaign’s efforts to dress her up with new clothes and a stylist. She also says Schmidt screamed at her after she fell for a hoax in which a prank caller pretended to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Schmidt gave his verdict on the book, due in stores Tuesday, in an interview with me: “It’s total fiction,” he said.
Just to address some of the claims: Trevor Potter, the campaign’s counsel, told The Atlantic that the campaign did not bill Palin for vetting. Schmidt told me it’s “not true” that he used an obscenity in front of Piper. As for the $150,000 tab for Palin family clothes and accessories, “Her account talks about the fact that she was resistant to all this stuff. That’s just not true,” one campaign aide told me. This aide’s take: “The book fully reveals her. Dishonest, small and petty.”
McCain usually has lots to say on any given issue, but his reaction to “Going Rogue” so far has been private. Campaign insiders say he is focused on Senate business and his 2010 Senate race in Arizona. He’s “surprised and a bit disappointed” by the book, one of them told me, but “he doesn’t look back much and he moves on.”
McCain also has told his former aides that he feels bad about what they are going through. The aides themselves are both shocked and not shocked.
“People knew that’s what she was like” but they are nevertheless incredulous that she published a book like this, one of them told me. “It’s like, ‘What’s she so angry about?’ She was picked to be vice president of the United States. She had an exceptional opportunity. Everything is someone else’s fault. There’s no accountability. It’s mean-spirited. But if you look at the record, it is what it is.”
Some news outlets obtained “Going Rogue” before its release. The Associated Press has a fact-check story knocking down a number of Palin’s assertions. The Huffington Post has published highlights along with contemporaneous campaign e-mails that undercut some of Palin’s claims.
Michiko Kakutani, reviewing the book this weekend in The New York Times, calls it “part cagey spin job, part earnest autobiography, part payback hit job.”