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Monday, July 6, 2009

Mark McKinnon: Sarah Palin is one of the most fascinating women I have ever met.

The Daily Beast - July 6, 2009 - By Mark McKinnon

Nobody, absolutely nobody, saw this one coming.
Purdum called me to talk about Palin for his article. I chose not to participate for a few reasons. One, I didn’t want to add to the drama surrounding the McCain campaign and Palin. Two, to the extent I could offer any interesting or helpful observations, I had already talked to a reporter writing a book on the subject and had done so on an exclusive basis. And three, I really didn’t have much to say.
Contrary to Purdum’s characterization, which is understandable because I didn’t clarify it for him, I spent a total of three hours of the entire campaign with Palin. A week before her debate, I got a call out of the blue asking if I could spend the next week helping run Palin’s debate preparation. There was clearly an emergency at hand. But, cognizant of my pledge not to campaign against Obama because I didn’t want to be the tip of the spear attacking him, which led to my departure from the campaign in June, I was worried that this exercise would inevitably drag me into uncomfortable territory. So, I said no. My friends, clearly in a desperate situation pleaded with me to reconsider. I didn’t want to totally let them down, so I compromised in a way that satisfied my own conscience. I agreed to spend one initial session, about three hours, with Palin talking about basic debate techniques and fundamentals. But, made clear that I would not participate in any discussions about strategies to attack Obama.
Three hours was enough, however, to get a very interesting glimpse and some insights into Sarah Palin. And I know John McCain, Steve Schmidt, Nicolle Wallace, and many of the other folks who ran the campaign well enough that it has been excruciating to watch as they've been pulled collectively through the mud in the seemingly neverending campaign analysis, which in classic presidential rear-window physics always draws to one inexorable and ridiculously unfair conclusion: The winners were geniuses and the losers were idiots.
A few words about Sarah Palin: She is one of the most fascinating women I have ever met. She crackles with energy like a live electrical wire and on first meeting gets about three inches from your face. Her instant subliminal message is: “I don’t know you very well, but I’m very clear about who I am.” She reeks of moxie and self confidence. And she’s fearless.
Well, she was mostly fearless when I intersected with her. But, she was also a week out from a nationally televised debate with Joe Biden, and she knew she was in trouble. She knew she wasn’t prepared. And she knew it would be difficult, maybe impossible to be ready. And the brief session I witnessed, verified as much and I was convinced the debate would be a disaster. But, despite the crushingly stressful situation in which she found herself, and despite the aching vulnerability, she squared up in her uniquely Palin way and made it clear to all of us in the room that she was going to bear down, get ready, and was not, under any circumstances, going to let John McCain down. But, I frankly thought she would.

But damned if she didn’t. I watched the debate on television from Austin and was stunned. The difference in the person I’d seen just five days earlier and the woman I saw step onto the stage with Joe Biden was a complete transformation. Granted, expectations were low, but she cleared ‘em.

Only one thing is for sure when it comes to Palin: There is more to come. Probably much more. And we’ll all be watching, fascinated by the antics of the thriller from Wasilla.

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