Allies of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin are now trying to throw McCain aide Nicolle Wallace under the proverbial bus, and as they do so those in McCain’s circle are wary of the impact on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., himself.
Since becoming McCain's running mate, there have been a host of issues where Palin publicly challenged decisions made by McCain – withdrawing from competition in Michigan, for instance, or for not attacking Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for his longtime relationship with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (See "McCannibals," from earlier this week.)
But nothing has seemed so resonant as $150,000 in clothes purchased for Palin and her family by the Republican National Committee.
Palin has taken to blaming the entire incident – as well as her introduction to the nation – on her “handlers,” presumably meaning Wallace, who was a key part of the team that handled Palin's successful announcement speech, her successful convention speech, and her interviews with Charlie Gibson, Sean Hannity and Katie Couric.
McCain allies say that Palin allies talked to Fox News commentator Fred Barnes to further throw Wallace under the bus. Barnes yesterday said, “the person who went and bought the clothes and, as I understand it put the clothes on her credit card, went to Saks and Neiman Marcus...the staffer who did that has been a coward” for not coming forward and accepting the blame for the $150,000 shopping spree. Barnes clarified that he was talking about Wallace.
But Wallace didn’t buy the clothes, put the clothes on her credit card, or go to Saks and Neiman Marcus, sources on the McCain campaign say.
And plenty of people on the McCain campaign are mystified as to how the $150,000 charges were racked up.
Moreover, McCain campaign sources say, Palin has developed quite a reputation on the campaign trail for shopping.
During this controversy, McCain insiders were appalled to read a blog account from Nevada noting that the day before Palin held an event in Reno, “Palin's assistant stopped in at the Ann Taylor at the Summit Sierra Mall and bought the skirt suit that she wore during to her speech Tuesday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. ‘She bought a short, three-quarter sleeve jacket, a skirt and a couple other items,’ store manager Suzette Ludden said.”
All the while, Palin herself has given the wardrobe story more media coverage by denying that she had anything to do with it.
"It is so nice to be back here in the Sunshine State and quite warm which I love and grabbed a jacket this morning to put on not realizing how warm it would be,” she said in Florida. “My own jacket, yes…"
“This whole thing with the wardrobe you know I have tried to just ignore it because it is so ridiculous,” she continued. “Those clothes they are not my property, just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased. I am not taking them with me, I'm back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska.”
At McCain HQ, senior aides rolled their eyes, unable to believe that Palin was continuing to give the story more airtime.
And some Republicans are starting to now say they should have seen this coming, since Palin has a reputation for making friends who can help her and then screwing them over.
The list is long:
* Former Wasilla Mayor John Stein says he mentored Palin during her 1994 run for City Council. Then she decided to challenge him and run for Mayor. “Things got very ugly,’ Naomi Tigner, a friend of the Steins, told Salon.com. “Sarah became very mean-spirited.” Palin allies suggested she would he “Wasilla's first Christian mayor,” even though Stein is Protestant. Palin allies also whispered that Stein and his wife – who hadn’t taken his name - were not legally wed. “We actually had to produce our marriage certificate,’ Stein said. His wife died in 2005 without ever reconciling with Palin. “I had a hand in creating Sarah, but in the end she blew me out of the water,” Stein told Salon. “Sarah's on a mission, she's an opportunist.”
* Former City Councilman Nick Carney also helped mentor Palin in her first city council run. They later had a falling out when Palin accused him of corruptly advocating that the city use his trash hauling business. “The episode might serve as a compelling, if small-bore, example of Palin's reformer instincts,” the New Republic reported. :Except that, according to those who were present, Carney wasn't quite the crooked trash magnate Palin makes him out to be. For one thing, Carney couldn't have proposed the ordinance because he'd recused himself from the matter. The council, in fact, had asked him to appear as a kind of expert witness on the relevant rules and regulations.” Carney endorsed Stein in the 1996 mayoral race against Palin, and news reports say she subsequently as mayor refused to call on him. Carney told Salon that Palin – without council authorization -- spent more than $50,000 in city funds to redecorate her office. “I braced her about it,” he said. “I told her it was against the law to make such a large expenditure without the council taking a vote. She said, 'I'm the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can't.”
* State Senate President Lyda Green from Wasilla, is a fellow conservative and was an ally of Palin’s throughout the 1990s. “If you had looked at our résumés, as far as being pro-life, pro-N.R.A., pro-family, pro-parental control, saving taxpayer dollars, keeping government out of our lives, we would have been identical,” Green told the New Yorker. “She traces the chill in their relationship to her decision not to endorse Palin in her 2006 gubernatorial primary. (She stayed neutral.)…
“The animosity became public last January, when Palin turned up on an Anchorage shock-jock radio program, ‘The Bob and Mark Show.’ Bob Lester said that he knew Palin believed Green was ‘a bitch’ and ‘a cancer.’ Palin laughed at the comments. ‘Sarah can be heard in the background tittering, hee-heeing,’ Green said, ‘never saying, ‘That’s not appropriate, let’s not talk like that, let’s change the subject,’ or anything.’ Green was devastated. ‘I worked through it,’ she said. ‘The difficult thing about it was when my children read about it online. They were dumbfounded, because they had known Sarah. I had breast cancer in ’97 and had a radical mastectomy. Sarah certainly knew I had breast cancer, because she sent me flowers when I was ill.’”
* Former Gov. Frank Murkowski made Palin the chair of a state commission overseeing oil and gas drilling. Four years later she challenged him – and beat him – for governor.
* Prominent Alaska conservative talk radio host Dan Fagan was a longtime friend. But he found himself on the outs after he criticized her for raising taxes on oil companies. “He found himself branded a ‘hater,’” the New York Times reported. “It is part of a pattern, Mr. Fagan said, in which Ms. Palin characterizes critics as ‘bad people who are anti-Alaska.’”
Now, I don’t know what happened with all of these former allies. Certainly Murkowski was much-criticized. And certainly Palin views all these publications as left-leaning and hostile to her views.
But that said, all I can tell you is that some McCain allies are now quite suspect of Palin and worried that Sen. McCain is going to become just the latest Palin ally whom she uses – and then discards -- in her rapid ascendance to power.