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Awkward press conference for Palin

Two hours before Thursday morning’s press conference at the Republican Governors Association — her first since the Republican presidential ticket lost last week — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was still scheduled to appear alone. Instead, she spoke with a row of fellow governors standing silently behind her.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told CNN producer Evan Glass that they all met at 9 a.m. — an hour-and-a-half before the press conference’s scheduled start time — and by then it had been “decided” that they’d all go out together.

An RGA official told CNN the reason for the change is a “long story.”

He said that when the governors were all at their private morning meeting, someone brought up the desire to get beyond what happened in the McCain campaign and look towards 2009 and 2010.

Then, this source said, Palin piped up and said she agreed that she didn’t want to talk about the past.

This source insists that it was then decided that the other governors in the meeting would go with her to her press conference as a “show of unity.”

The source admitted that it may not have been easy for some “big egos” to go in and stand behind her, but they knew they’d be doing so.

Not present: the conference host, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. A Florida GOP source tells CNN “he didn’t know about it,” because he wasn’t at the morning meeting.

In another shift, Palin — who had been slated to take questions for 20 minutes or so — took just four press queries.

Why did Texas Gov. Rick Perry cut it off so fast?

“We were running behind schedule,” insisted the GOP official.

Palin may not have wanted to talk about the past, but her speech was almost entirely about the McCain campaign; she included little in the way of detailed ideas about the way forward for Republicans, the theme of the panel.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | News, Politics | , | Leave a comment

Palin says she doesn’t regret Couric interview

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Wednesday she does not regret her interview with Katie Couric of CBS and wishes she had been more available to the media during the campaign.

“I should have done it, yes. And her questions were fair,” Palin told CNN’s Larry King Wednesday. “Obviously being a bit annoyed with some of the questions, my annoyance shows through.”

Palin had some well-publicized fumbles during interviews with Couric in late September leading up to her vice presidential debate.

“Certainly I should have done the interview. And to attribute I think that interview to any kind of negativity in the campaign or a downfall in the campaign, I think it’s ridiculous.”

Palin added she wished she talked more to the media.

“In retrospect, in hindsight, I wish I would had more opportunities or that we would have seized more opportunities to speak more,” Palin said.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | News, Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Obama makes first visit to Oval Office

President Bush had a “relaxed” and “friendly” meeting with President-elect Barack Obama after he and first lady Laura Bush welcomed their successors to their future home Monday, a White House spokesman said.

“The president and the president-elect had a long meeting, described by the president as good, constructive, relaxed and friendly,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement. “The president enjoyed his visit with the president-elect, and he again pledged a smooth transition to the next administration.”

Perino said the two discussed national and international issues but did not provide specifics of the conversation. Bush also gave Obama a tour of the White House’s living quarters, including the Lincoln bedroom.

Bush and Obama held a private meeting in the Oval Office, while the first lady gave incoming first lady Michelle Obama a tour of the residence.

The president and president-elect walked together along the Colonnade by the Rose Garden before entering the Oval Office together. They briefly waved to reporters along the way.

Obama and Bush were not expected to speak on camera after their meeting.

The two met in the Oval Office for just over an hour. When President George H.W. Bush hosted President-elect Bill Clinton after the 1992 election, the two talked for nearly two hours.

Monday’s meeting was a historic formality, but it was also a time for serious talks. It marked the first time Obama has visited the Oval Office.

Bush and Obama “had a broad discussion about the importance of working together throughout the transition of government in light of the nation’s many critical economic and security challenges,” said Stephanie Cutter, spokeswoman for Obama’s transition team.

“President-elect Obama thanked President Bush for his commitment to a smooth transition, and for his and first lady Laura Bush’s gracious hospitality in welcoming the Obamas to the White House,” Cutter said.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | News, Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

How Far Will Sarah Palin Go?

Of all the torn scraps of conventional wisdom being swept up and thrown away after the election, here’s one that may be the most discredited of all: Americans don’t vote based on the vice-presidential nominee. From the moment Sarah Palin finished her incandescent speech at the Republican National Convention to the late-October New York Times/CBS News poll in which a third of respondents said the choice of Vice President would have a “great deal of influence” on their vote, it was clear that Palin was a transformative figure. In short, she single-handedly changed the race–only not in the way John McCain’s campaign had hoped.

In fact, she cost the GOP ticket more than she helped it. In that poll, 59% said they didn’t think she was qualified to be Vice President–a view shared by many mandarins of the GOP. But the enthusiasm she briefly generated made gaming Palin’s next move a popular sport. Will she join the big-money speaker’s circuit? Become, as Tina Fey joked, the “white Oprah”? Run for Senate? Run for President in 2012 as the new face of a reinvented Republican Party?

First she’s going to have to survive the next few weeks. Anonymous sources from within the McCain campaign are popping up everywhere in the media, accusing Palin of throwing tantrums, of not knowing that Africa was a continent, of being a profligate spender. There’s always a circular firing squad after a losing election, and Palin is standing right in the middle of this one. RNC lawyers are coming to Alaska to hold her to account for some of the more than $150,000 spent on clothing and luggage. The first step in plotting her future is finding a way to live down a lot of these latest headlines.

Then she’ll have to wait out the two years she still has left as Alaska governor. And they could be difficult ones. Her aggressive posture toward the state legislature’s Troopergate investigation and her emergence as a GOP leader have frayed relationships crucial to Palin’s success. Her major accomplishments in Alaska–laying the groundwork for a natural-gas pipeline, reforming oil taxes–relied on support from Democratic lawmakers, who will now be less inclined to cross the aisle for her.

Alaska will also be staring down a budget crisis: crude oil slipped below $60 a barrel just before the election, and Alaska’s budget balances only if oil is in the mid-$70 range or higher. The days of Palin’s $1,200 bonus check to every Alaskan may be over, and if her popularity at home suffers, so does her national profile.

Once her term ends, her options open up. She could try to capitalize on her fame with a cable TV show or, more likely, a lucrative speaking career. Matthew Jones, senior vice president of Leading Authorities Inc., a speakers bureau that represents top political figures like Trent Lott and Terry McAuliffe, says Palin could be a big hit if she were willing to work hard. “A paid speech is different than a campaign speech,” he says. Corporations and groups would book her initially just because of who she is, says Jones, but to have staying power, she’d need a compelling speech, one building on her life story or talking about what it means to be an American. If Palin did apply herself, the rewards would be rich: Jones says she could make $30,000 to $45,000 for an hour-long keynote speech.

If Palin wants to stay in Alaska politics, however, there’s only one good job other than governor: U.S. Senator. It seems unlikely that she would run this quickly for Ted Stevens’ seat if he wins his tight election and subsequently is forced out of the Senate. She needs time to recuperate and, frankly, to study up on the issues. But in 2010, Republican Lisa Murkowski will be up for re-election. Palin’s broad popularity in Alaska (her approval rating at home is still in the 60s despite her turbulent autumn) wouldn’t change the fact that Murkowski, whose approval rating was 63% in a March survey, would be a formidable opponent. “Palin would have a hard time winning” the GOP primary, says Gregg Erickson, editor at large for the Alaska Budget Report. Don Mitchell, a Democratic attorney and historian, calls Palin an instinctive politician whose talents rival Ronald Reagan’s, and he thinks she could beat Murkowski–but he predicts that Palin would find the Senate a poor fit for her disposition. “She’d have to come in like Hillary Clinton, put her celebrity aside and work hard at getting respected,” he says. “I can’t see her doing that.”

November 8, 2008 Posted by | News, Politics | , | 9 Comments

Michelle Obama’s Winning Style

First Lady of fashion Michelle Obama has been setting trends in colorful shift dresses punched up with chunky costume jewelry. “I’ve learned to go with colors and cuts that look good on me, that I’m comfortable in,” Obama has said. And, although she wears the cream of American designers including Narciso Rodriguez, Isabel Toledo and Thakoon Panichgul, she’s just as comfortable — and stylish! — in budget buys from J. Crew and Gap. Should be a very fashionable four years!

Obama celebrated her husband’s election win in a Narciso Rodriguez design.

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Entertaintment | , , , | Leave a comment

Palin calls attacks ‘cruel’ and ‘cowardly’

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called former aides of Sen. John McCain “jerks” for circulating unflattering stories about her since the Republican ticket lost its bid for the White House Tuesday.

The stories, which have been attributed to unnamed sources within the McCain campaign, include claims that Palin did not know Africa was a continent instead of a country, or which countries are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite touting her familiarity with neighboring Canada.

Speaking with CNN’s Gary Tuchman after returning to Alaska, Palin speculated those stories may have originated with campaign staffers who helped her prepare for her debate with Democratic Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

November 8, 2008 Posted by | News, Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Strains Between McCain and Palin Aides Go Public

Now that the defeated team of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have gone their separate ways, the knives are out and Palin is the one who is getting filleted.

Revelations from anonymous critics from within the McCain-Palin campaign suggest a number of complaints about the Alaskan governor:

Fox News reports that Palin didn’t know Africa was a continent and did not know the member nations of the North American Free Trade Agreement — the United States, Mexico and Canada — when she was picked for vice president.

The New York Times reports that McCain aides were outraged when Palin staffers scheduled her to speak with French President Nicholas Sarkozy, a conversation that turned out to be a radio station prank.

Newsweek reports that Palin spent far more than the previously reported $150,000 on clothes for herself and her family.

Several publications say she irked the McCain campaign by asking to make her own concession speech on election night.

The tension is likely to continue or get worse. Lawyers for the Republican National Committee are heading to Alaska to try to account for all the money that was spent on clothing, jewelry and luggage, according to The New York Times.

Reports of agitation between the two camps bubbled up in the final weeks of the campaign as Barack Obama began pulling away and the GOP duo was unable to regain the momentum.

But those reports are no longer in the rumor stage as McCain loyalists are now blasting away at the Alaska governor, who was a favorite of the Republican right during the campaign, but was cited in numerous polls as a reason why many Americans wouldn’t vote for the Arizona Republican.

Perhaps the most dangerous allegation for Palin are reports in The New York Times and Newsweek that when she was urged by McCain adviser Nicole Wallace to buy three suits for the Republican convention and three suits for the campaign trail, she went on the now-infamous shopping spree at swank stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

A Republican donor who agreed to foot a majority of the expenses was stunned when he received the bill, Newsweek reported. Both the Times and Newsweek report that the budget for the clothing was expected to be between $20,000 and $25,000. Instead, the amount reported by the Republican National Committee was $150,000.

That wasn’t the whole tab, however, according to Newsweek. The magazine claims that Palin leaned on some low-level staffers to put thousands of dollars of additional purchases on their credit cards. The national committee and McCain became aware of the extra expenditures, including clothes for husband Todd Palin, when the staffers sought reimbursement, Newsweek reported.

There is one comment in particular from a McCain aide that guaranteed to heighten friction between the two camps. The angry aide described the Palin family shopping spree to Newsweek as “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast.”

It’s unclear how much McCain knew about the clothing debacle. Reports suggest that he was kept out of the loop for fear that he would not approve.

Both Newsweek and The New York Times say McCain and Palin had little contact with each other.

“I think it was a difficult relationship,” one top McCain official confided to The New York Times. But a high level McCain adviser told ABC News that the two had a good working relationship.

“He likes her,” this senior McCain adviser said last week. “He’s had no problem with her. He’s very appreciative of what she’s done.”

The adviser said McCain and Palin talked at least once a day. He also said McCain frequently joked about how large Palin’s crowds were compared to his.

However, press accounts today suggest that Palin rubbed many of the McCain aides the wrong way. On election night when it was clear that McCain would be giving a concession speech instead of an acceptance speech, Palin approached McCain with a speech in hand hoping to make her own concession speech, according to published reports.

Vice presidential candidates traditionally leave the spotlight to the top of the ticket on election night and McCain aides made it clear to Palin that she would be a spectator that night, not a speaker, The New York Times reported.

And when McCain and Palin split up in Arizona Wednesday, the personal differences were stark.

McCain drove himself home in a Toyota sport utility vehicle. Palin’s departure was a grander event. She left with an entourage of 18 family members and friends and a Secret Service detail, heading to the airport in a motorcade stretching more than a dozen vehicles, flanked by a dozen more cops on motorcycles.

McCain aides had numerous complaints about Palin. She was unwilling or unable to find the time and energy to prep for her disastrous interview with Couric. And when she did study, she astonished her handlers by her unsophisticated views.

She didn’t know Africa was a continent, according to Newsweek. Fox News revealed that during her cramming, she couldn’t name the three countries that belong to the North American Free Trade Agreement: the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Questions followed Palin home to Alaska. She was asked about some of the accusations from anonymous sources when she landed there late Wednesday.

Asked about the Fox report that she did not know the NAFTA members or that Africa was a continent, Palin said, “If they’re an unnamed source, that says it all. I won’t comment on anyone’s gossip based on anonymous sources. That’s kind of a small of a bitter type of person who anonymously would charge that I didn’t know an answer to a question. So until I know who’s talking about it, I won’t have a comment on a false allegation.”

When pressed on what went wrong with the campaign, she said, “I certainly am not one to ever waste time looking backwards.”

She defended herself against the notion that she is to blame for the failure of the McCain-Palin ticket.

“I don’t think anybody should give Sarah Palin that much credit, that I would trump an economic, woeful time in this nation that occurred about two months ago, that my presence on the ticket would trump the economic crisis that America found itself in a couple of months ago and attribute John McCain’s loss to me,” Palin told reporters in Arizona Wednesday.

“Now, having said that, if I cost John McCain even one vote, I’m sorry about that because John McCain I believe is the American hero. I had believed that it was his time. … He being so full of courage and wisdom and experience, that valor he just embodies, I believe he would’ve been the best pick, but that is not the Americans’ choice at this time.”

She also rejected the characterization that she was a “diva” on the campaign trail, as one anonymous McCain adviser told CNN.

“If only people, y’know, come on up and travel with us to Alaska and see this ‘diva’ lifestyle that I supposedly live or would demand, because it’s just false,” she said.

Asked about her national political ambitions, she said, “I have not given it any thought in the context of making any kind of decisions at all, so no, just happy to be back here.”

In one of her favorite coffee shops in Wasilla Tuesday morning, Palin summed it up this way: “Forever, I’m going to be Sarah from Alaska.”

November 6, 2008 Posted by | News, Politics | , , , , , , | 3 Comments