Palin 'Going Rogue,' McCain Aide Says
(Oct. 25) - With 10 days to go until Election Day, long-brewing tensions between GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and key aides to Sen. John McCain have become so intense they are spilling out in public, sources say.
Several McCain advisers have suggested to CNN that they have become increasingly frustrated with what one aide described as Palin "going rogue." A Palin associate, however, said the candidate is simply trying to "bust free" of what she believes was a damaging and mismanaged roll-out.
McCain sources say Palin has gone off message several times, and they privately wonder if the incidents were deliberate. They cited that she labeled robocalls -- recorded messages often used to attack a candidate's opponent -- "irritating" even as the campaign defended their use. Also, they pointed to her telling reporters she disagreed with the campaign's decision to pull out of Michigan.
A second McCain source tells CNN she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.
"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.
"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."
A Palin associate defended her by saying she is "not good at process questions" and that her comments on Michigan and the robocalls were answers to process questions.
But this Palin source acknowledged that Palin is trying to take more control of her message, pointing to last week's impromptu press conference on a Colorado tarmac.
Tracey Schmitt, Palin's press secretary, was urgently called over after Palin wandered over to the press and started talking. Schmitt unsuccessfully tried several times to end the unscheduled session.
"We acknowledge that perhaps she should have been out there doing more," a different Palin adviser recently told CNN, arguing, "It's not fair to judge her off one or two sound bites" from the network interviews.
The Politico reported Saturday on Palin's frustration, specifically with McCain advisers Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt. They helped decide to limit Plain's initial press contact to high-profile interviews with Charlie Gibson of ABC and Katie Couric of CBS, which all McCain sources admit were highly damaging.
In response, Wallace e-mailed CNN the same quote she gave the Politico:
"If people want to throw me under the bus my personal belief is that the most honorable thing to do is to lie there," Wallace wrote.
But two sources, one Palin associate and one McCain adviser, defended the decision to keep her press interaction limited after she was first picked, both saying flatly that she was not ready and missteps could have been a lot worse.
They insisted she needed time to be briefed on national and international issues and on McCain's record.
Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt came to the back of the plane Saturday to deliver a statement to traveling reporters: "Unnamed sources with their own agenda will say what they want, but from Gov. Palin down, we have one agenda, and that's to win on Election Day."
Yet another senior McCain adviser lamented the public recriminations.
"This is what happens with a campaign that's behind, it brings out the worst in people fingerpointing and scapegoating," this senior adviser told CNN.
This adviser also decried the double standard, noting that Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, has gone off the reservation as well, most recently by telling donors at a fundraiser that America's enemies will try to "test" Obama.
Tensions like those within the McCain-Palin campaign are not unusual; vice presidential candidates also have a history of butting heads with the top of the ticket.
John Edwards and his inner circle repeatedly questioned Sen. John Kerry strategy in 2004, and Kerry loyalists repeatedly aired in public their view that Edwards would not play the traditional attack dog role with relish because he wanted to protect his future political interests.
Even in a winning campaign like Bill Clinton's, some of Al Gore's aides in 1992 and again in 1996 questioned how Gore was being scheduled for campaign events.
Jack Kemp's aides distrusted the Dole camp and vice versa, and Dan Quayle loyalists had a list of gripes remarkably similar to those now being aired by Gov. Palin's aides.
CNN's Dana Bash, Peter Hamby, Ed Hornick and John King contributed to this report.