"Pals Around With Terrorists": Palin Wasn't That Rogue, After All

In the mail this morning was an advanced copy of Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson's extremely well-reported history of the 2008 presidential campaign: The Battle for America is what the two veteran Posties have called it. The book will be published on August 4; Balz and Johnson will talk about it on Meet the Press on August 2.  There are plenty of scoops, and I can't resisting sharing just one involving a critical phase of the campaign in early October of 2008.

Whose idea was it for Gov. Sarah Palin to attack Barack Obama as a  guy who "pals around with terrorists?" Palin's camp has always insisted that the McCain high command endorsed the stratagem, while folks close to McCain have accused Palin of going "rogue" and pointed to the "pals around" attack as an example of how Palin simply could not be controlled. The idea that Palin was hard to manage as a candidate and ignored the advice and wishes of McCain's senior advisers is explicated in some detail by Todd Purdum.

But on the subject of linking Obama to ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers, it turns out that Palin hadn't gone rogue.  Balz and Johnson answer this question pretty definitively. They've obtained an e-mail from campaign adviser Nicolle Wallace sent to Palin on the morning of October 4rd, with an attached New York Times article about Obama's relationship with Ayers.

Turns out that the McCain campaign was a week away from running an ad linking Obama to Ayers. The e-mail from Wallace, according to Balz and Johnson, reads as follows: "Governor and Team: rick [Davis], Steve [Schmidt] and I suggest the following attack from the new york times. If you are comfortable, please deliver the attack as written. Please do not make any changes to the below without approval from steve or myself because precision is crucial in our ability to introduce this." 

McCain HQ had suggested the following line: "This is not a man who sees American as you and I do -- as the greatest force for good in the world. This is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country."

At the event, Palin said this:

"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country. This is not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America."
Schmidt has never denied ordering this attack, although others in the campaign told me at the time that Palin had instigated it. At a post-campaign discussion I attended a few months ago, Schmidt said that he regrets two attacks: an ad linking Obama with an Illinois sex-ed program and the decision to go after Obama's friendship with Ayers. (Obama's campaign aides, in turn, told Schmidt that they regretted running an ad implying that McCain was too old (or out of touch) to use the Internet.)