The Note: Expecting Surprises

ST. PAUL, Minn. --

What did John McCain know, and when did he know it?

We will get a full Republican National Convention back starting Tuesday. (Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Sen. Fred Thompson help get us from telethon to television -- and President Bush will get his address via satellite, for better and worse, while Rudy Giuliani gets bumped to another night.)

But even if we didn't get back on track, just think of what we've been through together already. A storm blew through St. Paul Monday -- and there was a hurricane you may have heard about, too.

And behind the news about Gov. Sarah Palin's daughter (biology as pushback?) is a pregnant series of questions about Sen. John McCain: Did he know, really and fully, what he was getting in to? Does his campaign regret the choice, even a little bit? What does all of this say about his judgment?

(How many more stories before Palin = "Northern Exposure," and how long a trip is it from there to Tom Eagleton/Harriet Miers territory?)

(And while we're waiting for those answers -- Sen. Barack Obama will be George Stephanopoulos' exclusive headliner Sunday on ABC's "This Week.")

It was a good political day to dump Palin information, as Gustav wasn't quite dumping its wrath on the Gulf Coast. But this starts to add up:

"Among other less attention-grabbing news of the day: it was learned that Ms. Palin now has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state's public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede; and that Mr. Palin was arrested 22 years ago on a drunken-driving charge," Elisabeth Bumiller writes in The New York Times.

"We are going to flush the toilet," new McCain-Palin aide Tucker Eskew (yes, THE Tucker Eskew) tells the Times.

Things Team McCain may have wanted done, say, last week: "Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin's background," Bumiller reports. "A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice."

Surely somebody up there got a phone call: "The former U.S. attorney for Alaska, Wev Shea, who enthusiastically recommended Palin back in March, said he was never contacted with any follow-up questions Chris Coleman, one of Palin's next-door neighbors, said that no one representing McCain spoke to him about Palin. Another neighbor also was never contacted, he said Monday," McClatchy's Sean Cockerham reports.

"Republican Gail Phillips, a former speaker of the Alaska House, said that she was shocked by McCain's selection of Palin and told her husband, Walt, 'This can't be happening because his advance team didn't come to Alaska to check her out.' "

It is happening, indeed. And as Team McCain tries to make it stop -- how much of this is cold hard fact? (And why did search details like these only come out after the revelations did?)

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