McCain Veep Vetter: I Told Him Palin Wouldn’t Be Ready on Day One

By Danny

Apr 17, 2009 4:39pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: In a speech in Washington today, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., the powerhouse Republican attorney who handled vetting for Sen. John McCain’s vice-presidential prospects, offered a rare and fascinating insider’s view of the process of selecting a running mate. He said this about his private advice to McCain on Palin: "I think she would have been a great vice president. So I told John, she wouldn’t have been ready on January 20th — I don’t think many people would. Maybe only a Dick Cheney who has been in the White House and has been Secretary of Defense would" be ready to take over the presidency," Culvahouse told a gathering of the Republican National Lawyers Association. "But she had a lot of capacity. The mistake I made — and we’ve laughed about it since — after giving him that advice, he said, ‘Well, what’s your bottom line?’ I said, ‘John. High risk. High reward.’ And his response, ‘You shouldn’t have told me that, I’ve been a risk-taker all of my life.’ " He said that nothing that eventually came out about Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, was a surprise to Team McCain. The subject of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy didn’t come up in the written questionnaire filled out by Palin and short-list candidates, but the governor mentioned it during an in-person interview, Culvahouse said. Culvahouse said he asked Palin three important questions: Why do you want to be vice president; would you use nuclear weapons "in defense of the American homeland"; and what would you do if you could kill Osama bin Laden but would incur "multiple civilian casualties." He didn’t describe her answers, but said: "She knocked those three questions out of the park." He also said he offered his services as a vice-presidential background checker but only found out McCain wanted him to do the job when the GOP nominee mentioned his name at a press conference. "John wins the nomination and I didn’t hear anything for months, and asked at a press conference in Miami, ‘Well who’s going to run your vice-presidential vetting process,’ he says, ‘A.B. Culvahouse.’ And I mean I had not heard anything," Culvahouse said. "But there we go, the Republicans do it differently from the Democrats as we always have. There are no rules." ABC News’ Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.

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