Why did John McCain really pick Sarah Palin to be his running mate? We’ve heard from McCain and lots of his former campaign staffers on the subject, but on Friday, the man who was actually in charge of vetting McCain’s potential running mates finally spoke out. In a speech before the Republican National Lawyers Association, Arthur Culvahouse talked publicly for the first time about his work for McCain and what he told the Arizona senator about Palin. (The full video, courtesy C-SPAN is here.) The headline: Culvahouse liked her, but thought she wouldn’t be ready. "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 said Friday. "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.'"
In his remarks, Culvahouse said McCain initially had a list of 26 potential running mates, many of whom did not know they were being considered. The two men had an agreement: Culvahouse would talk directly to McCain, and McCain wouldn’t consider anyone that wasn’t vetted by Culvahouse. In the end, Culvahouse and his team produced 50-page reports on each candidate, including details from their own investigations and answers to a 74 question survey that included questions ranging from their own fidelity—“Have you ever been unfaithful?”—to politics and policy. Palin, says Culvahouse, did not own up to her daughter Bristol’s pregnancy on the questionnaire but admitted it during an in-person interview. He says he asked Palin three important questions, including whether she would use nuclear weapons to protect the “American homeland” and what she would do if she could kill Osama bin Laden but would also incur “multiple civilian casualties/” Culvahouse didn’t divulge her answers, but told the audience that she knocked those questions “out of the park.” “Me and two of my most cynical partners interviewed her, and came away impressed,” Culvahouse said.