Sarah Palin's Bewitching of John McCain

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What magic spell has Sarah Palin cast over John McCain? Since bringing her on board as his vice presidential running mate on that fateful summer night in August 2008, he has been like a man possessed. He has repeatedly cast aside every last vestige of personal dignity and professional credibility to adamantly assert, even as the evidence stares him straight in the face, that Palin is the smartest, brightest and best hope for America, and he is proud to call her friend.

In the words of his former campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, "You know, it's the equivalent of saying down is up and up is down. It (is) provably, demonstrably untrue."

In the meantime, Sarah Palin seems to have no qualms about insulting, if in a runabout way, her former boss. In Going Rogue: An American Life, for example, she trashes nearly every single member of McCain's presidential campaign team - people, we assume, he personally and carefully selected; some of which, we assume, are his closest friends and professional allies. Palin calls them liars and cheat, incompetent, clueless, chauvinistic, and, in the case of Steve Schmidt, "rotund."

She might as well have said her former boss was a bumbling idiot when it came to identifying truly qualified people, since he obviously surrounded himself with the dregs of the political world. A man of McCain's stature, with such an extensive and commendable record of political accomplishments, should have taken exception to the accusation. To paraphrase Rep. Joe Wilson, he should have yelled, "Madam, you lie!" Or at least, in the words of Schmidt, "you are not accurate." Instead, McCain weakly defends his people, saying he had "the highest regard" for them; then immediately proclaims, "I'm still really proud of her and the campaign she ran."

A Capital Offense
Later, Palin was photographed wearing an old campaign cap on which McCain's name was crudely blacked out. At minimum, it was in poor taste and demonstrated a lack of good judgment. Palin denied any disrespect, saying she was just trying to "be incognito" on her vacation. McCain laughed it off, saying, "I don't blame her."

Perhaps the ultimate - and most disconcerting - example of McCain's persistent and mystifying defense of Palin came in the recent interview with Matt Lauer. Lauer mentioned the charges made in the new book, Game Change, in which authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin condemn the vetting of Sarah Palin as "woefully inadequate." Lauer wondered whether that was really the case.

McCain responded, "I wouldn't know."

Lauer was incredulous. In essence, McCain was proudly proclaiming his ignorance about the vetting process for his vice presidential running mate. He was dismissing as unimportant the question of how they came to qualify the woman who would have been a heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the world. Imagine if Barack Obama had been asked how Joe Biden came to be selected as his running mate, and he answered, "I wouldn't know."

An understandably nonplussed Lauer exclaimed, "You were the presidential candidate!"

McCain stood his ground: "I wouldn't know what the sources are nor care... The fact is that I'm proud of Sarah Palin... I will always be grateful for having her as my running mate."

The change in McCain since he took up with Sarah Palin has this political observer truly bothered and bewildered.