Palin’s Trump Endorsement Is Her Ultimate Betrayal of John McCain

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Political news this week has been dominated by Donald Trump’s latest spotlight-grabbing stunt — his endorsement by Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, whose ineptitude and stubborn ignorance were major factors in the GOP’s loss to Barack Obama that year.

“He’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”
– Donald Trump, smearing John McCain’s military service in July

In rescuing Palin from well-earned obscurity and thrusting her onto the national stage again, Trump got what he wanted, at least in the short term. Coverage of Palin’s word-salad-y endorsement speech led the nightly news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC Monday night. Both legit cable news networks, MSNBC and CNN covered the event live, as did Fox.

But in her MSNBC show that night Rachel Maddow made a point that everyone else overlooked.

Over the years since McCain made the hasty and ultimately disastrous decision to put Palin on the 2008 ticket, he has steadfastly refused to criticize Palin and, in fact, has had nothing but good things to say about her.

So how does Palin repay his kindness? By endorsing Trump, who just six months ago smeared McCain’s military service, particularly his years as POW in Hanoi.

“I supported him for president. I raised a million dollars for him. Still a lot of money. I supported him. He lost. He let us down. But, you know, he lost. So I never liked him as much after that because I don`t like losers but … let me get to it. He hit me – he`s not a war hero,” said Trump, who used a series of deferments to avoid service during the Vietnam War. “He’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

Palin’s endorsement may boost Trump chances among her meager evangelical fan base now. But, if past is prologue, it’s also likely that her endorsement might hurt him with normal voters later on. After all, Sarah Palin has never been anything but albatross — to her party, her state and even to the GOP’s Fox network.

We can only hope she has the same damaging effect on Trump’s surging presidential campaign.

And we’d be willing to bet that John McCain hopes so, too.

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Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: There are a lot of fascinating revelations in
this book.

Jane Mayer, a phenomenal reporter, “Dark Money”, thank you for being here.

JANE MAYER, “DARK MONEY” AUTHOR: Glad to be with you.

HAYES: All right. That is “ALL IN” for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining this hour.

This year, this summer, summer of 2016, the Republicans are going to have their presidential nominating convention in the middle of July. And then the Democrats are going to go after that.

The conventions are unusually early this year which means the parties will pick their nominees sooner than they usually do. That means in effect that the general election will last longer than it usually does.

But in terms of nominating a presidential candidate, technically peeking the Republicans are going to go first this year. And every cycle it`s done a little differently. In 2008, not only were the conventions much later that year, they didn`t happen till it August and September, but the order was reversed from this year in 2008, the Democrats went first.

Democrats held their big nominating convention for Barack Obama and Joe Biden in Denver. You might remember it culminated with that big speech in that huge arena in Denver where Barack Obama spoke on that set with the big theatrical columns. It was very dramatic.

The Republicans that year in 2008, they made a bold decision that they would take advantage of the fact that the Democrats were going first and they would take advantage of the fact that the conventions were so late that year. So the momentum coming out of the conventions was going to be really important for the general election. Because of those two factors, they decided to do something very bold. They decided in 2008 that one day after the Democratic convention was over, the very next day, John McCain would name his vice presidential running mate.

They didn`t name the person who was going to run with McCain until after the Democrats had their convention. It`s kinds of a genius move, right? It meant the biggest move who John McCain was going to pick as his running mate was this is distracting parlor game that everybody was nattering about all through the Democratic Convention when they should have been talking about Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

It also meant when John McCain made his announcement, it by necessity would completely take over the political news cycle, so it would squash all of the Democrats` momentum from their convention. The day after that convention was over, it was over. It turned the whole narrative of the race on its head.

In that tiny little window between the Democratic Convention and the Republican Convention in `08, the John McCain campaign basically just decided that they were going to defibrillate the election that year. And boom, they did.

One day after the Denver of convention was over in Fairborn, Ohio, John McCain basically yelled “clear” and then shocked everybody by picking Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. And the American people`s initial reaction was, I`m sorry, who now?

Gallup released this polling data the day after Sarah Palin was announce. Look at the headline, quote, “Palin unknown to most Americans.”

But she quickly became very, very, very famous. And she initially became very popular. She gave that rollicking well-received speech at the Republican Convention, that was the lipstick on a pig speech. Remember?

She was in huge demand at Republican campaign events. She was all over magazine covers at the time. There was this huge clamor and tons of interest in her. Everything was going great and then she started doing interviews.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

SARAH PALIN (R), THEN-VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In what respect, Charlie?

INTERVIEWER: The Bush – what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view?

INTERVIEWER: No, the Bush doctrine enunciated in September, 2002, before the Iraq war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was Governor Palin`s first interview as a vice presidential candidate. Didn`t go well.

She would do OK when she was interviewed in friendly territory like right wing talk radio or the FOX News Channel, but anytime they would let her out of that bubble, it went badly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand –

PALIN: I`ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

INTERVIEWER: Like what ones specifically I`m curious.

PALIN: All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

INTERVIEWER: Can you name a few?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news. Alaska isn`t a foreign country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The Sarah Palin choice both its timing and the fact that it was her, it was really an audacious strategic move by the McCain campaign to try to change the trajectory of the 2008 presidential race and the initial launch was very successful. She didn`t withstand the scrutiny very well though and the close questioning.

And in the end, between that Republican convention speech that was so successful and ultimately Election Day, the overall trajectory of her impact on the McCain campaign was downward. By October 30th, by just a couple of days before the election, whatever help she might have been early on had very clearly evaporated. She had become a hindrance, not a help.

A “New York Times”/CBS poll found 59 percent of the country didn`t think Sarah Palin was prepare for the job that John McCain had picked her for. That number was going up and up and up the longer the campaign went on. Quote, “Nearly a third of voters polled say the vice presidential selection would be a major factor influencing their votes and those voters broadly favor Senator Barack Obama.”

A couple of days later, of course, Senator Barack Obama and Joe Biden went on to win that presidential election and they won by a lot.

But then in the political life of Governor Palin, thereafter, things just continued to go weirdly. Within a matter of months after that election, Governor Palin had decided to inexplicably and without warning quit her job as governor of Alaska. She was still in the middle of her first term as governor but she quit because she said she had other political desires that she could not quite explain but she insisted those other political things she wanted to do insisted she would have to leave her job as governor.

She then got news jobs on the Fox News Channel for a while and on various reality shows. Eventually she starred what was basically an Internet channel called Sarah Palin TV, Sarah Palin Channel. That`s over now too, I think. Although how would we know?

In 2011, she briefly flirted with running for president herself. You might remember at one point in the summer of 2011, her exploration of a possible Sarah Palin presidential run produced a Palin family bus tour. Remember that? In which she and an entourage of relatives and assistants, staffers set off across the country. They said they just wanted to be tourists and sight see memorably in New York City, the Sarah Palin is maybe running for president bus tour also involved Governor Palin eating pizza in Midtown Manhattan with Donald Trump and his wife that is where Donald Trump famously ate pizza with a knife and fork.

Ultimately though, Governor Palin decided she would not run for president in 2012. Although again, her quitting announcement, her announcement why she was not going to run for president like the time she quit running for governor, it was a just little hard to understand. Just in terms of her choice of language and how she was trying to explain herself, it was just hard to get.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: You know, there was that is sense through my own personal internal deliberations in making this decision, I would go back and forth about whether now is the time and if I say no to the opportunity that`s in front of me via running for office now will politically speaking will I die, will I be ineffective? But no, after making the decision today and making the announcement, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt after great confirmation today too, Greta, personally speaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I don`t know. I mean, I can tell because of the questions that Greta asked her that night because of what it said in terms of the words at the bottom of the screen. I could tell them what was going on there was she was announcing she was not running for president in 2012 but just listening to her it was very hard to get. That tends to be a theme with Governor Palin.

But she has not had a job in politics since she quit as Alaska`s governor in 2009. She is mostly a conservative media celebrity now. She`s not a particularly prolific one though.

The only major appearance she has made in the last six months was at that the Washington, D.C. rally against the Iran deal last September. That was the rally where the crowd seemed very happy she was there. It seemed almost news worthy she had flown all way from Alaska to Washington to be there.

But again, once she started talking, it was hard to follow exactly what she meant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Remember, the enemy comes to kill still and destroy. But now they`re going to inspect themselves? Oh, what could go wrong with that? Yes, don`t call us. We`ll call you, they say. And that`s really good because Obama is standing by with his mighty phone and his mighty pen in case they stretch the truth a little. And they start dropping bombs.

No, only in an Orwellian Obama world full of sprinkly fairy dust broken from atop his unicorn as he`s peeking through a really pretty pink kaleidoscope would he ever see victory or safety for America or Israel in this treaty. This treaty will not bring peace. You don`t reward terrorism. You kill it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It is sometimes hard to know what Sarah Palin means, just on a day to day basis. Sometimes it is hard to follow what she is talking about. But it is also hard to know what she means in Republican politics anymore. And that is newly relevant because today, she is backing in be to Republican presidential politics in a big way with a big high profile endorsement decision.

That is, I think, probably going to cause a lot of upset in one particular part of the Republican establishment. And it`s not about Sarah Palin`s popularity with the conservative base. It`s not about how much pull she`s got with her, I don`t know, Facebook followers or wherever people follow her now.

It is about something personal and specific, because when the John McCain campaign in 2008 decided to elevate Sarah Palin from total obscurity to make her his vice presidential running mate, they knew they were making a big strategic gamble, right? They knew they were taking a big risk and it turned out in the end to be a bad choice. It hurt John McCain`s chances, right? I mean, who knows if John McCain could have won that presidential campaign in any circumstances when George W. Bush the outgoing Republican president had a 22 percent approval rating, right?

But picking Sarah Palin we now know did not help. It hurt his chances in the end. And John McCain has there ever been asked about that bad decision he made concerning Sarah Palin. He`s been asked about it over and over and over and over again.

And John McCain from the very beginning has been unflinchingly loyal to her. He has never thrown her under the bus. He has never conceded it was a bad decision to pick her. He has never ever said a bad word against her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have the greatest appreciation for Governor Palin and her family. There`s great joy to know them. She invigorated our campaign. I have no doubt of my admiration and respect for her.

I have great respect and admiration for her and her family.

INTERVIEWER: That was your choice, you`re proud of it.

MCCAIN: I`m very proud.

INTERVIEWER: Think she could be president one day?

MCCAIN: Sure, sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: After John McCain and Sarah Palin lost that election in 2008, a friendly interviewer`s, confrontational interviewers everybody interviewing John McCain would basically ask him about that decision more or less trying to goad him into saying that yes, Sarah Palin that choice was a bad mistake. He would never ever concede that. He would never say it.

Even later in 2009, when Governor Palin inexplicably quit as governor of Alaska, and I mean, literally inexplicable, nobody understood her explanation for why she was doing it, he still would not criticize her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I respect Sarah Palin. I appreciate her and her husband enormously. I think she will continue to play a major role in the future of the Republican Party. And I have to respect the decision she made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Even after she quit in the middle of her first term as Alaska governor. That was John McCain refusing to criticize her for that. The following year, in 2010, he had her to come to Arizona to campaign for him in his Senate re-election bid that year.

By 2012, when the Republican Party was once again confronting this choice of who their nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney would pick as his running mate, at that point when Romney was considering who he would with, a lot of people came out of the woodwork in that discussion to talk about once again how terrible John McCain`s choice had been. How devastating it had been for his campaign. What a terrible choice she was.

Even then, he refused to criticize her. He never would.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

INTERVIEWER: Senator McCain, I want you to hear a sound bite from one of the Sunday shows. Dick Cheney sits down, talks about your selection of vice president candidate, Governor Palin. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I like Governor Palin. I`ve met her. I know her. She`s an attractive candidate, but based on her background, she only was governor for what, two years. I don`t think she passed that test.

INTERVIEWER: Being ready?

CHENEY: Being ready to take over. I think that was a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: Do you agree, disagree?

MCCAIN: Well, I`m always glad to get comments four years later. Look, I respect the vice president. But the fact is that I`m proud of Sarah Palin. I`m proud of the job she did. I`m proud of the job she continues to do.

I love Sarah. I think she is still the best decision that I have ever made.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: The best decision I have ever made.

That actually that last comment from the radio show was John McCain on the day of the New Hampshire primary in 2012. He has steadfastly stood by her. He has refused to ever criticize her, to ever admit there was anything wrong about her choice. He has been capital “L” loyal to her in such an unwavering way, even has his entire party has turned against this is decision that he made for obvious reasons. He has been unflinchingly loyal to her.

And today as a thank you for that in response to everything John McCain has done for her and the way he today by her for all of these difficult years, today in thanks, Sarah Palin issued her endorsement for the 2016 presidential race. She endorsed this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I supported him for president. I raised a million dollars for him. Still a lot of money. I supported him. He lost. He let us down. But, you know, he lost.

So I never liked him as much after that because I don`t like losers but, Frank, let me get to it. He hit me – he`s not a war hero.

FRANK LUNTZ: He`s a war hero. Five and a half years –

TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He`s not a war hero.

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