The mother of all personnel disputes

A bitter dispute has broken out in the aftermath of an ugly attack piece about Sarah Palin that appeared in Vanity Fair (the title — “It Came From Wasilla” — tells you all you need to know). That story angered Bill Kristol, who pointed the finger at Steve Schmidt, McCain’s 2008 campaign manager, as a source for some of the vicious criticism. He cited, in particular, a passage in the Vanity Fair story in which “some top aides” were said to worry during the campaign about the Palin’s “mental state” and the prospect that the Alaska governor might be suffering from post-partum depression following the birth of her son Trig.

This, in turn, re-opened the dispute about who was responsible for anti-Palin leaks during the 2008 campaign itself. Kristol accused Schmidt; Schmidt denied the allegation and claimed that Kristol was motivated by Schmidt’s attempts to have one of Kristol’s friends fired for other leaks. Kristol’s friend, Randy Schuenemann, then seconded the allegation that Schmidt indulged in anti-Palin leaks during the campaign.

The Politico has a good summary of the dispute. And if you really want to get into the weeds, Mark Hemmingway will take you there. Hemmingway’s post contains some juicy email correspondence that deals mainly with issues surrounding the attempt to fire Schuenemann. Hemmigway finds that, at a minimum, “Schmidt is not above anonymously leaking damaging information about the campaign”

What do I think? Sorry, I only immerse myself in these kinds of disputes when clients agree to pay my hourly rate.

UPDATE: The Politico’s Jonathan Martin writes that vitriol on display in the current dispute shows the degree to which “Palin remains a Rorschach test. . .within a tight circle of elite operatives and commentators, many of whom seem ready to carry their arguments in 2012.”

Was Palin a fresh talent whose debut was mishandled by self-serving campaign insiders, or an eccentric “diva” who had no business on the national stage.

Me: Yes and quite possibly.

Going forward, does she offer a conservative and charismatic face for a demoralized and star-less party? Or is she a loose cannon who should be consigned to the tabloids where she can reside in perpetuity with other flash-in-the-pan sensations?

Me: No [not in the sense that she should become the face of the party] and no.


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