Insiders spill the beans on Sarah Palin

01:43, Jan 31 2009
ANYBODY HOME? With the election over, Republican insiders are telling the real truth about vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Weeks after Sarah Palin was lampooned by US comedians, her own party is catching up.

Aides to the Republican presidential candidate John McCain told US television network FOX News that their vice-presidential candidate did not know Africa was a continent and in fact thought it was a country.

"We're told she didn't understand that Africa was a continent rather than a country just in itself - a whole host of questions that caused serious problems about her knowledgeability," FOX News correspondent Carl Cameron said.

Cameron also said she was unaware who the members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were, or that the United States - along with Canada and Mexico - was one of them.

"We're told by folks that she didn't know what countries were in NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, that being Canada, the US, and Mexico," Cameron told presenter Shepard Smith.

"I wish I could have told you more at the time but all of it was put off the record until after the election.

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"There was great concern in the McCain campaign that Sarah Palin lack the degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate, a vice president, and a heartbeat away from the presidency."

The Alaskan Governor's big spend on clothes emerged publicly last month, but McCain's aides also said that she spent "thousands more" than the reported $US150,000 on clothes during the campaign, much to the shock of the donor that footed the bill, the US magazine Newsweek reported.

An angry aide, quoted in Newsweek, described the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast", and predicted that the truth would eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

Newsweek reported that Palin was told she could buy three suits and hire a stylist, but that she instead started shopping for her family at top clothing stores, and also used the credit cards of low-level staffers to do some of the shopping.

A McCain aide reportedly told the magazine that $US20,000 to $US40,000 was spent by Palin on her husband's clothes.

Cameron also said the Alaskan Governor started to "go rogue" early on, as shown by her first disastrous CBS interview with Katie Couric in September.

"She got very angry at staff, thought that she was mishandled, was particularly angry about the way the Katie Couric interview went," he said.

The moment was then satirised by Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live in a video clip watched by millions.

"She didn't accept preparation for that interview and the aides say that that was part of the problem. And there were times that she was hard to control emotionally - there's talk of temper tantrums at bad news clippings," he said.

Cameron said there was a "truncated" vetting process for Palin's selection, after McCain's camp decided the then-shortlist was inadequate to "change the game" in the race for the presidency.

So they opted instead for a candidate who reportedly once addressed McCain aides wearing nothing but a towel and another on her wet hair, Newsweek reported.

The relationship between McCain and Palin was further strained after she was recorded falling for a prank call by two Canadian comedians pretending to be French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Her staff didn't know the name of the French President," Sebastien Trudel told The Globe and Mail. "They asked us to spell it."

McCain and Palin both left Phoenix in separate cars yesterday but Palin, for her part, "bears no ill-will to staff", Cameron said.

Palin has not ruled out a 2012 tilt at the presidency, but Tina Fey has told Entertainment Weekly that she's hanging up her Palin wig.

Sydney Morning Herald