Former Republican presidential nominee John McCain is now on the defensive after he said that during the 2008 campaign he ‘thought that Sarah Palin was the better candidate’ than Mitt Romney.
Now, considering he is a Romney surrogate, it comes as no surprise that he is backpedaling saying that the quote was taken out of context.
During an interview with Politico earlier Tuesday, the Arizona senator was explaining why he believes- in spite of public illusions to the contrary- that Romney should not be fearful of releasing more tax returns.
Trouble among friends? John McCain (left) explained that his comment was not a slight against Mitt Romney (right) but taken out of context
When McCain was running for the White House, he and his aides looked over the files of a number of top Republicans- including Romney- and part of that file included over 20 years of tax returns.
During that inspection, McCain said that there was nothing that disturbed him about the returns, but said that he simply decided to select Sarah Palin, the former Governor of Alaska who was only in the midst of her first term at the time, because she was more appealing to them.
When asked by the Politico reporter why he decided against Romney, McCain said: ‘Oh come on, because we thought that Sarah Palin was the better candidate.’
‘Why did we not take (Tim) Pawlenty, why did we not take any of the other 10 other people. Why didn’t I? Because we had a better candidate, the same way with all the others. … Come on, why? That’s a stupid question.’
That stupid question is now proving to be a troubling one for McCain, and he has made his feelings about the altered interpretation very clear.
‘It’s really getting a little disgraceful, twisting someone’s words when clearly I said and meant that she was the best fit for our campaign,’ he told a group of reporters after the initial article ran.
McCain’s former campaign manager Steve Schmidt explained to The Huffington Post that there was nothing wrong with Romney’s tax returns, but rather it was his personal wealth that caused hesitation for the McCain staffers during their discussions about the vice presidential pick.
‘Senator McCain got caught flat-footed answering a question about how many houses he owned,’ Mr Schmidt explained.
‘In fact, they were Cindy McCain’s properties but that distinction was lost in the political optics and we knew it would be a big liability that the presidential and the vice presidential candidates together owned more than a dozen homes. It was like something out of a Saturday Night Liv’ skit. I mean, come on.’
Their thinking appears quite prescient, as one of the biggest criticisms trailing Romney’s campaign throughout this year’s presidential bid.
Prior ambitions: John McCain ran, and lost, as the Republican presidential candidate in 2008 and many viewed his selection of Palin as damaging
McCain went on to defend Romney’s decision not to release any more than two years of tax returns, even though there have been calls for him to do so by major Republican players like Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, and Romney’s one-time opponent Senator Ron Paul.
‘So if your opponent makes a big deal out of some issue then you’re supposed to do something that no one else has done?’ McCain said as justification.
Romney has said that he will not release the returns- and will keep with tradition in doing so- because he doesn’t want to add fuel to the potential fire, even though he says that there is nothing illicit involved.
‘In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy,’ Romney told The National Review.
‘And I’m simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort, and lie about.’