Alaska Governor Sarah Palin can still count A.B. Culvahouse Jr. as one of her defenders in the Lower 48.
Culvahouse, O’Melveny & Myers’ chairman and the leader of the team that vetted Palin before Republican presidential candidate John McCain chose her as his running mate last summer, spoke about Palin this morning at the Republican National Lawyers Association’s policy conference at the National Press Club. During the vetting process, said Culvahouse, “Me and two of my most cynical partners interviewed her, and came away impressed.” Culvahouse added that Palin would “have been a great vice president,” and said that he told McCain exactly that.
So what was so impressive? Culvahouse said Palin hit certain, particularly tough questions “out of the park,” such as whether she was prepared to use nuclear weapons, and whether she would order the CIA to shoot Osama bin Laden even if it guaranteed civilian deaths. Culvahouse did not offer the details of Palin’s answers, but said, “She had a lot of capacity.”
Culvahouse waved off some of Palin’s more controversial moments during the campaign. He questioned the editing of the now-infamous Katie Couric interview, in which Palin was unable to name Supreme Court cases she disagreed with other than Roe v. Wade. Culvahouse said Palin obviously knew about the Exxon Valdez case, since his firm represented Exxon in the matter, and Palin herself was at one time a plaintiff.
He offered some insight into the vetting process as well. Culvahouse said he had a team of 30 lawyers helping him, and that there were 26 contenders on the long list of possible vice presidents. He said “John was the decider” when it came to the vetting process, and that there was not a committee pushing McCain to choose one way or another.
Culvahouse said he only learned he would lead the vetting team when it was publicly announced. He said the campaign asked if he would be involved in legal policy issues after he and Wiley Rein’s Richard Wiley hosted a fundraiser for McCain in October 2007. Culvahouse agreed that if McCain won the Republican nomination, he would help with vetting, but he said he didn’t hear from the McCain campaign for months after that. Then, during a press conference in Miami, when asked who would lead his vice presidential vetting effort, McCain announced that Culvahouse had the job.