FULL COURT PRESS: “I give a lot of credit to [John] McCain personally for helping [Barack] Obama win,” said Lesley Stahl, who didn’t cover the presidential campaign directly this time around, but was on hand for a panel Monday night at the Rainbow Room that discussed “The Media and the Presidency.” Stahl joined former colleague Dan Rather, Jacob Weisberg of The Slate Group, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, The Week’s Bob Shrum and Ed Rollins, a Republican political consultant who worked on Mike Huckabee’s failed run for the White House.
There was plenty of blame to go around and Scarborough pointed to the McCain campaign, which he said had no strategy and instead, “a lot of day traders.…I’ve never seen a campaign as incompetent as McCain’s.” However, he did defend Sarah Palin, adding she “worked” until the economic meltdown. Hearing comments to the contrary in the crowd, he retorted: “I know we’re in the heart of Palin country here.” Scarborough’s commentary had moderator Sir Harold Evans ask the crowd, “Was Sarah Palin screwed by comedy? Do you feel sorry for her?” “No, I do not,” Stahl quickly retorted. Rather, who said the election looked even following the Republican convention, said the press loves the “new” and has a bias for the story — and during this campaign, Obama was the best story. “It didn’t have to do with Democrat or Republican,” added Scarborough, who said Hillary Clinton certainly had her fair share of negative coverage, with some calling her racist. “Barack Obama was a progressive idea,” he said. Weisberg said the president-elect “captured our imagination.” Rollins told the crowd that McCain never reached out to Huckabee about the vice presidency (he was the runner-up during the Republican primaries), adding Huckabee or Mitt Romney would have been better picks for McCain. The event was hosted by The Week magazine. — Amy Wicks