A.B. Culvahouse, a powerful Washington lawyer and former counsel to President Reagan, told an audience of Republican lawyers that for McCain, selecting a vice president came down to three questions: Why do you want to be vice president? Are you prepared to use nuclear weapons? And the CIA has identified Osama bin Laden, but if you take the shot there will be multiple civilian casualties. Do you take the shot?
“She knocked those questions out of the park,” he said at an event held at the National Press Club by the Republican National Lawyers Association. “We came away impressed.”
Culvahouse said that McCain “had 26 people on the long list,” though not all of them seemed like vice presidential material.
“We all know people with a long list of qualifications ... who, at least in my mind, may not be qualified to be vice president,” he explained.
Among those on the list, Culvahouse said that McCain was leaning toward tapping his friend Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) for the ticket, but was advised against it because of thorny ballot access issues.
“Five states have sore loser statutes,” he said, “[making] it very difficult for someone who's not a member of the Republican Party to become the vice presidential nominee if they only switch parties to become a Republican shortly before the convention.”
Culvahouse conceded that Palin was by no means a safe pick, but said that no member of the field stood out with qualifications comparable to Dick Cheney’s resume eight years before when former President George W. Bush picked him to be vice president.
“Dick Cheney may be the only Dick Cheney,” he said, pointing to the former vice president’s prior White House experience and service as secretary of defense.
The Republican attorney recalled that after the vetting process McCain asked him for his “bottom line” on picking Palin. “John,” Culvahouse said, “high risk, high reward.”
“You shouldn’t have told me that,” McCain responded. “I’ve been a risk taker all my life.”