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Finger-pointing over Sarah Palin's wardrobe fiasco now involves Nicolle Wallace

October 28, 2008 |  6:20 pm

(UPDATE: See update below.)

While Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s popularity is sinking like a hemline after a stock market crash, Republicans are busy playing the same “blame game” they often find so distasteful in others. (Like, say, those pesky Democrat types who were looking for culprits after the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina.)

In fact, Palin and her family's $150,000 clothing tab is turning out to be the shopping spree from hell, consuming all sorts of energy that might have been put to better use garnering votes.

When Palin addressed the issue in a campaign rally the other day, claiming thaNicole Wallace, an aide to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is under fire for the VP candidate's $150,000 wardrobe disaster. Here, she stands next to McCain chief policy advisor Randy Scheunemann at a campaign event in August 2008. t she hasn’t even worn most of the clothes and that in any case, they do not belong to her, some unnamed McCain advisers got angry with their vice presidential nominee.

They claimed she is looking out for her own interests at the expense of McCain’s. (Can we just say, though, that we are smitten by the phrase “rogue diva”?)

Last weekend, McCain aide Nancy Pfotenhauer (a name Jon Stewart loves to stutter over) insisted the clothes purchases were the idea of the Republican National Committee, which paid for them.

This prompted RNC Chairman Mike Duncan to insist in a rare public rebuke to the McCain campaign that the RNC was only doing what the campaign had requested and that the ensuing purchases were entirely legal. (The RNC is allowed to coordinate some expenditures with the campaign.)

Now, though, there appears to be a move afoot to place....

...blame where everyone is enjoying putting it this season: on the Bush White House. Well, not exactly the Bush White House, but with someone who came to the McCain campaign on a path that lead through the Bush White House.

The current favorite fall guy or gal is Nicolle Wallace, the former Bush White House communications director who left her post as political analyst on CBS Evening News last May to join the McCain campaign. She's under fire for the VP candidate's $150,000 wardrobe disaster.

Wallace grew up in Orinda, Calif., and graduated from UC Berkeley. Now, she's a senior adviser to Palin, something she may live to regret.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd got the ball rolling Sunday when she wrote that "dunderheaded aides, led by the former Bushies Nicolle Wallace and Tracey Schmitt (Palin's traveling press secretary), costumed their Eliza Doolittle for a ball when she should have been dressing for a bailout.

On Monday, (see video below) Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes alleged on the Fox News network that sources in the McCain campaign blamed Wallace for the clothing purchases, and leveled a rather drastic accusation against her:

“The person who went and bought the clothes and, as I understand it put the clothes on her credit card, went to Saks and Neiman Marcus ... the staffer who did that has been a coward, and has not stepped forward and said ‘I made a mistake, I bought these clothes, I shouldn’t have. It’s been an embarrassment to the campaign, and to Sarah Palin and to John McCain. I hurt the campaign. I am sorry. It was my fault.' Instead, she has allowed Sarah Palin to take the whole hit.”

If Wallace was not responsible, added Barnes, “then let her announce it publicly.”

(UPDATE: During Tuesday's panel discussion on Fox News' "Special Report with Brit Hume," Barnes apologized for being wrong in his accusation and specifically apologized to Wallace.)

Wallace responded to Politico, whose blogger Ben Smith has been on the case nonstop:

"I will not engage in a blame game. If folks are determined to lay this at my feet, I accept that from Fred Barnes or your unnamed sources or anyone else, and hope we can move on and discuss the big choices in this election.”

Tuesday, in an interview with Tina Brown's new website, the Daily Beast, Wallace told Ana Marie Cox that she was probably the victim of a nasty but planned attack:

There's obviously an organized campaign to lay blame for things at my feet, and I’m not going to engage before the campaign ends. I have a very long relationship with Fox News and the notion that someone would call me a coward on the air and accuse me of putting $150,000 on my credit card without a single person calling and checking with me suggests that something is going on.

Earlier, sensing that she was about to have a close encounter with a large vehicle, Wallace had e-mailed news organizations with a statement that we feel ought to earn some sort of Classy Moment Award:

"If people want to throw me under the bus," wrote Wallace, "my personal belief is that the most honorable thing to do is lie there."

-- Robin Abcarian

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Photo: John McCain staffer Nicolle Wallce, left. Credit: Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

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