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Sarah Palin couldn't remember Joe Biden's name -- and other debate prep tidbits from Steve Schmidt [Updated]

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin greets Democratic Sen. Joe Biden during their 2008 debate

Remember that vice presidential debate in 2008, when then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said to then-Sen. Joe Biden, "Hey, can I call you Joe?"

Well, it turns out that the Republican candidate for vice president couldn't remember Biden's name. Palin kept crossing his name with presidential candidate Barack Obama's, calling him O'Biden.

Palin has already confessed to this reflexive habit, recalling on page 289 of her memoir:

During rehearsals, I accidently called Randy “Senator O’Biden” — a slip of the tongue combination of Obama and Biden. The blunder struck too often, even tripping up campaign staffers. (Jay Leno later made the same slip on his new talk show, so we were in good company.) We laughed about it but knew that if I said it even once during the debate, it would be disastrous. Then somebody said, “You ought to just call him Joe.” ... So that’s what we decided I would do. We had no idea my mic would already be hot when I walked onstage, crossed over to his turf, and said, “Can I call you Joe?” The “expert” post-debate analysis was that my question was a cleverly devised strategy to disarm my opponent. Yeah, right.

Now, Steve Schmidt, campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, is adding new details to the back story.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

In an interview to air Sunday on CBS' “60 Minutes,” Schmidt said a member of the team that was helping Palin prepare for the debate called to alert him that Palin was not focused or engaged and that the debate could prove "a debacle of historic and epic proportions." Schmidt said he talked to Palin about the concern, and she agreed that things were not going very well. [Updated at 7:54 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Randy Scheunemann, who played Biden during Palin's debate prep, alerted Schmidt.]

As for the Biden name issue, Schmitt said, “It was multiple people — and I wasn’t one of them — who all said at the same time, ‘Just say, "Can I call you Joe,'" which she did.”

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Joe Biden and Sarah Palin at the 2008 vice presidential debate. Credit: Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images

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Comments () | Archives (15)

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Just another attempt to slam on Palin. I can remember Ted Kennedy calling Obama Osama. That slip was never made into a major story. Hey LA Times, Palin was defeated, and she is not running for anything. What are you so worried about? I would like to see what the same level of focus on Obama/Biden would uncover.

Do we need more proof that this woman is not capable of being President as half of the country thinks she is? The logic is still mind boggeling... you can remember to say, "Can I call you Joe?" but you can't remember his last name?

Poor little thing.
She also couldn't remember any newspapers she read.
She couldn't remember any military command experience she had.
She couldn't even remember to ANSWER the question she was asked during the debate, even blithely saying she wasn't going to answer. (Isn't that what a debate is? Question/answer/debate?)
I'm not surprised she couldn't remember a long-time U.S. Senator's name; one who also was the Democratic nominee for Vice President.
and this is "the one" that so many conservatives profess to want as the next President of the United States? they've just GOT to quit smoking those funny cigarettes.

It's obvious that Schmidt is desperately trying to find a scapegoat for his own incompetence. All through the campaign there was ongoing discussions about the McCain campaign's inability to focus on a message, or even figure one out, and a host of rather questionable strategic decisions. Palin may not be perfect, but I've seen nothing from Schmidt that would make me care what he has to say. I suspect both are right, she admitted the mistake already, and I'm sure Schmidt's staff would certainly make that kind of panicked call, especially since she herself said she thought the early prep by Schmidt's people didn't go well because it was poorly done. Given McCain's own mediocre-at-best debate performances, that's certainly not hard to believe. Again, this reeks of someone who hopes to get a job again on a campaign, and is hoping make people forget how poorly he ran McCain's. Schmidt's incompetance was worse than anything Gov. Palin could have done.

I would say that Sarah Palin adapted marvelously fast considering that she was thrust from obscurity into the national spotlight almost overnight. I have been impressed by what I've seen of Palin since the election, so the efforts by the News Nazi's to paint Palin as "stupid" are not going to stick. What this does tell me is that the left is terribly afraid of her.

I guess Schmidt is peddling a book, but who really cares what he has to say. He, and McCain, ran the campaign into the ground, but Schmidt refuses to admit it, it's sort of like 0bama refusing to admit that it is his policies that are the problem, and everything isn't Bush's fault. It is just like CBS to give Schmidt a platform for his anti-Palin views, they are the ones who also champion Levi Johnston every chance they get. Schmidt and Johnson are perfect together, two losers.

I don't want another candidate to hire Schmidt! He is obviously petty, self-centered and disloyal. He is the one who lost the race for McCain/Palin by trying to put her in a box based on his own prejudices against women.

I never want to hear that this man is associated with any campaign! He deserves to be an outcast.

Palin thought she was running against O'Bama anyway and simply got her O'B's mixed up. No wonder she slipped up and called the ticket "Palin-McCain".

Palin told the debate moderator Gwen Ifill that she would only answer the questions she wanted to answer and Ifill let her get away with it. A man, or Hillary, would NEVER have gotten away with dodging questions, winking and cliche-ing her way through the debate. Biden was forced to be careful not to offend and grin a lot. If Biden were to take her out, as he should have, he would have been seen as a bully and sexist. He kept it low-key, so it was seen (by some) that she held her own. All I saw was a deceitful, disrespectful GOP candidate.

"They are also building schools for the Afghan children so that there is hope and opportunity in our neighboring country of Afghanistan." --Sarah Palin. She proudly wears her ignorance like a badge of honor.

Sarah asked if she could call him JOE because she had pre-planned using the "Say it ain't so Joe" zinger...

Give it up Steve. You just sound petty...and it's way too late!

Wow. Palin poster number 5 proved Godwin's Law in record time.

(FYI: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.)

It IS interesting how those who protest against the idea that someone might hate their beloved politician usually harbor hate against a few politicians themselves. For every person that whines "stop hating Palin", there is at least one who hates Pelosi, for example.

The hypocrisy never stops.

the woman is a high functioning moron...and I'm being kind.

I just find it so astounding; like I'm living in bizarro land, that this woman is given any credence whatsoever, and there is even the pastiche of a serious debate on this woman's ability to run anything more than the corner convenience store. That this ignorant buffoon is being clung to as a beacon of ignorant self-righteousness is a blight on our American consciousness that I fear will take a long time to heal.

I wish that like good ole' Sar', I could ask for the laying on of hands of a would-be African witch-exorcist to excise this sideshow carnival - the rise of the extreme religious right of the last several years - from my mind, and from the golden book of American history, but I can't.

Poor ghost of Barry Goldwater. This man, who hated the increased role of the religious right in forcing his party's hand to an extremist position of intolerance and ignorance, would be rolling in his grave at the advent of the rise of a woman with no more qualification than her vague coalescence around religious bigotry.

I mourn a national debate around true conservatism - a principle espousing minimal government, and individual latitude of personal choice accordingly - and true liberalism. For the good of us all, Palin's 15 minutes need to retreat to the shadowed closets of "blunders made," in our name.

The phenomenon of Sarah Palin is that these revelations of her stunning ignorance only serve to enhance her appeal to her base. "She's like us!" Right: dumb as a sack of hair, I believe the expression is.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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