If you thought there wasn’t much interesting left to learn about Sarah Palin, you should read Jane Mayer’s piece in The New Yorker about how Palin shrewdly laid the groundwork for her selection as John McCain’s running mate. It turns out it wasn’t all that hard -- all it took was charming some of the conservative pundits who came through Alaska on fundraising cruises for The Weekly Standard and National Review. But what really stands out is what a bunch of pushovers these guys were, and how her looks played no small part in convincing this bunch of middle-aged men that she was just the bee’s knees. Here are some excerpts:

On June 18, 2007, the first group disembarked in Juneau from the Holland America Line’s M.S. Oosterdam, and went to the governor’s mansion, a white wooden Colonial house with six two-story columns, for lunch. The contingent featured three of The Weekly Standard ’s top writers: William Kristol, the magazine’s Washington-based editor, who is also an Op-Ed columnist for the Times and a regular commentator on “Fox News Sunday”; Fred Barnes, the magazine’s executive editor and the co-host of “The Beltway Boys,” a political talk show on Fox News; and Michael Gerson, the former chief speechwriter for President Bush and a Washington Post columnist….

During the lunch, everyone was charmed when the Governor’s small daughter Piper popped in to inquire about dessert. Fred Barnes recalled being “struck by how smart Palin was, and how unusually confident. Maybe because she had been a beauty queen, and a star athlete, and succeeded at almost everything she had done.” It didn’t escape his notice, too, that she was “exceptionally pretty.”

My guess is that, like any smart politician, Palin got the list of who was coming, then had an aide spend a few minutes on Google researching each attendee and coming up with a tidbit or two to drop into the conversation. Oh, Mr. Hanson, it’s such a pleasure to meet you - I’m a fan of history! Mr. Bolton, I sure do appreciate your efforts to keep small arms flowing around the world! And they ate it up. I picture them standing in a little circle around her, creepy smiles on all their faces, each one hoping that she’d look deeply into his eyes or graze his arm with her hand.

And then they returned to Washington, and started talking her up to anyone who would listen. This was particularly true of Bill Kristol, who called Palin “my heartthrob” and talked about her so exitedly on Fox News Sunday that host Chris Wallace finally had to implore, “Can we please get off Sarah Palin?”

Palin may not know much about policy, but she sure knew how to charm a bunch of fifty-something conservative talking heads, and what it could do for her. They’re just lucky they didn’t play poker with her -- she would have taken them for all they had.

--Paul Waldman

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