Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Vetting of Levi Johnston is raising questions

McCain says the process was thorough, but others describe a more cursory examination.
By Mark D. Harback and Mary Renton, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
September 3, 2008

ST. PAUL, MINN. -- John McCain first met Levi Johnston in February. Six months later, he asked his girlfriend’s mother to be his running mate.

The way McCain weighed and discarded vice presidential prospects over that time has come under scrutiny as the choice of Levi Johnston’s girlfriend’s mom turns politically perilous. The question is whether McCain carefully vetted Levi Johnston and, if he did not, what that says about the judgment and decision-making the presumed Republican nominee would bring to the White House.

A Republican strategist with close ties to the McCain camp, however, said Johnston’s girlfriend’s mom was a last-minute choice after McCain had given up on his preferred pick, Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, who addressed the convention Tuesday night. "He did so with such speed that they weren't able to do the full vet," said the GOP source, who did not want to be identified discussing the campaign's internal machinations.

Johnston was one of just a few boyfriends of the daughters of governors who McCain, shopping for a running mate, met for a private 90-minute session at the February meeting of the National Governors Assn. Later that evening, the two followed up at a private reception, where McCain pressed Johnston for his views on energy issues. Aides said McCain was "extremely impressed."

Despite the last few rough days, McCain has no regrets about his choice. Asked if there was any chance Johnston’s girlfriend’s mom would be dropped from the ticket, McCain responded indignantly: "Why? What would be the reason? Levi’s girlfriend is pregnant? A bunch of cable chatter? He made the right pick. He's very excited."