I realize certain people are trying to kill Steve Schmidt's career as a GOP consultant, but, man, as the details of the McCain campaign's infighting over Sarah Palin continue to trickle out, it's hard not to feel sorry for Schmidt over the mess he had to deal with.

Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe, who are writing a book on Palin, have gotten their hands on an email exchange between Palin and Schmidt from October '08 that was about how the campaign should handle the story of Todd's membership in the Alaskan Independence Party, which advocates Alaska's secession from the United States. After Palin complained that the campaign wasn't doing enough to defuse the Todd issue, Schmidt told Palin just to ignore the issue altogether. Which led to this:

This clear cut response from the campaign's top dog carried an air of finality, but it did not satisfy Palin. She responded with another e-mail, adding five more names to the "cc" box, all of whom traveled on her campaign plane. They included her senior political adviser Tucker Eskew, senior aide Jason Recher, the lone traveling aide from her Alaska office Kris Perry, press secretary Tracey Schmitt and personal assistant Bexie Nobles.

Palin's insertion of the five additional staffers in the e-mail chain was an apparent attempt to rally her own troops in the face of a decision from the commanding general with which she disagreed. Her inclusion of her personal assistant was particularly telling about her quest for affirmation and support in numbers, since the young staffer was not in a position to have any input on campaign strategy.

"That's not part of their platform and he was only a 'member' bc independent alaskans too often check that 'Alaska Independent' box on voter registrations thinking it just means non partisan," Palin wrote. "He caught his error when changing our address and checked the right box. I still want it fixed."

Palin was attempting to bend the facts ever so slightly to fit neatly into her version of events. In truth, the box that Alaskans have the option of checking when registering to vote states the full name of the party, "Alaskan Independence Party," not "Alaska Independent," which would make an error by uncommitted voters more plausible.

Clearly irritated by what he saw as Palin's attempt to mislead her own campaign and apparently determined to demonstrate that the ultimate authority rested with him, Schmidt put the matter to rest once and for all with a longer response to everyone in the e-mail chain.

"Secession," he wrote. "It is their entire reason for existence. A cursory examination of the website shows that the party exists for the purpose of seceding from the union. That is the stated goal on the front page of the web site. Our records indicate that todd was a member for seven years. If this is incorrect then we need to understand the discrepancy. The statement you are suggesting be released would be innaccurate. The innaccuracy would bring greater media attention to this matter and be a distraction. According to your staff there have been no media inquiries into this and you received no questions about it during your interviews. If you are asked about it you should smile and say many alaskans who love their country join the party because it speeks to a tradition of political independence. Todd loves his country

We will not put out a statement and inflame this and create a situation where john has to adress this." 

It can't be easy as a campaign manager when your veep candidate is actually trying to mislead your own campaign. Then again, Schmidt was one of the guys who wanted Palin on the ticket to begin with, so I guess you can't feel too sorry for him.

--Jason Zengerle