It’s a story of when cynicism and idealism collide, when you have to do the things that are necessary to win to try to get in office to do the great things you want to do for the country. And I think it showed a process of vetting that was debilitated by secrecy, that was compartmentalized, that failed, that led to a result that was reckless for the country. And I think when you look back at that race, you see this person who is just so phenomenally talented at so many levels, an ability to connect. But also someone who had a lot of flaws as someone running to be in the national command authority who clearly wasn’t prepared.We did not know enough about Sarah Palin when she was put on the ticket. The same thing goes for a lot of actions undertaken by our military and the CIA. Secrecy is often a cloak for ignorance, and rushed, secret decision-making regularly leads to disaster. (See: Bay of Pigs, Invasion of Iraq.)
And, second, the danger of turning the governance of powerful countries into a team sport in which all that matters is winning. Asked about any lessons from the 2008 campaign, Schmidt said:
For me and the experience I had on this campaign is that there are worse things than losing. When a result happens that puts someone who’s not prepared to be president on the ticket, that’s a bad result. I think the notion of Sarah Palin being president of the United States is something that frightens me, frankly. And I played a part in that. And I played a part in that because we were fueled by ambition to win.
I think there are important lessons to learn. The reality is is that both parties have nominated people in the last decade who are not prepared to be anywhere near the Oval Office. John Edwards in the Democratic Party. Sarah Palin in the Republican Party. And we ought to take a pause and understand how that happened, why it happened and hopefully it’ll never happen again in our lifetimes.