MG: The reporters who produced those quotes weren’t making them up. It was a disgrace to the campaign and John McCain, and I think the people who did that are going to pay a real steep price in the long run, because the media ate it up, the media loved it. Once you’ve lost the campaign, who holds responsibility for [publicly airing their grievances with Palin] and who escapes with their credibility intact won’t be decided by The New York Times. Conservatives are not pleased by this.
KK: One of the most memorable moments in the campaign involving you was your much-watched interview with CNN’s Rick Sanchez, where you danced around naming Jeremiah Wright as an anti-Semite. When I Googled your name, links to that video were the first thing that popped up. The liberal blogs vilified you for that exchange, and I think there was a moment in the video where you suddenly recognized that the whole interview was going to be put on YouTube and go viral. What was the campaign’s reaction to the clip? Did you get much response from it outside the communications office?
MG: I was summoned to the office of the campaign manager and given a slap on the wrist. We had a clear directive that we were not to discuss the name of Rev. Wright, and I tiptoed right up to it but I wasn’t allowed to cross it. But when I walked back into the communications room I got a round of applause. There was a lot of support among the rank and file; I think it was obvious to anyone that seriously followed the campaign what was going on there. I can’t tell if people were being willfully ignorant or if they generally don’t believe that [Obama] associated with those kinds of people. But that was a mistake from a communications standpoint.
KK: Do you think McCain was wrong with that call?
MG: It’s not for me to second guess how the candidate felt about any particular issue. There are obvious mistakes that were made throughout the campaign. The Rev. Wright issue is of some concern. It was frustrating, because if McCain never mentioned it, the media was going to act like it didn’t exist.
KK: If you had to do it again, would you do it differently?
MG: It was what it was. I don’t have any regrets about the campaign. It was a moment of incredible entertainment for my colleagues. I went home for Thanksgiving and everyone I know said they saw me on CNN. But this kind of shit happens to everyone in a communications position at some point.
KK: Did you think of going back on CNN and redeeming yourself?
MG: I don’t think it would have been in anybody’s best interest to go back on with that. I thought [Rick] Sanchez embarrassed himself, but the whole thing was great for him. That’s the only time anyone has talked about his show outside of his show. Same thing with Tucker [Bounds] and Campbell Brown. Obviously, in retrospect, you wish Sarah Palin didn’t do ten straight nights on the Katie Couric show, but you just move on.
KK: So now you’re back at The Weekly Standard. Can we expect to see something from you with the inside scoop on the final days of the McCain campaign?
MG: I don’t think there’s an appetite for it. I think the truth will out at some point. If the media was remotely competent, it would have reported that story by now. It’s a great process story, which is what the media loved most.
KK: Now that you’re back in journalism, is there a conflict of interest in covering anything relating to the McCains and the campaign?
MG: We have an agenda at The Weekly Standard. It’s overt. McCain was fairly well in line with that agenda, out of all the candidates. I think it’s ridiculous when you see the stuff on the other side. Jay Carney is going to be the communications director for the vice president. I mean, Time is not supposed to be an ideological magazine. I don’t have a problem with that, either, but when people got bent out of shape with me going over there—this wasn’t a major shift for me. This was the same thing as before.
KK: Think you’d ever go back to a campaign?
MG: It was brutal work, but it’s hard to say no to a presidential campaign. Plus it was something I was good at. I was a cudgel. I pissed off the media. They were furious about it. That was the effect the campaign was looking for.