But another official said the "process almost by definition is going to be back-end-loaded."
"We expected the last two weeks after Senator Obama made his selection to be pretty frantic," the official said.
In other words, they wanted to do their vetting based in part on finding the best person to match against whoever Obama selected, and waited for the selection. Except that Obama didn't give them two weeks, delaying the announcement so that McCain only had half the time. I think it's possible that the Obama campaign had figured this out and that it played a role in the decision to delay an announcement.
It's questionable judgment on McCain's part to cut down to two weeks what should have been a much more thorough process. Still more alarming is that they apparently failed to react to the unexpected contingency of Obama's delayed announcement when they should've kicked into high gear two weeks before the announcement, regardless of what Obama did.
A little like Edward's infidelity - regardless of whether the controversy should be part of the political process, it's the underlying judgment that's at issue.
And since I don't think it's been emphasized enough, Palin is a climate change denialist who thinks Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. As Mark Kleiman points out, she has a 21% chance of temporarily or permanently acting as President due to McCain's potential for disability or death at his age.
UPDATE: I've since read that the McCains met Palin in early 2008 too, but that hardly improves the vetting process.