Viewpoints: Did book on Palin contribute to her decision not to run?
Sarah Palin’s attacks on the “lamestream media” notwithstanding, the national political press finds her so fascinating – like watching a circus in progress – that she has received far less negative coverage than she would have people believe.
The noted author Joe McGinniss remedies that in his book, “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin,” a highly criticized work to which he devoted months living next door to Palin in Wasilla, Alaska,and for which he was roundly skewered by her and threatened by her supporters.
He reports that Palin subscribes to an extreme evangelical religious philosophy that believes the Rapture – the return of Jesus to earth – will occur in her lifetime. He also accuses her, based on more than 100 interviews with Alaskans, of being paranoid, mean-spirited and vindictive – hardly Christian virtues.
“Controversial” is a much overused word, but controversy fairly leaps off the pages of McGinniss’ book, given its gossipy tone and liberal use of anonymous sources, which has raised the question of whether he was searching for Palin, or searching for dirt on Palin.
He may have provided the answer to that when he responded on his blog to questions of whether he had an agenda.
“My agenda,” he said, “is to assure that never again will someone as unqualified, as religiously and politically extreme, as uneducated and unintelligent, and as vicious and venomous, come within a few percentage points of achieving an office that would put its holder only a heartbeat away from the presidency.”
It’s probably only a coincidence that Palin, the vice presidential running mate for John McCain in 2008, decided not to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 at virtually the same time McGinniss’ book was being published. But the book does, indeed, raise questions that she would have to answer and that could become fodder for her opponents.
Thus far, she has neither commented on the book nor refuted any of it allegations. To do so would no doubt pump up sales, which are already lagging because of her withdrawal from the presidential race, and she certainly would realize no benefit from doing that.
McGinniss would like to take some of the credit for her decision but also thinks it was because “she’s just lazy and disorganized and too busy making money to care about anything else.”
These are tough words from someone who never even got so much as a five-minute interview with the subject herself but relied heavily on aggrieved Alaskans whom Palin had offended and, in many cases, fired when she was Wasilla’s mayor and Alaska’s governor.
In most cases, she replaced those who were fired with fellow believers or unqualified cronies and, of that, the record seems indisputable.
To the criticism from medic critics about his use of anonymous sources, McGinnis wrote in a column for USA Today that anonymity has often been a necessary aspect in writing about government or public figures and that many in the mainstream press, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, have done so.
It also seems reasonable to think that some in the political press who have criticized the book have done so out of jealousy, or guilt for not having done their own due diligence on Palin and allowing themselves to be caught up in what a Los Angeles Times reporter called her “electrifying presence.”
McGinniss is no rookie reporter. He first became known nationally in 1968 with “The Making of the President,” which focused on Richard Nixon and, as the title implies, unmasked the stage-managing and packaging of political campaigns. It became a classic of campaign coverage.
Given that background, it seems strange that McGinniss apparently did not talk to McCain, the man who thrust Palin into the national political spotlight three years ago, or any of McCain’s staff.
Did they know of her extreme religious convictions? Did they know of her actions as mayor and governor? How well was she vetted?
The most questionable section of the book suggests Palin might not have given birth to Trig, the Down syndrome child she showcased throughout her 2008 campaign, but got the child through an arranged adoption for political purposes – to enhance her appeal to anti-abortionists.
Much of this speculation is based on innuendo and some odd circumstances surrounding her pregnancy. But it also suggests a level of cynicism and manipulation that even McGinniss concedes is difficult to imagine, and it seems impossible that a subterfuge of that magnitude would not have been leaked at some point over the last three years. So why include it?
McGinniss claims that those in Alaska who know Palin best believe a faked birth “was something she was eminently capable of doing.”
Palin remains a major American celebrity and, even though she is not running next year, it is apparent, based on what she has said, that she intends to remain a significant political force. She’s still in demand as a speaker to tea party and other conservative groups.
My conclusion is that those who have no use for Palin or her politics will read “The Rogue” to have their opinions validated, and those who adore her will consider it just another “lamestream media” attempt at undermining their heroine.
I doubt many minds will be changed either way.