Thoughts On McGinniss' Sarah Palin Book, 'The Rogue'

I read Joe McGinniss’ The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin. I read the whole thing. Cover to cover. It was not sensational. It was not tabloid-esque. It was not trash. It was what the cover claimed – the search for the real Sarah Palin.

51rQ9b7862L._SL500_AA300_.jpg
I read Joe McGinniss’ The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin. I read the whole thing. Cover to cover. It was not sensational. It was not tabloid-esque. It was not trash. It was what the cover claimed – the search for the real Sarah Palin. She has this thing with telling the truth – she doesn’t do it. Nearly ever. She just, as she says about others “makes stuff up.” This personality trait has been documented over and over again in the press. Perhaps this is why Palin reflexively attacks - not the message or the messenger – but the entire medium and whole idea of journalism and mass communication...often on national television.

So it’s a legitimate question: who is this woman?

Thanks to a sadistic editor from The Atlantic (she’ll say I volunteered, which is exactly what a sadist would say), I watched the entire two-hour misnomer Palin infomercial, The Undefeated at RightOnline this year. That was not the real Sarah Palin. That was 120-minutes of dog whistles and patriotic stock footage which tens of people ending up paying to see in the theater.

I don’t understand the immediate dismissal of McGinniss’ book by the left. It’s weird. Keith Olbermann decided to side with Palin’s opinion of the tome on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday. “But most of the stuff in there, why is it relevant, what’s the point of it, and how well-sourced is it?” asked the host of Countdown.

First off: anonymous sources, while they may not be the most optimal way to write a book, are very common. Journalists often “protect their sources,” some have even gone to jail for it. And for someone who’s as vengeful and vindictive as Sarah Palin, it’s more than understandable people wouldn’t want their names used. Alaska is a small state (as far as people go). Also, the entire book is not anonymous. Plenty of people risked the wrath of Sarah to dish about her to McGinniss.

The filmmaker of Sarah Palin – You Betcha, Nick Broomfield, came across the same fear of retribution if anyone they interviewed said anything negative about the Palins. So asking how well-sourced a book about a bully is, candidly, siding with the bully.

The only new and notable thing in Rogue was Sarah hooking up with Glen Rice when she was in college and a short anecdote about her doing cocaine. Two things that make her seem much more appealing and credible than anything she’s ever said publicly or had ghostwritten about herself.

Everything else in the book is corroborated by other reports, witnesses and sources. There are plenty of people who have said she’s not really into mothering. The book Game Change talked about her temper and her odd dietary choices (caffeine and little food). She’s not an intellectual, as evidenced by…EVERYTHING that’s ever tumbled out of her mouth. McGinniss’ book mentions her reading People magazine. It answers the question: “What do you read?” with the real answer, “Nothing.” She also billed the state for staying in her own home, was taken to task for abuse of power and lying etc. These are not new revelations.

The book does illustrate how she rose to fame. It demystifies why Sarah does the things she does (spoiler alert: she’s a narcissist).

I compiled the list of Sarah Palin’s media feuds, mostly because it’s hilarious. What I’ve observed about her is she never takes the proverbial high road. So of course she’s threatening to sue McGinniss’ publisher. The greatest defense against slander is the truth. And truth is something Palin has feuded with more than anything else.

The Rogue paints a more complete picture of Sarah than has been written before. It’s a quick read. It’s also a sincere love letter to the state of Alaska. There are things that are interesting if we needed to find something politically damaging to her (we don’t). For example, she raised taxes when she was mayor of Wasilla. Sales taxes even. She signed off on a half cent sales tax increase to pay for a stadium in Wasilla. I talked to a colleague of one of the lawyers who vetted Palin for the ’08 election (check out that unnamed source) and he said Palin was brought on because she was thought to be a moderate. She had worked with both Republican and Democrats in her state and in her city to get things done. And then she became the campaign Kraken with a quarter million dollar wardrobe accusing her “enemy” of pallin’ around with terrorists.

What’s interesting about Joe’s book is that he really illustrates just how much of a mirage Palin has been to her supporters. Her perfect appearance on the horizon is diminished with each step closer to her. Which is why Republicans are not clamoring for her to run for president. The right can no longer dismiss all criticism of Palin as just liberals who hate her for not aborting her Down Syndrome child. No, now the right suspects she's incompetent too. They now agree with us. As they say in the south, she ain’t right. And instead of being a divisive figure – she’s bringing left, right and in betweens together in their mutual disdain for her. Poetic.

The Rogue in short tells this truth: Alaskans feel duped. They’re pissed. They’re talking. And Joe was taking notes.

His conclusion, what he’s said in the lead up to the book being released is that Palin is a phony. Something Alaskan knew before the rest of the nation had to ever think about pit bulls in lipstick.

The hostility to McGinniss’ book from the left, I do not understand. Sorry guys, read the book and not just the NYT review.

About Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy's picture
I write for Fast Company, The Atlantic, Mother Jones and LA Weekly among many (many) others. My weekly column is syndicated in these things called "newspapers," which are analog blogs 80-year-olds seem to enjoy.

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.