“‘The Rogue’ is too busy being nasty to be lucid.”
Those are Janet Maslin’s words in the “liberal” New York Times, describing Joe McGinniss’ book The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, available tomorrow. It may be that Maslin is too unaware of the subject to recognize the irony, but her accusation fits the book’s subject, Sarah Palin, perfectly.
Maslin, whose mastery of the written word merits respect, starts off picking on McGinniss for using the tweets of the hatching Grebes to set a timeline for his stay in Wasilla, “’The grebe chicks have hatched!’ he needlessly exclaims.” Needlessly? It’s actually a standard literary device. She continues, “Tweets emanated from the Palin place too. But they were the kind that Mr. McGinniss could have monitored from home in Massachusetts.”
The Palins weren’t in their Wasilla home for much of that summer. It was the summer of fame, money and travel. But will I pick on her for her opening device, replete with pithy transition from tweeting grebes to Twitter? That would distract from the real issue that it would have been difficult to research this book from Massachusetts, especially in light of the closed community of Alaska and specifically Wasilla.
Maslin writes, “Although most of “The Rogue” is dated, petty and easily available to anyone with Internet access, Mr. McGinniss used his time in Alaska to chase caustic, unsubstantiated gossip about the Palins, often from unnamed sources like ‘one resident’ and ‘a friend.’”
I don’t recall much mainstream coverage of Troopergate or the investigations into the pipeline that Sarah never built but claimed credit for. I recall the press reporting Palin’s response to being found guilty of abusing her power in Troopergate, “Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that” without further comment because they weren’t allowed to ask any follow up questions. I don’t recall much talk about the subpoenae that Palin et al avoided, nor the issue of perjury that McGinniss suggests may have been part of Palin’s decision to quit.
This kind of political cowardice has been rewarded by the media, who have managed to gleefully mock Palin over her gaffes, while ignoring the larger and more important inaccuracies, thereby allowing her to limit transparency and accountability at a precedent-setting zero. For this, Maslin may wish to consider applying her formidable mocking skills on the political press.
Maslin is most offended by McGinnis’s “gossip” about Palin’s sex life. I have no way of judging the stories that were new to me, but McGinniss is not the first who came away from Wasilla with few on the record sources. I seem to recall a certain Wiener being splashed all over the news for weeks. The same press that attacked Anthony Weiner relentlessly now holds their Hampton noses up in the lofty air safe from the noxious fumes of tabloid worthy material and simply cannot abide such treatment of Sarah Palin. After all, she’s been such a lady, conducting herself with such grace and respect while lecturing us from Facebook about the family values morals she wants to impose on us all. This same press also gave Vitter a pass. Apparently it helps to have God in your corner.
I’ll agree with Maslin that it was odd for Joe to move in next door. No matter his assurances of his intentions, he couldn’t have expected Palin to trust him. She is, after all, a known paranoid on top of this being a sort of creepy situation. Although it’s hardly Joe’s fault if it’s true that the Palins bred such animosity among their own neighbors that their next door neighbor hunted Joe down in hopes of renting to him. This point seems lost on the press.
Watching Sarah Palin react to Joe’s intrusion is an exercise in character revelation that the author uses effectively. An astute person with any sort of semi-sophisticated political savvy would have given Joe superficial access or at the least been topically pleasant, but Palin knows that she stands to gain the most by grabbing the mantle of victimhood that the press loves to extend to her, and so she does all in her power to incite an angry encounter with her neighbor, whom she has publicly implied is a pedophile spying on her younger daughter. For example, while accusing him of spying on her in her “shorts and tank top”, she tells TV cameras that she wants Todd to drill a hole in the fence that they built to shield themselves from the writer, so that she can spy on McGinniss. I remember this from her TV show, so it stands alone from McGinniss’ book.
Maslin misses what Joe’s decision to move in next-door reveals about how the Palin family deals with people they don’t like. Even if one is being stalked, the law doesn’t give one a green light to have friends and fans threaten to shoot the stalker, but somehow this is OK when Palin does it, even though she hasn’t proven that Joe is stalking her. He was, after all, writing a book. It’s apparently OK that she accused this known author of being a pedophile with not one shred of evidence.
Maslin sells Joe’s revelations as inconsistent, writing, “It also says that she lacked boyfriends and was a racist. And it includes this: “A friend says, ‘Sarah and her sisters had a fetish for black guys for a while.’” Maslin can’t reconcile the fact that Palin fired all 20 of the minorities former Gov. Murkowski had hired but then according to the star himself, had sex with a black basketball star. Joe doesn’t explain the seeming inconsistencies that Maslin is taking issue with, but perhaps he didn’t think that was his job. After all, having sex with a race one is prejudiced against is not inconsistent with being a racist.
Racism is not repulsion or dislike, it is a tool of the powerful used to create political fragmentation in order to maintain the status quo. The use of racism leads to the impairment of acting in unison for the better good. The politically elite politician preys on the ignorant and the fearful with the tool of racism. The followers of the elite then enact the racism via stereotyping and social ostracizing in order to provide themselves with the comfort and security of their superiority by virtue of belonging to the “right” group.
None of that excludes having sex with the “inferior” class, as the history of slave owners having sex with their slaves demonstrates.
Maslin makes a good point that many people wouldn’t go on the record; however, plenty did. And their sentiments echoed others who have gone on the record. The real question should be why are so many people afraid to go on the record? But that question is answered in Joe’s telling of his own experience as Palin’s neighbor, when several people including the Mayor offer him a gun to protect himself and again when a brave person drops some chairs off for Joe has his truck window shot out that night. We are left to conclude that the shooter was acting on behalf of the Palins, but of course, we don’t know this and the shooter is not named.
But talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Maslin writes, “…and her possible commitment to such extreme theological ideas as Dominionism, although here too “The Rogue” is too busy being nasty to be lucid. Mr. McGinniss suggests both that Ms. Palin is committed to stealth religious control of government, and that she is not sufficiently devout.”
Apparently Maslin has yet to meet that hypocritical Christian the rest of the world first met in Molière’s satirical play, Tartuffe (also denounced by the upper crust and the Catholic church in its time), and then later, inevitably, in real life. We are to believe that the extremism of Ms Palin’s claimed religious beliefs are a matter of debate in spite of the following:
The evangelical Assemblies of God declared Palin’s extreme church heretical. There is a video of Palin being prayed over by the witch doctor. And Palin is on video saying Iraq is God’s will, a holy war. Joe writes of Palin’s well-established association with the New Apostolic Reformation that believes their prayers can destroy those whom they identify as “demonic”; they claim credit via their imprecatory prayers for the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Theresa.
McGinniss writes, “Sarah attended a Wasilla Bible Church service at which the evangelical preacher who’d founded Jews for Jesus said that terrorist attacks in Israel were nothing more than a manifestation of God’s displeasure with the Jewish state.”
Joe is writing about a Vice Presidential candidate who belongs to a political religious movement (Dominionism) that seeks to overthrow the US government and takes credit for the deaths of beloved figures because they are “demonic”. While I’ll admit that Palin’s beliefs don’t sound lucid, I don’t see how that’s McGinniss’ fault.
I must have missed all of the coverage on Palin’s religious extremism in all of the Reverend Wright uproar. No, if Maslin had done her homework before she ground that axe, she would have known that not only is Palin’s extreme religion an established fact, well doucmented in numerous articles on this site as well as Leah Burton’s blog God’s Own Party, but it’s a rather important detail. Again, it’s not illogical, especially given what I know about the Dominionist movement, that Palin was not religious in her personal life. The “religion” is really a political cult, centered on obtaining dominion over the world, and is as far removed from normal Christianity as it is possible to be.
Oddly, Maslin seems to find McGinniss’s coverage of the rumors that have surrounded Sarah Palin’s story of the birth of her fifth child worth noting, but then dismisses them. She writes, “With the same imprecise aim he cites conspiracy theories that Ms. Palin may not be the mother of her youngest son, Trig, and questions the circumstances under which he was born. Mr. McGinniss puts forth a provocative case for doubting Ms. Palin’s account of Trig’s birth, which involved a round trip between Alaska and Texas while she was supposedly in labor.”
I don’t know how anyone can be more precise given the fact that Sarah Palin’s version of the story keeps changing. Maybe Maslin’s real issue with McGinniss’ book is due to the subject and not to his reporting, after all, the birth story reveals something almost inconceivable – a pro-life Christian who went into “labor” or “broke water” (depending on which version you want to go with) at 1 AM in Texas, proceeded to give a speech later that morning and then flew home to Alaska with a layover in Seattle where she was seen reading a book in the first class lounge.
This story is exceptionally troubling to any sane person. It makes no sense. The press excoriated Hillary Clinton for her “taking fire” story, and yet they let Palin’s myth, the very basis for her political power, stand unchallenged.
If you listen to the pundits who almost all followed in lockstep with Maslin’s assessment, you’d probably find yourself nodding in agreement to the meme that Joe’s book is full of gossip and rumor.
Many of them pontificated such on Friday. The book was delivered to most of the press Thursday afternoon (three people were reportedly given an advance copy: Andrew Sullivan, Garry Trudeau, and Rosanne Cash). I finished it on Saturday afternoon, having to read in between my writing and work schedule. I’ve always been known as a fast reader when I’m not translating Latin, but clearly I lag behind the intellectual elite of the pundit class who managed to finish the book and render a pithy, dismissive opinion on TV in less than 24 hours.
Among those who appear to have actually read the book, like Maslin, is David L. Ulin writing for the conservative LA Times, who chimed in with another superbly written review that merits a read, “I have no doubt that McGinniss’ view of Palin is accurate: that she is narcissistic, undisciplined and unqualified for public life. Still, I want more than innuendo to make the point.”
Yes, and the writer should be commended for such, if indeed the words of former staffers (Frank Bailey), former Republican allies (Lyda Green), and GOP national Republican operatives (Steve Schmidt) all going on the record in various media is now considered “innuendo”. It may be that knowledge of the subject helps when assessing this book, for there wasn’t a lot in The Rogue in regards to Palin’s policies or personality that was new to me. It’s easy to dismiss an author for off the record sources if you’ve never tried to investigate Sarah Palin. But everyone who does in depth reporting on her (without the promise to be positive) comes away with the same impression of people too terrified to speak on the record.
Given these circumstances, we can only weigh the stories against others who have gone on the record. Maybe Glen Rice lied to Joe, maybe others lied to Joe. Maybe Joe wasn’t able to vet his sources the preferred way, as even he acknowledges. Maybe Joe is a rogue himself. But none of that takes away from the overall picture painted in The Rogue, much of it backed up by previous disclosures and some of the more important points are well documented. In a broader context of the question “Who is Sarah Palin?”, McGinniss has colored in some noteworthy sections that can’t all be dismissed with accusations of rumor mongering. Sections, I might add, that the media failed to expose when it was their job to do so. If it weren’t for Katie Couric and her cruel “What do you read?” question, who knows where we would be right now.
If Maslin or others find the book offensive, well, look at the subject. Do they really need more proof of narcissism than the Blood Libel video Palin unleashed on the day of the memorial for the Arizona massacre? They’re acting as if the revelations in McGinniss’ book should be analyzed in a vacuum, devoid of context.
It’s no wonder the liberal press feels so sorry for Palin that they’re tripping over themselves to defend her; McGinniss has waged the one war Sarah Palin’s thuggery can’t win — the verbal war.