I don’t want to repeat the types of reviews that have been published already, so I decided to go into a lot more detail summarizing what Joe McGinniss has to say in The Rogue. (You know me.) So, here goes:
McGinniss covers a tremendous breadth of subject matter about Palin in this book and does so in an engaging way, painting a devastatingly accurate portrait of both Sarah and Todd Palin. I don’t think that our regular readers will find too much that is totally new or surprising, but there are new details and the unflattering picture will be seen by his broader audience. He also includes a fine cast of characters (himself included), who add depth and texture to the story. Overall, some of the themes that emerged most emphatically to me were:
- Those who know Sarah and Todd best trust and like them least. They are bullies who revel in inspiring fear among many who know them.
- Like both their parents’ families, Todd and Sarah’s marriage and family are completely dysfunctional and the “family values” they seek to convey are a complete fraud. Todd is apparently a wanton womanizer.
- Sarah’s religious extremism is much more significant than the media has portrayed; not only her “young earth creationist” beliefs, but the in-depth discussions of her Dominionist beliefs and espousal of witchcraft, are very disturbing and are seen as extreme even by far-right evangelicals.
- Her mayoral term was a “reign of terror,” with the firings of anyone who disagreed with her religious or other views and appointments of unqualified cronies. The list of those she used and then discarded is long: John Stein, Laura Chase, Irl Stambaugh, John Cramer, Lyda Green, John Bitney and many, many others.
- The possibility of legal action regarding perjury during Troopergate may have played a role in Palin’s decision to quit the governorship.
- Levi doesn’t come off as an angel but all the things he said about the dysfunction in the Palin household are totally affirmed by others.
Chapter 1 was already released in part, so I’ll be quick: Joe covers how he came to rent the house next door to Palin; great description of Wasilla and “enough small fry evangelical churches to make Jesus himself weep…” He cleverly manages to touch upon Bristol “practicing abstinence,” the tax-gate cabin, Sarah’s affair with Brad Hanson, Troopergate, Willow’s vandalism of Audrey Morlock’s house, and the prior drug addicts and meth lab in the house next door. The story about Palins’ relationship with Catherine Taylor is pretty interesting: how they cut across her property without her permission and when asked why they were being so mean to her, Sarah answered, “Because we can.” (Interesting tidbit: Joe was their first neighbor who didn’t have a criminal record.) He acknowledges that Sarah will probably not be happy about him living next door, but is sure that they can become “reasonably cordial summer neighbors.” Hah!
The former literature student in me has this to say: This “gossipy” aspect of the book, which has been roundly criticized by some reviewers, seems to me to be part of the character of Alaska that he is portraying – catching up on the gossip and hearing all the tales of the extended families is part and parcel of the story he is telling. I think these reviewers are missing part of the point and the character of the book.
Chapter 2 delves into the Heath family history and dysfunction. It touches upon Chuck’s painful childhood and says that Sally’s conversion to evangelicalism led to her emotional abandonment of the family, Heather took her place, trying to be the “mom” and nurturer. Chuck “had a mean streak” and “there was not a lot of tenderness or loving in that household.” Sarah’s conversion to evangelicalism and intense religiosity dominated her relationships in high school; and then there’s the stuff about walking around and sleeping naked, which the other kids all thought was weird. She was considered homely, wasn’t promiscuous [yet] and didn’t have any boyfriends until Todd. Todd made quite a splash when he arrived with his fancy car and truck and big wads of cash from fishing. His native background was just enough to be cool but not so much to be uncool. His own racism was on display in beating up Catherine Taylor’s adopted son, who was black – but the reports that Todd was the one who beat his head against the curb resulting in 77 stitches are wrong; the beating he gave was “not even in the top ten.”
Joe just touches upon Sarah’s meandering college career and says she graduated; he also reveals that Sarah got stoned with her friend Tilly Ketchum’s father. It was in those years that she and her sisters developed a “fetish” for black men and eventually hooked up with Glen Rice, as has already been widely reported. Todd was having wild times with his friends, many of whom figure in her political career later. Bitney describes rampant coke use in Wasilla and of Todd’s use in particular, and says, “You see that with a lot of emotionally unstable people, guys notorious for their temper, like Todd is…When Todd is on a temper bender you don’t want to be anywhere close.” McCavit says, “Matter of fact, in regard to Sarah, all of us felt he was welcome to her. Nobody envied him, that’s for sure.”
The Chapter ends with the story about Chuck Heath’s involvement with the case of George Koenig’s sexual abuse of seventeen third grade girls. These pages are pretty chilling, ending with “Sarah learned from her father: if someone disagrees with you…annihilate first, ask questions later…Veiled threats, verbal violence, complete disregard for the welfare of victims—these came from Chuck and they are all inherent in the current persona of Sarah.”
Chapter 3 unfolds amidst the craziness after Joe moved into the house next to the Palins. He admits that he was naïve to believe the Palins and he would be able to peacefully coexist. He suggested to Todd that Roger Ailes, Sarah’s boss at Fox, could vouch for his character, but to no avail. His all-too-first-hand view of how Sarah cultivated the idea that Joe was a creepy pervert who was invading their privacy is pretty chilling and the threats against him were more serious than what was reported at the time. He also portrays Sherry Johnston very sympathetically and pointedly notes the different standards of justice in the Sherry Johnston-Diana Palin cases.
Hah! Chapter 4 begins by noting that Sarah was pregnant with Track before she was married and that she got very, very big with that first pregnancy, as contrasted to her [invisible] pregnancy with Trig. The inside scoop was that her marriage was always rocky, and that she was hopeless as a homemaker and mother (“She’d burn water.”)
McGinniss charts Palin’s forays into politics and dominionism. John Stein was a nuts and bolts kind of mayor who brought planning to Wasilla and began tackling some stubborn problems by developing a professional local police force to tackle rampant drug, alcohol and abuse problems. At the same time, Sarah’s involvement in converting the board of the Valley Hospital to ban abortion was the first step in her political career. She came under the influence of Mary Glazier, heard God’s voice and began to forge an unholy alliance between the evangelicals and the “dopers and boozers,” who were unhappy to be targets of increased law enforcement. This alliance, along with strong connections to the AIP (not just through Todd) led to her successful mayoral campaign against Stein, misleading and using Lyda Green, Laura Chase and others along the way. Irl Stambaugh’s common-sense about handling the rampant problems of drunk driving, violence against women fly in the face of Sarah’s “family values” façade. McGinniss lays out the Dominionist agenda of putting Christian extremists into power at all levels of government to end separation of church and state.
Ch 5: The threats and diatribes against Joe and his family intensify, leading Chris Matthews to comment: “Palin has issued a fatwa against McGinniss.” Living next door to Sarah did give him insight into her character: “…she has no sense of proportion…She’s over the top in all directions: rah-rah cheerleading for those whom she supports, spewing vitriolic condemnation for anyone who challenges her. This strikes me as a potentially dangerous character flaw in someone seeking a position of national leadership… By being here, I’ve gotten an insight into her ability to incite hatred that before I only knew about in the abstract.” Interestingly, the state and local police, and many neighbors, have Joe’s back.
Ch. 6: Her tenure as mayor is “nothing short of a reign of terror,” wreaking havoc with her dictatorial decrees regarding the museum, library, police department, disbanding the Liquor Task Force, allowing proselytizing in public parks, and infamously building the sports complex on land the city did not own. This was not a matter of incompetence or inexperience; she destroyed people’s lives and appointed her cronies to positions for which they were eminently unqualified.
Ch. 7: Joe begins to shape the cast of Alaskan characters. Lyda Green: “Sarah was a know-nothing idiot…utterly without morals…paranoid and narcissistic.” Disaffected former friends like J.C. McCavit paint Todd as the “moving force” behind Sarah’s firing of Bitney and says “Life’s too short to live in fear of schoolyard bullies like [Todd and Sarah].” Joe weaves in the stories of Palin friend and murderer Jeremy Morlock and of Willow’s escapade vandalizing the Morlock’s house. The “hockey-mom” meme is debunked: Sarah rarely went to his games and Track had to find his own way to games and practices. Track and Todd had zero relationship, and as we know, Track had problems with drugs, alcohol, and controlling his temper. McGinniss shows that “patriotism” had little to do with his enlistment, and calls Palin out for her use of the kids as props.
Ch. 8 describes the dysfunction that surrounded Palin in her job as mayor and in her home. We hear that she is a “young earth creationist,” slacker at work, slacker at home, a bitch who was constantly screaming, but also that she successfully purged the city government of anyone who disagreed with her and was able to overtly use her position to promote evangelicalism. She convinced the city council to declare Wasilla a City of Character, embracing the principles of Dominionism; but within her own home, there was no sign nor practice of religious tenets. She hired a lobbyist and successfully sought federal earmarks, and famously built the sports center on land the city didn’t own, a project resulting in massive debt for the city during her tenure. Joe neatly sums up the huge expansion of spending in Wasilla during her tenure, resulting in massive debt instead of the surplus she inherited.
Ch. 9 shows the palpable fear that people have of Sarah, which prevented Joe from being able to talk to many people who feared retribution. Irl Stambaugh tried to challenge his firing and saw Sarah’s selective recollection during her testimony. Gary Wheeler, head of her security detail, shared some interesting tidbits: no one could speak to Palin when she was being driven to and from work; she was a shopaholic; didn’t work very many hours; never went to church. Wheeler was with her during the D.C. trip when she met with McCain and confirmed that there was no indication that she was pregnant. He also noted that she was very defensive and felt everyone was out to get her all the time, which “made her mean.”
Ch. 10: Todd’s one redeeming quality is that he takes care of the kids when he is home from the slope or the fishing grounds. Other times, they are on their own. This section is where Joe reports the cocaine use and Sarah’s phony sexuality, and we see her saying (of Piper): “Take this fuckin’ baby!” and learn about Sarah’s eating problems and apparent bulimia/ purging. But in a clever political ploy (after using the mayoral office for her unsuccessful lieutenant governor campaign), Palin reinvented herself by blowing the whistle in the Ruedrich matter, thus gaining statewide acclaim as an ethics crusader.
Ch 11 covers Troopergate and in doing so, paints a much fuller and more engaging portrait of Walt Monegan (and includes a wonderful photo of him with his wife).
Ch. 12: Sarah was at the height of her popularity in 2004-05, described as “the Joan of Arc of Alaska politics,” seen as uncorruptible. Even her allies knew she wasn’t qualified to be governor but rationalized that she would grow into the job and have professional staff. She was able to smile and wink and charm her way through the campaign, all image with her true substance hidden from view.
In Ch. 13 Some Alaskans were willing to speak candidly about their experiences with Sarah. Jim Whitaker of Fairbanks told how Sarah lied to him about being interested in the VP nod, and also related the tale of her uncaring treatment toward Track and other soldiers being deployed to Iraq: “Her speech was all about her. Then, at the end, it was suddenly, ‘Go! Fight! Win!’ That was the moment I lost the last of my faith in Sarah Palin.” John Stein on Palin’s political philosophy: “You don’t have to know anything about anything; just pray, and the answer will come out of thin air.” The vignette with Pastor Bess is interesting: “…everyone is either good or evil. If you disagree with her you’re not just a bad guy, you’re evil and you must be defeated.”
Ch. 14 delves into Sarah’s relationship with Pastor Muthee and the truly, scarily extreme beliefs that Palin embraced (but did not publicize) during her campaign for governor. I can’t really do justice to this subject in a short paragraph, but this is a must-read section.
Chapter 15 is not only soap opera central (Bristol-Levi) but includes several Doonesbury cartoons – Roland Hedley renting the house next to Joe! And Sarah complaining about how Joe ruined their summer. How surreal it must have been to live through this. Joe also was able to (finally) talk with someone who was a fan, but later saw how differently Sarah treated her once she was no longer needy. “She recruits those who feel worthless and powerless and uses them as tools… It’s the kingdom of the addictive personality, and Sarah has made a career out of seeking out people she senses will grow addicted to her.”
Ch. 16: The campaign taught Sarah that ignorance + a bright smile and a catchy phrase allowed her to connect with a bloc of “churchgoing, gun-toting, God-fearing, government distrusting voters.” The press gave her a pass on her dominionist views and fostered an adulatory atmosphere, ignoring her appointment of inexperienced political cronies to key positions. A columnist wrote, “Some political leaders sway events by sheer charm and personality, and Palin may have this gift.” She built a dazzling approval rating, but she fired all the minority government workers who had helped her get elected, soon got mired in Troopergate, and fired John Bitney at Todd’s insistence. Bitney describes Todd as “emotionally unstable…really vindictive.” Great George Burns quote: “Sincerity and honesty. If you can fake those you’ve got it made.” The chapter also covers AGIA and the cruise to Alaska where Palin was “discovered” as a potential VP candidate.
Ch. 17 fast forwards and highlights how far Palin’s popularity has fallen. Some Alaskans are standing up to the Palins. McGinniss covers the incident in Homer where Palin got into a verbal joust with teacher Kathleen Gustafson, and the bullying by Todd at Valdez Airport. Voters reject Palin’s hand-picked candidate, Joe Miller, for Senate, giving the win to write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski.
Ch. 18 recaps 2008: growing disenchantment with AGIA; the announcement of the pregnancy with Trig and soon thereafter the birth, with skeptical comments at the time; first public mention of VP possibility; Sarah’s popularity declining; firing Monegan and the outcry and calls for an investigation; sexual harassment claim against Monegan’s replacement; Branchflower; Bailey taking the fall – Palin’s administration was going to hell in a handbasket when John McCain changed everything. This chapter continues to shine a light on Palin’s religious extremism. And Troopergate gets interesting. Todd and others ignore subpoenas. Lots of legal maneuvering. Possible perjury. Claims she was exonerated. Bloggers step up to fill the information void and authors like Nick Jans blast Palin.
I’ve already reported on Chapter 19 so I’m almost done!
Ch. 20 starts with Sarah’s testimony in Troopergate which conflicted with Monegan’s testimony, obligating the legislature to investigate whether she perjured herself. McGinniss suggests that this issue was a factor in her decision to resign. Clearly her situation in Alaska was much more unfavorable after the election loss. People started airing dirty laundry. The bloggers kept at it, damn them! 😉 The state budget was tanking, the turkey was slaughtered behind her, Todd was found in contempt for ignoring the subpoena, she looked bad during the crisis among Native villages that winter; some ethics complaints did not go in her favor and more were filed; she began publicly feuding with Levi. Her incoherent speech on July 3rd represented a turning point, but not the political demise that many expected.
Ch. 21 covers Sarah’s transformation from a politician to a full-fledged celebrity, where “it no longer mattered what she said or did – the mere fact of her doing or saying it made it news.” Joe replays in full detail the idiotic scene from SPA where Sarah and Todd “spy” on Joe, showing how staged and spliced and ridiculous the footage was. He tears apart a few other scenes from the series as well. Good for him for getting the last laugh!
But more somberly, the book covers the Giffords shooting and Palin’s bizarre and narcissistic reaction, portraying herself as a victim, even against not only the advice but the strict order of her boss, Roger Ailes. “Sarah’s post-Tucson plunge into the pool of Narcissus proved to be, by several light years, the worst political blunder she’d ever made.” Well, she shut up for a while, but she wasn’t retreating, she was reloading. Bus tour, house in Arizona, rumors of tubal ligation, Rolling Thunder, Paul Revere… oh my! Despite everything, she was able to wrap the media around her finger.
Joe concludes by blasting the MSM for its complicity in creating the Palin phenomenon, saying the media is “reduced to a level of hopeless codependency,” transforming “what should have never been more than a freaky sideshow…into what many still seem to see as the greatest show on earth.”
Do not miss Prof. Brad Scharlott’s adaptation of his important paper regarding Sarah Palin’s pregnancy with Trig which can be found at the Business Insider.
Download Brad Scharlott’s revised version of his research paper about Sarah Palin’s pregnancy HERE.
Note by Patrick:
Yesterday, Joe McGinniss gave brilliant radio-interview at WNYC, The Leonard Lopate Show, guest-hosted by Mike Pesca. Radio is probably still the best medium to communicate deep and intelligent thoughts, therefore it is no surprise that this interview is a real pleasure.
You can listen to the full interview which lasts for more than 36 minutes here:
However, in order to make it more accessible, I focused on three parts of the interview with different topics and created a youtube clip for each topic.
Read the old post at Palingates about the faked pregnancy with the pictures still intact HERE.We break the “Spiral of Silence” – Read the details about the “biggest hoax in American political history!”