Mark Joseph is a longtime cultural and political observer, author of Faith, God and Rock & Roll: How People of Faith Are Transforming American Popular Music and other books. In his latest, Wild Card: The Promise and Peril of Sarah Palin, Joseph explains why he calls Palin a “wild card” in an interview with National Review Online.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Does the world really need another Sarah Palin book?
I don’t know, but I wrote the first draft of this book shortly after her selection and all of the books except for one came afterward. My then-agent, to his shock, was unable to sell it back then because publishers were convinced that Obama was going to win and it was too close to the election. So it gave me the opportunity to wait and get a full picture of who she was, where she’d been, and where she was going.
Lopez: Is there any new thing that could be said about her?
Joseph: A lot. I do a number of things in the book. In addition to the biographical aspects, I go in depth to try to understand why McCain picked her, and explain the media frenzy that ensued. I also spend quite a bit of time on her religious faith and the larger questions that it raises about the uneasy relationship between Christian conservatives and the GOP — which was basically an arranged marriage put together by Ronald Reagan and which has been living on his fumes ever since. I also find it significant that this is the closest that a person from the Pentecostal tradition has come to the White House.
Lopez: What makes her a wild card?
Joseph: My distributor and I had settled on the title “Wild Card” and just a few days later she quit as governor of Alaska so we felt like it was an affirmation of the title. She’s a wild card because you never quite know what she’s going to do next and she enjoys confounding her friends and enemies.
Lopez: Is Roger Ailes guilty of some kind of malpractice if he knows she’s considering becoming a candidate for president?
Joseph: I have no inside knowledge, but he’s a very smart guy and my guess is they have an understanding that she’s not going to run . . . this time.
Lopez: Why so much interest in her, from both Fox and MSNBC?
Joseph: For so many reasons. First, she’s a beautiful woman and she’s incredibly telegenic. But she also has what I call the forbidden boyfriend syndrome. I’ve talked to a number of her fans, particular older people, and they seem to take distinct pleasure out of supporting her because they see how much the establishment hates her and the more the establishment calls her stupid the more they enjoy the thrill of supporting her. They will overlook her shortcomings because they enjoy hearing Chris Matthews and even Karl Rove squeal.
Lopez: Why did McCain pick her? Did that blow it for him?
Joseph: He was incredibly irresponsible throughout the whole process. I mean, you’d think a guy running for president would have thought this thing through more, but he hadn’t. And the little thinking he did do led him to think it would be a good idea to select the other party’s former vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Lieberman, as his running mate. I don’t think McCain did Palin any favors by plucking her from the tree before she was ready. Had she served one full term as governor and then run for the Senate, I think the Palin story would look much different and she’d be much better prepared for the presidency, having had a chance to govern both in Alaska and in Washington.