Those who have been paying attention to the Sarah Palin story will likely know about Joe McGinniss, the author who moved in next door. They will remember the media circus, the back-and-forth, the Facebook battles. They will remember the accusations of stalking and the counter-accusations of harassment. What they might not know, however, is that McGinniss — who likes to portray himself as a knight of truth — has an established history of what William F. Buckley Jr. called “elaborate deception.” The book that came out of the saga, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, seems to fit squarely in line with that record of dissimulation.
The ubiquity of claims backed up only by “a friend says” will render it obvious to most readers that the material is almost entirely the product of hearsay and idle gossip. But for those less attuned to the nuances of fact and fiction, McGinniss has written a useful introduction of sorts: In an e-mail to anti-Palin blogger Jesse Griffin, the author points out that from nobody has he “seen a credible, identified source backing any of the salacious stories about the Palin family.” This is an understandable source of frustration, as “nothing [he] can cite other than [his] own reporting rises above the level of tawdry gossip . . . the proof is always just around the corner, but that’s a corner nobody has been able to turn.
“So much,” lamented McGinniss, “has bubbled at the salacious rumor stage for more than two years, but no one has been able to take even one story further.” Until now, that is. Concerned that readers might “complain that there are no startling new revelations in my book,” McGinniss did what he has always done — publish, truth be damned. In one form or another, all of the “lurid stories” for which, he complained to Griffin, no one has ever provided factual evidence, made it in anyway.
Sarah Palin is by no means a flawless individual. But the picture painted by McGinniss is wantonly damning, not to mention frequently self-contradictory. It has long been an American tradition to let people speak without impediment, thus letting those with scant regard for the truth expose themselves in their own words. In that spirit, here are the top ten things that I learned about Sarah Palin from Joe McGinniss:
1. Sarah Palin is a Christian Dominionist whose aim is nothing less than “to put Christian extremists into positions of political power in order to end America’s constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.” Further, she considers that the end times are imminent. Like her mother, she showed more enthusiasm for God than for her own family. Meanwhile, McGinniss’s sources have never seen any religion in the Palin home: “There was no religion in that household.”
2. Sarah Palin both is and is not a racist. She left three colleges in Hawaii “because the many people of color there made her nervous.” Meanwhile, in Idaho she developed a “fetish” for black men and even dated a black basketball star, a fact about which she allegedly simultaneously felt “pretty good” and was so frightened that she became “hysterical,” “horrified,” and “totally flipped out.” The player in question, Glen Rice, told McGinniss that he thought Palin was “super nice” and thinks “the utmost of her,” a fact that the author took to mean her attitude toward people of color “evolved” in college. Despite this evolution, McGinniss still accuses Palin of firing all of the “dark-skinned” people when she became governor of Alaska. “All of the dark-skinned people had to go” is the conclusion, a move he puts down to Palin not being “comfortable in the presence of dark-skinned people.”
3. “In Alaska,” being anti-gun is “a more serious charge than pederasty.”
4. Sarah Palin has no “sense of proportion” and is so “over the top in all directions” that “an unchecked emotional response could cost millions of lives.” After all, “what would she do as president if the Iranian government suddenly irked her?”
5. In Wasilla, which was “plagued by substance abuse,” Sarah, Todd, and Track Palin were all regular drug users. In Todd’s life, cocaine is “free flowing,” and he is “on the end of the straw, plenty.” Sarah smoked pot with her friend Tilly’s dad while in college, and “inhaled.” She moved on to cocaine with Todd. Track inherited his parents’ penchant, exhibiting problems with cocaine, oxycontin, booze, and weed.
6. Sarah Palin doesn’t like her own children and never looked after them. She is so “narcissistic she couldn’t even care for a pet.” She forced Track to “enlist [in the military] for her own PR gain,” which was typical, as her children have always only been “part of the show.” Despite this carefully cultivated image, however, a plethora of people came forward and told McGinniss that Sarah frequently screams at her husband about divorce while on the telephone and calls her children “f***ers.” The cultivated image, perfect enough to fool the media, was not enough to fool those who reported that Palin’s children were “dirty,” “filthy,” and left to fend for themselves while their mother was “lying in bed.” This is unsurprising, however: “Sarah isn’t a nurturing person because she wasn’t really loved by her Mom.”
7. Sarah and Todd Palin “don’t have a marriage” and have never been happy. Todd repeatedly has sex with women on his trips to Dillingham, Alaska, and Sarah had an affair with one of his friends to get back at him. Sarah and Todd have “never showed any affection for each other.” Moreover, they never have sex; Todd makes public jokes about having had sex four times, once for each child (pre-Trig). Sarah is prudish and, contrary to her public image, hung up about sex.
8. Sarah Palin, she of the sexless marriage and prudish disposition, unashamedly uses her sexuality, and boasted about wearing a push-up bra to meetings at City Hall and “using her t***ies to get . . . votes.”
9. Sarah Palin’s exposure of the ethics violations of Randy Ruedrich, a fellow Republican, a move that drew almost universal praise, was actually a deliberate and cynical attempt to give herself the foundations of “statewide recognition,” and needs to be seen within the context of her lust for power.
10. Sarah Palin is a “bully” who picks on “the most vulnerable parts of the society — young women, children, gays, the poor.” She learned this trait from her father: “If someone disagrees with you, or does something you don’t like, annihilate first, ask questions later.”
“The sensational information in ‘The Rogue,’” wrote the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, “would be truly devastating if it were nailed down with airtight confirmation from on-the-record sources or documentation. Something. Anything other than a ‘friend’ or ‘one resident’ of questionable motive and veracity.”
Quite — but such high standards would have ruined the story.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate at National Review.