‘Going Rogue’ a shot at redemption and revenge
For Sarah Palin, whose electrifying debut on the national stage at last year’s Republican National Convention was followed by perceived missteps and critical media coverage that left her feeling unappreciated and under attack, “Going Rogue: An American Life” is a shot at redemption as well as revenge.
Like just about everything she has done publicly since she was thrust into the national spotlight as Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate, Palin’s entry into the literary world has been splashy and contentious.
Her three-week, 14-state tour, to be kicked off Monday by an appearance on “Oprah,” is an opportunity to recapture the narrative of her own career, keep her political options open and make heaps of money in the process.
After suddenly resigning the governorship of Alaska this summer and lying low for a few months to write her memoir, she crashed back into the limelight this week with a book that topped bestseller lists well before its release on Tuesday.
On Thursday, the Associated Press said it had managed to purchase a copy, and reported that Palin’s book, written with journalist Lynn Vincent, offers a folksy account of her life that reveals, among other things, the anguish she felt about her unwed teenage daughter’s pregnancy and its public dissection.
But, said the AP, it is also a score-settling account.
Palin is angry about being depicted as a clotheshorse during the campaign, angry about getting stuck with $50,000 in legal fees related to the vetting process for vice president, angry about being “bottled up” from the press by McCain staffers and angry about what she sees as unsympathetic treatment by the media, as personified by CBS News anchor Katie Couric, whom she accused of badgering, condescension and bias.
Palin’s performance in a series of interviews with Couric was widely panned, with even members of her own party characterizing her as unprepared and uninformed.
(McCain campaign attorney Trevor Potter said by e-mail that the campaign never billed Gov. Palin for costs incurred during the vetting process. Couric, through a spokesman, said her interviews “spoke for themselves.”)
According to the AP account, Palin is also still upset about not being allowed to give a concession speech on election night.
Friday, true to pugnacious form -- remember when she likened hockey moms to pit bulls? -- Palin used her Facebook page to accuse the AP and other news outlets of “erroneously reporting the contents of the book.”
For her legions of fans, many of whom have been dispirited by the Republican Party’s perceived drift since the election of Barack Obama, the publication of “Going Rogue: An American Life” is a balm, and an inspiration.
“She really is part of this new, organic movement with the tea parties,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports female antiabortion candidates. “She lifted her little finger and inspired an entire movement.”
Dannenfelser said Palin proved she is in tune with the disaffected wing of the GOP when she campaigned this month in New York for a Conservative Party congressional candidate, forcing a moderate Republican candidate to drop out. Conservative Doug Hoffman lost, but Palin showed her impact on the GOP.
Republican political operatives were split on whether the book (or what is known about it so far) will advance her political prospects. Everyone agreed it’s a great financial move. Complying with state disclosure requirements, she reported receiving $1.25 million. Her book contract is reportedly much bigger than that.
“If your goal is to be very attractive on the speaking circuit, then that sort of thing enhances her desirability,” said GOP political consultant Whit Ayres. “I am not sure it’s what an aspiring political candidate would do.” As to whether she’d burned bridges, he added: “None that haven’t been burned already.”
K.B. Forbes, who was an advisor to GOP presidential hopefuls Steve Forbes (no relation) and Patrick J. Buchanan, cheered Palin for firmly separating herself from the party establishment. Her book, he said, “should resonate among millions of Americans who shop at J. C. Penney or Wal-Mart and suffer, like Palin did, with family embarrassments. . . . What she is saying is, ‘I am real. I am you. I am ready for 2012.’ ”
Democrats -- as evidenced by a stream of e-mails sent by the Democratic National Committee on Friday -- seem to be enjoying Palin’s renewed sniping at her foes on the McCain campaign, who were not anxious to rehash the past.
“They’ve probably resigned themselves to the fact that Sarah Palin is going to be taking shots at them for the rest of her political career,” said Dan Schnur, the director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics who served as McCain’s presidential campaign spokesman in 2000.
“Campaigns have disagreements,” wrote Mark Salter, one of McCain’s top campaign aides, in an e-mail. “But I know the senator has moved on, and I’m sure we all want to.”
Still, for those who miss the sniping that went on between the Palin and McCain camps after the election, “Going Rogue” appears to offer the chance to relive those days.
A source familiar with the inner workings of the McCain campaign dismissed Palin’s claim that she’d been kept away from reporters, noting that in addition to interviews with Couric and ABC’s Charles Gibson, she appeared on the shows of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News’ Sean Hannity. (It is true, however, that Palin’s interactions with the press were closely monitored and few interview requests were granted.)
As to Palin feeling wounded by the McCain campaign’s refusal to allow her a final moment in the limelight on election night at the Arizona Biltmore, she was indeed prevented from speaking because the McCain campaign decided it was not appropriate for her to have the last word.
After McCain delivered a concession speech and left the hotel, said sources, campaign manager Steve Schmidt got a call from another aide warning that Palin was moving back toward the stage to speak. Schmidt, said people who were there, ordered staffers to shut down the set and turn off the lights.
In a clip from the upcoming interview on “Oprah,” host Oprah Winfrey asks Palin whether she will invite Levi Johnston, her daughter Bristol’s ex-boyfriend and father of Palin’s grandchild, over for Thanksgiving. Johnston, who was in New York this week to pose nude for Playgirl, last month trashed Palin’s marriage in a Vanity Fair essay and accused her of being a bad mother to her youngest child, Trig.
In response to Winfrey’s question, Palin says, “That’s a great question, because it’s lovely to even think he would consider such a thing. We don’t have to keep going down this road of controversy and drama.”
But it’s exactly this sort of family problem that many of Palin’s supporters find so relatable.
“People living regular lives, they are drawn to her,” said Dannenfelser. “She is a regular person who is also very strong. I am anxious to read her book.”
Mark Z. Barabak in San Francisco and Richard Fausset in Atlanta contributed to this report.