Posted by: Jeanie F | September 24, 2011

The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin by Joe McGinniss

I have to admit it – in spite of the poor reviews of this book, I had to have it. I pre-ordered it and received it on my Kindle the day it was released. Then I read it cover-to-cover in just a few days.

Janet Maslin of the New York Times 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.”

Nick Gillespie, writing for the Washington Post says:

Despite his intensely close proximity to his subject — McGinniss famously rented the house adjacent to the Palin home while researching his book — he consistently fails to sift through competing versions of the same story for something approximating truth.

David L. Ulin, book critic for the LA Times, writes:

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.

“Sarah Palin practices politics as lap dance,” he writes, “and we’re the suckers who pay the price.” True enough, perhaps, but like too much of “The Rogue,” this is its own sort of come-on: titillating her detractors while allowing her supporters to disregard everything McGinniss has to say.

So why read this book, when the flaws have been so throroughly covered by some of the most respected reviewers in the country? Perhaps because I live in a politically conservative area, where many people I know have great admiration for Palin, and I was looking for some ammo.

Perhaps because the moment I saw her take the stage at the Republican Convention and call herself a “hockey mom,” I sensed there was something “off” about her, but couldn’t put my finger on it.

I think the reason this book so fascinated me is that, in spite of all the well-merited criticism it has received, someone had to tell a comprehensive version of this side of the Palin story. Making no attempt to be anything but biased against Palin, McGinniss – to me, a credible and talented reported – has exposed the ugly underbelly of a national phenomenon in a logical and sequential manner.

I’m not concerned by the dearth of sources who allowed themselved to be named – there are plenty who do. I’m not concerned by McGinniss’s lack of objectitivity. There are plenty of people who swallow the Palin myth hook, line, and sinker. I’m not even sure that Palin’s story is important any longer, in and of itself, as she seems to be diminishing in importance on the national scene.

What I would really love to see come from this book is a renewed awareness that we all need to be better informed and more saavy consumers of political branding and advertising. We need to look behind the rhetoric and learn who the people are that seek the privilege of leading this country. What McGinniss has done – much as he did in his groundbreaking  book, The Selling of the President – is expose the manipulation involved in the process. It’s up to us to do our homework. As Alexis de Tocqueville so famously said, people get the government they deserve. . . and we deserve better than what is currently being offered.

Grade: C


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