The XX Factor

The Tragedy of Joe McGinniss

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Libby, your critique of Joe McGinniss’ forthcoming attempted takedown of Sarah Palin, is spot on. The Rogue is the latest, and probably most thorough work about Palin in which the author’s dislike of the subject is so intense that it undermines the whole project. 

There is plenty about Palin’s life and career worth examining. Unfortunately, whatever meritorious reporting there might be on Troopergate or legislation she worked on as governor or her expertise or lackthereof on energy issues, it has to compete with his anonymously sourced musings on Palin’s parenting skills and his sympathy for Levi Johnston’s mother. It’s interesting that he apparently criticizes Bristol Palin for showing up on Dancing With the Stars and blames the media for giving them so much attention, while writing a book that is clearly targeted to … garnering the media’s attention.

It’s a problem not uncommon to Palin’s liberal critics. She drives them so crazy that they can’t resist taking the low road when they write about her. She’s a lousy parent! An attention hound! She’s really dumb! She might be all those things, but focusing on the superficial only has the effect of convincing her supporters that the media is out to get her.  (And forgive the digression, but why do we so rarely hear about what lousy fathers that male politicians are when their kids end up eating Kraft macaroni and cheese for dinner?) And McGinnis ups the ante with gossip about drug use and Palin’s alleged tryst with Glen Rice.

The best piece I’ve ever read about Palin is Joshua Green’s Atlantic piece, “The Tragedy of Sarah Palin.”  Green’s piece succeeds because it’s a sober look at a serious politician. However Green might personally feel about Palin, he gives a fair and in-depth look at her record.  His criticisms carry more weight because the reader is not distracted by fluffy gossip.

If Palin’s critics really wanted her to go away—rather than just make her an embarrassment to the Republican Party—they would just ignore her. The negative attention only feeds her supporters.  I just wish more people were like Wyclef Jean*, who made some surprising statements this week at a Fashion Week after-party:

“I have to tell you this: I am a huge fan of Sarah Palin,” the former Fugee said. “Cause she’s rad. She’s shrewd. She’s cool. Because at the end of the day, I’m for the people, because this is the United States of America…this is what America’s really about. Anyone should have the right to say, ‘Look I can do the job and this is what qualifies me to do the job.’…. Now my wife probably will debate and disagree with me.”

 Nowhere in there does he say he actually agrees with Palin on anything. But it’s a free country, and if Sarah Palin wants to be Sarah Palin, whatever that means, he’s fine with it. That’s kind of refreshing.  

Correction, Sept. 15, 2011: This post originally misspelled Wyclef Jean’s first name.