Sarah From Alaska: The Truth And 2012

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An interview with Shushannah Walshe and Scott Conroy, the authors of some behind-the-scenes reportage about Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy, "Sarah from Alaska."

You try hard to be fair in the book, but you chronicle, fairly persuasively, a large number of what seem to be fairly egregious distortions by the candidate. Why does she do this? Why doesn't she, as you wrote, acknowledge uncomfortable truths?

Palin almost always seems outwardly poised and confident in front of a microphone, but she also demonstrates time and again--often in more subtle ways--signs of profound insecurity. It takes a self-confident person to admit mistakes and acknowledge one's own shortcomings, but Sarah Palin is quick to cast aside people who cross her in even minor ways, and her unwillingness to tolerate much dissent often leads to an infallibility syndrome.

At what point did it become clear to Palin that McCain's staff distrusted her? Did this contribute to her decision to "go rogue"--? Or did she decide to veer off message before she was mistreated?

It must have become clear to Palin very early on that many of McCain's aides distrusted her, since they would not allow her to speak to the traveling press, even though she wanted to do so. The acknowledgment of their lack of trust certainly contributed to her "going rogue" mentality, especially after she became more comfortable on the campaign trail and realized that she was the candidate, not them. Throughout her life, as we demonstrate in the book, Sarah Palin has always trusted her own instincts above all else.

How thorough was her vetting, really? Could anyone have possibly given her a scrupulous enough vet? How much of a problem was it that the rest of the campaign had to struggle to figure out who she was along with the rest of us?

The vetting was clearly minimal at best. The McCain campaign's priority was secrecy, not thoroughness. Palin filled out a questionnaire, A.B. Culvahouse did a phone interview with her for a few hours, Steve Schmidt and Marc Salter spoke with her in person, and that was about it. Though they successfully pulled off the secret mission of plucking the sitting governor from Alaska unnoticed, the consequences of not thoroughly understanding their own candidate became clear almost immediately. It was major problem for the communications shop, since they were unable to handle media requests and answer questions about Palin quickly and correctly. They knew almost nothing about her at first and were given no heads up that she was a serious candidate for the VP slot.

Why did she force Steve Schmidt to tell her children about her decision to run? What was that about?

It certainly seems odd that Palin would have a stranger announce to her children that their mother was running for vice president. Though we can't pretend to know for certain why she did so, one McCain staffer speculated to us that Palin thought that having Steve Schmidt make a grand announcement would add to the excitement of the event. Still, Palin's lack of candor about the event in her interview with Sean Hannity is a perfect example of her tendency to wildly exaggerate the truth.

Does she want to run for president in 2012? Who does she think she represents? Does she acknowledge the perception that Americans don't think she's prepared?

We both strongly believe that she will at least explore the possibility of running for president in 2012. She has not been very coy about her presidential ambitions, saying more than once that she would "crash through" any doors that might open for her on the road to the White House. She thinks she represents the deeply conservative Republican base--the people whom she really does seem to believe represent the "real America." It does not seem that she realizes just how polarizing she really is. It's important to remember that she spoke to adoring crowds of tens of thousands of people who hung on her every word during the 2008 campaign, and she will do the same thing on her upcoming book tour. Sarah Palin is someone who is heavily impacted by perceptions she gains from what she sees with her own eyes.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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