In the run up to the 2012 election, there is perhaps no more flawed a candidate for public office, or flawed symbol of Americanism than Sarah Heath Palin. She and John McCain shamelessly "used" each other to energize the Republican Party. And even though the McCain camp knew that she was far from up to the job of being president of the USA, they rolled the dice with her on the GOP ticket anyway and put the Republic at risk. The price McCain paid for this failed experiment was that Palin proved to be one of the more divisive factors in recent American political history. In the process she became a kind of perverse conservative fringe media rock star. Jeffery Dunn explains all the reasons why this was so and also why Ms. Palin's propensity for stretching the truth made her little more than a "small town self-destruct" machine raised to the national level.
Despite the title of the book, to his credit as a journalist, it must be said that this author tried vainly to give a balanced picture of Mrs. Palin's life and professional resume. However, it seemed that at every turn no matter how hard he tried, the facts of her life kept conspiring against a balanced view of her. On the good side of the ledger, he dutifully reported the reasons why the conservative kingmakers were all gushing over her. At first only the friendly conservative media were doing so, but then later on, the "big dog" powerbrokers inside the Republican Party took up the cause and eventually convinced John McCain that she was an "ideological rock star" worthy of being on the Republican ticket.
As the author repeatedly notes, at first glance and on paper, Palin "shows well," and did indeed seem to reflect the quintessential conservative tribal qualifications: a hockey mom who lived on a lake, ice fished, was a snowmobiler, a lily white beauty queen, who had helped her High School win the State basketball championship -- with roots in Idaho, and who was also tough and gutsy. Moreover, it was well known that she was rabidly pro-gun, pro-life, religiously fundamental, and a proponent of American exceptionalism. Along with this stellar conservative ideological resume, it did not hurt her cause at all that she was also (almost predictably) anti-gay, anti-tax, anti-black, and (even in Alaska) anti-Native American. In short, Mrs. Palin viewed herself (and was viewed by others, especially the conservative Republican powers that be) as coming from a different kind of America: the white sub-tribe of "real" Americans.
As Fred Barnes (one of the media kingpins who along with Fox News Commentator Bill Kristol, had descended upon her in what in retrospect seemed like a staged vacation cruise to Alaska in mid 2007) described her on page 116: She was "a mix of Annie Oakley and Joan of Arc." In short, Palin was effectively the "anti-Hillary:" a good looking sexy white woman with five kids, but who could still hold her own hanging with the guys. She was seen as the "Republican white female Obama." Plus her approval ratings at the time were "off the Alaskan charts."
After a "quick and dirty" vetting process (that would later prove to have been disastrous), Palin was certified as "Grade A" republican material, prancing with the Republican "big dogs on the national stage as John McCain's Vice Presidential candidate. As it turns out, this would be the end of the good news in the book of Sarah Heath Palin. As McCain and others on the national scene would abruptly find out, Ms. Palin was a lot less than meets the eye. In due course, they would discover that she was a lying and deceiving politician as well as a vengeful and hypocritical human being and very much un-Christian like in her behavior -- a fact well known to Alaskans who had dealt with her well before Ms. Palin made her national debut.
The Genesis of the "Slow Motion Dysfunctional Palin Reality show:" Sarah's "Arrested Development"
Once Palin's resume was shown to be both incomplete and mostly a fraud, the gushing enthusiasm for her (at least) within the McCain camp came to a screeching halt. What was most worrisome was that Palin's stellar (mostly ideological) resume was almost completely untrue, and was in any case, devoid of any evidence of substantive accomplishments as a state executive. It showed that despite having served in four high level state jobs, Ms. Palin still somehow was utterly lacking in political and managerial skill and experience. Plus, she showed little curiosity about the things she would need to know in order to fill-in her woefully deficient resume. As a result, Palin's star power was quickly being overshadowed by the welter of facts emerging from Alaska that exposed a very different -- a much shallower, deceitful, lying, more vicious, more power hungry picture of her -- one that showed a much weaker and more manipulative side to her persona and her confused personal life. However, having already signed her up to the big leagues, when the Palin resume began to unravel, McCain was "all in" and did not have the option of fixing his colossal mistake, after the fact. Against all advice to jettison her, McCain had no choice but to cut his losses and try to "ride it out," making the best of a bad situation.
In order to get at what shaped Sarah's personality, the author takes us back to her childhood where the genesis of the horror show that engulfed and was to nearly overtake the McCain campaign, began. And what we discovered is that from the Eighth Grade onwards, the facts on the ground from Alaska, painted a disturbing picture of young Sarah as a person driven by her insecurities, insecurities centered mostly on her inability to compete with her peers on an equal footing for boys (even though she was considered pretty), academically (even no one claims that she was dumb), and in sports (even though her father was a coach). As a result, those who knew her best thought she was just restless and unhappy with the general landscape of her young life. Later in life, others who worked with her, did not mince words when describing her: as the "town liar," a sociopath, a deeply disturbed individual whose grip on reality was weak and whose self-awareness was nil. Or, as one described her as being "bat sh-t" crazy living in a fantasy world of her own, and as someone who suffered from a "narcissistic personality disorder."
In order to compensate for her inadequacies, the author tells us that Palin learned at a young age how to become a "glory hound" using her good looks to "bully" her way into a leadership role among her close friends. Once there, she became the very archetype of the "entitled spoiled brat as pack leader." Palin proved adept at using her good looks and charisma to manipulate her clique of close friends into doing her dirty work (as some Alaskans claimed she also succeeded in doing with John McCain on the national stage).
This pre-teen psychological stratagem, of being a dysfunctional clique leader, would follow her well into adult life. The "Sarah treatment" even as an adult, would still be characterized by the familiar suite of Junior High School small-minded tricks: cliquishness, underhandedness, deceitfulness, lies, rumors, social exclusion and isolation to punish those she didn't like, petty fights "staged" over peripheral issues, and generally constantly kicking up dust and chaos through small-minded spats to keep attention always focused only on her.
Learning to manipulate others into doing her bidding was a prepubescent survival strategy that Sarah learned well and was one to follow her into adult political life. In fact, the author leaves the reader with the impression that the ability to manipulate others may have so distorted Palin's personality that even today she remains unhappy and "pouts" when the focus is not constantly on her and unless she is seen as the "Queen Bee and Drama Queen" of any clique she is a part of.
And while this may have been a useful strategy in Junior High School, when she allows it to follow her into adulthood, it becomes what Psychologists term "arrested development." Judging by the disruption she caused within the McCain campaign, Ms. Palin's juvenile shenanigans were a textbook case of "arrested development." Sarah Palin remains trapped in the self-made fantasy world of the Eighth grade where she still sees the world through the lens of a drama in which she is the designed "drama queen."
From Geoffery Dunn's analysis Palin's life since the Eighth Grade has been about little more than acquiring enough control over those in her environment so that she can tilt the narrative arc of the dramas of her life in a direction that feeds and suits the needs of her own private insecurities. Those failing to play her games, or who criticize and expose her flaws, are abruptly cut-off and excluded from the Palin inner circle. They become her sworn enemies, and once a sworn enemy of Sarah Heath Palin, you can expect to be obsessively hunted down and destroyed by a "forty something Eighth grader." Armed with "beauty queen" good looks and the manipulative skills of an Eighth grader Sarah Palin set out to conquer the world.
The Horror Show Moves from Alaska to the National Stage
In interviewing Alaskans who knew her best (close associates, friends and family members), but also a trail of those who had been either excluded or "burned by her," the author came away with a much less flattering but a much more robust picture of what some in Wasilla had described as "the Ice Diva." They found her to be an obsessive "glory hound," always wanting the attention and spotlight on her. Laura Chase, a long time associate, who in a heroic effort was instrumental in getting Palin through her first successful election (only to later be doubled-cross by her), says Palin suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder (page 60). She also double-crossed John Stein, the Mayor of Wasilla who first got her a job in politics and state government. Palin ran an anti-Semitic campaign against him leading the voters to erroneously think that because his last name was Stein, he was a Jew when in fact he was not. (page 63) Stein lost the election to Palin.
It did not take long for the local newspaper (the Frontiersman) to catch on to Palin's modus operandi: She was lazy, incurious, quickly created chaos as a smoke screen for her incompetence, took no responsibility for anything, then lied about her failures, blaming them on others, and then moving on up the career ladder to the next higher job. The editor summarized the paper's case against her in an editorial entitled "Welcome to Kingdom Palin, the land of no accountability:" The gist of it appears on page 74: