Merriam-Webster defines “rogue” as (noun) “a dishonest or worthless person, a scoundrel, a scamp.” Obviously, therefore, the title of author Joe McGinniss' new book, The Rogue, Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, is hardly complimentary.
Palin, a Republican feminist and former Governor of Alaska, shot to fame when chosen as John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Since then, Palain has emerged a controversial public figure, definite fodder for comedians and ripe for parody. Regardless of one's opinion of Palin, McGinniss' recent publication of The Rogue is nothing more than tabloid journalism.
McGinniss, a well known political author, claims to have researched his subject while renting a home in Alaska next door to Palin's in the spring of 2010. Among the book's sordid details is an account of Palin's alleged premarital, one night stand with a basketball player (honestly...who cares?) and her cocaine use during a snowmobiling trip in Alaska. McGinniss' worst allegation, perhaps, is his assertion that Sarah Palin's fifth child, Trig, is not her biological son. “The circumstances surrounding both Sarah's pregnancy and her fifth child are very difficult...to understand,” McGinniss writes. “I found a remarkable number of fair-minded, commonsense Alaskans who've known Sarah for many years who do not believe that Trig is her child.”
Really? Since when is the speculation of unnamed sources acceptable support for any argument? There are many fair-minded, commonsense Americans who still believe President Obama was not born in the United States, but that doesn't make it true. McGinniss' biography of Sarah Palin smacks of vindictive gossip.
And there's the rub. These days, media coverage is synonymous with gossip, and politicians are on par with theatrical celebrities. The fine line between public figure and television personality is increasingly blurred. Of course, politicians willingly step over that fine line to garner support and appear “real,” likable, but in an age when many Americans often rely on tabloids for important information, public servants who do so should exercise caution. Americans should decide what they want from their legislators. Do we want to hear about Sarah Palin's policies or possible (though unlikely) 2012 presidential run, or do we want to watch her daughter flaunt her seemingly endless fifteen minutes of fame on Dancing With the Stars? Do we want to hear about Michelle Obama's “Let's Move” against childhood obesity project, or do we want to watch the First Lady participate in television's “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition?” Are American politicians public figures or performers? (Granted, politicians have always been performers, but they now raise their skill to new levels.)
As for McGinniss and his book, why try to destroy Palin's credibility? She did that all by herself and perhaps sealed her political fate when she ventured into reality television. In his final chapter, McGinniss summed up the purpose of The Rogue: “No matter how much my book sales might benefit from a Palin presidential campaign in 2012, I sincerely hope that the whole extravaganza, which has been unblushingly underwritten by a mainstream media willing to gamble the nation's future in exchange for the cheap thrill of watching a clown in high heels on a flying trapeze, is nearing the end of its run.”
While I applaud the metaphors, I can't help but think McGinniss is part of the very same circus he condemns. Why can't the mainstream media steer clear of tawdry gossip and present only truth that has direct bearing on the American people?
Now that would be going rogue.