Leaks launch Palin's 'Going Rogue' with that ol' campaign fervor

By Jason Horowitz and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 13, 2009

The rollout for former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's highly anticipated and score-settling memoir began Thursday with all the orchestrated stagecraft, wild accusations, inconvenient leaks and media fascination that characterized her campaign as Sen. John McCain's running mate during the 2008 presidential race.

In the book, "Going Rogue: An American Life," Palin contends that the McCain campaign stuck her with a $50,000 bill for the cost of her own vetting, botched the announcement of her teenage daughter's pregnancy, outfitted Palin with all those infamous costly ensembles, and shielded her from reporters. Even so, Palin goes on to belittle two famous interlocutors, Katie Couric and Charles Gibson, according to the Associated Press, which found and purchased a copy of the book before its sale date.

Those details trumped the more calibrated cyber-teasers, which began midweek with Oprah Winfrey's written and video excerpts of an interview she taped with Palin on Monday. "Breaking News From Me . . . " read the post on Winfrey's Twitter page, linking to a video in which the talk-show host, a die-hard Obama supporter who attended the president's inauguration as a VIP, related that she had conducted "really an interesting interview." Palin "talked about everything," Winfrey said, counting off on her fingers, "Bristol, the pregnancy, Trig."

Palin opted for Facebook to promote the interview, which airs on the eve of the book's Tuesday release. "We taped the show for Monday, November 16th," Palin wrote, "and enjoyed it so much that we went way over on time. The rest will air on Oprah.com."

According to Fred Malek, a major donor to the McCain campaign who has consistently defended Palin, early copies of the book went out to key supporters on Saturday, with instructions to keep the content confidential until the books officially hit the shelves. Malek insisted that he had only scanned the book, but said, "it talks about family, it talks about travails" and was "deeply personal and warm with a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that is fun to read."

It also included 16 pages of color pictures, Malek said, including photos of Palin as a child.

Such on-message appetite-whetting was in keeping with what the Palin camp, and the book's publisher, Rupert Murdoch-owned HarperCollins, had hoped for. Written at a blistering clip in the months since Palin's resignation as governor of Alaska, the five-chapter, 413-page book reportedly achieves a literary voice that -- ghostwriter Lynn Vincent notwithstanding -- echoes the folksy youbetcha-ness of Palin's campaign-speak.

Claims in dispute

But AP's reporting of some of the more pointed sections of the book have undone gentler elements of a soft launch and redirected attention to the more problematic portions of the Palin narrative.

In the book, Palin accuses the McCain campaign of leaving her a $50,000 bill, the amount, she suggests, that her vetting cost the campaign. She asserts the thousands of dollars in clothes purchased from some of the country's most exclusive department stores was explained to her as all "part of the convention." Palin also says she carefully revised a statement about her daughter Bristol's pregnancy, with her teenage boyfriend, Levi Johnston, the father, only to see the campaign's less delicate version distributed to the media.

A spokeswoman for McCain's Senate office, Brooke Buchanan, declined to respond to the charges.

But multiple former McCain officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, as the senator had not authorized any participation, disputed Palin's claims.

"John McCain offered her the opportunity of a lifetime, and during the campaign it seems that, for all of her mistakes, she is searching for people to blame," said one former senior official in the McCain campaign. "We don't need to go through this again."

Regarding the $50,000, several high-ranking McCain aides said Palin was most likely conflating the cost of her vetting, which the McCain aides counter was actually minimal, with the fees she spent to defend herself from various accusations of ethical wrongdoing in her home state.

Speaking with Winfrey, Palin also argues that the McCain campaign approved of her performance in her disastrous interview with Couric of CBS.

"Do you think that was a seminal, defining moment for you, that interview?" Winfrey asks.

"I did not," Palin responds. "And neither did the campaign. In fact, that is why Segment 2 and 3 and 4 and maybe 5 were scheduled. The campaign said, right on. Good. You're showing your independence."

"No sentient person would look at that and say that," assessed one former senior McCain campaign official.

In her book, Palin issued harsh words for the media as a whole and for Couric in particular. According to AP, Palin described Couric as "badgering" and a sufferer of low self-esteem. (Couric declined, through a spokesman, to comment.) The former governor, who in the book says her dream was to be a sportscaster alongside Howard Cosell, takes aim at ABC anchor Gibson, whose interview preceded Couric's. He "peered skeptically" at her over his glasses, Palin writes, and had no interest in the substantive issues. (A spokesman for ABC did not return a request for comment.)

Palin couples her laments about her treatment in high-profile interviews with complaints that the McCain campaign shielded her from the media and kept her "bottled up."

Already a bestseller

Now, through "Going Rogue," Palin can directly address her fans and her conservative base without any media filter. Her volume already sits near the top of online bestseller lists, based on pre-sales alone, and HarperCollins's religious imprint Zondervan will publish another edition of the book.

On Wednesday, Palin commences a book tour in Grand Rapids, Mich., the state she argued McCain should never have conceded, and will travel, campaignlike, through Iowa and Virginia and a handful of other states.

As the tour promises to bolster her conservative bona fides, it will also put a spotlight back on her family's less wholesome moments. In her interview with Winfrey, Palin responds to a question about Johnston, the father of her grandchild, who has since split with Palin's daughter Bristol and posed nude for Playgirl.

"Will he be invited to Thanksgiving dinner?" Winfrey asked.

"You know, that's a great question," Palin said, adding, "I think he needs to know that he is loved and he has the most beautiful child and this can all work out for good. It really can. We don't have to keep going down this road of controversy and drama all the time. We're not really into the drama. We don't really like that. We're more productive. We have other things to concentrate on."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company