Palin on divorce rumors: 'Have you seen Todd?'
A speed-reading of 'Going Rogue' yields tales from campaign trail and life in the Last Frontier

By Michael D. Shear and Jason Horowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 16, 2009 8:12 PM

Sarah Palin says the media firestorm surrounding her family did not subside after the election was over, but continued to hound her and her family.

"Every action we took -- or didn't take -- was fodder for the national media," she writes in her new book.

The post-election section of "Going Rogue" continues her criticism of the media despite her admission that "I don't like to hear people complain; I am the first to say, 'Buck up or stay in the truck.' "

But, she adds: "what used to be called 'mainstream' national media are, in many respects, worthless as a source of factual information any more."

The Washington Post purchased several copies of the book, "Going Rogue," which chronicles Palin's upbringing in Alaska as well as her sudden emergence on the national political stage in the summer of 2008 and its aftermath.

Palin writes that the craziness of the campaign followed her months after its conclusion, to a Yankees game that she attended with former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

That night, comedian David Letterman made a joke about her daughter, and she writes that her answer was criticized by the left, who said she couldn't take a joke.

"No, I guess I can't take a joke that suggests it's funny to humiliate a young girl and pretend that statutory rape by a thirty-four-year-old man is something to laugh about," she writes.

The passage was very serious. But others were more lighthearted. In one, she responds to what she describes as "gossipmongers" spreading rumors about a possible divorce from her husband, Todd.

"That day in sunny Texas when divorce rumors were rampant in the tabloids, I watched Todd, tanned and shirtless, take the baby from my arms and walk him back to the ranch house so Trig could nap while I made calls," she wrote. "Seeing Todd's blue eyes smiling, I chuckled."

"Dang, I thought. Divorce Todd? Have you seen Todd?"

On 'SNL': 'C'mon New York talent, we can do better'

Years before Tina Fey's spot-on portrayal of Palin on "Saturday Night Live," the former Alaska governor had dressed up for Halloween as -- Tina Fey, she writes.

"So when Tina started playing me on SNL, I told the B team [her name for her handlers], 'Hey, I was Tina Fey before she was me,' " she wrote.

In the book, Palin expresses a sense of self-deprecating humor about Fey's comedy and the appearance of herself and the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), on the NBC show. But she complains about how Fey's Palinisms became confused with her own words.

"The classic example was Tina dressed up as me, saying, 'I can see Russia from my house.' Which of course I've never said," she writes.

In fact, what she said, during the interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson, was "You can actually see Russia from land, here in Alaska."

Palin writes that she was also perturbed by the early version of the script she received during the day of their appearance on "SNL."

"It wasn't all that funny," she writes. "SNL writers had taken the campaign's 'Drill baby, drill!' mantra and turned it into a risque double entendre about Todd and me. I thought, nah. C'mon New York talent, we can do better than that."

But she has praise for Fey, who she describes as "friendly and gracious," and for pregnant "SNL" co-star Amy Poehler, who she says "compared belly sizes" with her daughter Bristol ahead of the show.

"Very down to earth. And funny, of course," she writes. "Really, everyone in the cast was so friendly and kind to us. There was nothing to fear."

(One person she did not like that night was director Oliver Stone, who made a cameo appearance. She writes: "Unbelievably, he is a supporter of Communist dictator Hugo Chavez, who in a 2006 speech to the United Nations referred to the president of the United States as 'the devil himself.' I did not shake Stone's hand.")

A Bare Prayer

Among the more revealing moments in Palin's book comes this one: One morning during the campaign, she was showering when she received a telephone call with pastor Rick Warren, who had offered to pray with her.

"I said, absolutely! Pray away!," she writes. "I would never turn down prayer even with limited hours in a campaign day, standing in a few inches of water with a shower curtain for a wardrobe. You do what you've got to do."

On meeting Todd Palin: 'Thank you, God'

The early pages of Palin's memoir are replete with references to Alaskan hunting culture and her delight in it. There's also a healthy dose of spirituality, youthful yearnings and self-actualization through sports. Whenever there is the possibility to extrapolate a political lesson -- and that lesson is invariably stay true to one's inner maverick, mistrust government, trust in God -- Palin does not hesitate to go there.

To suggest the origins of her suspicion of intrusive government, for example, she tells the story of how on Christmas Day a state trooper, a "big dude with a gun and a badge," pulled over the snowmobile carrying her and her siblings.

"I couldn't help wondering about his priorities," she writes. "if he really didn't have more important things to do."

More than anything, Palin seeks in the first chapter of the book to give a politically amenable version of herself. She tells how her brother Chuck slept in a closet connected to the bedroom shared by his sisters, how her family endured hardships in a frigid, unfamiliar land, how she learned solid morals and a good work ethic. How, as a young child, she had an "interest in government and current events" and a "passion for the power of words."

And a passion for meat.

"I love meat," Palin writes. "I eat pork chops, thick bacon burgers, and the seared fatty edges of a medium-well-done steak. But I especially love moose and caribou. I always remind people from outside our state that there's plenty of room for all Alaska's animals -- right next to the mashed potatoes."

There are references to "reindeer sausage" and field-dressing a moose with her dad before school. There's also a color photo of her father demonstrating to little Sarah how to skin a harbor seal. (In the caption to the photo, there is a clarification that this was before the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 banned the practice.)

But Palin's enthusiasm in all things moose, a motif of her 2008 campaign, went only so far, as she relates during a hunting excursion with her father.

" 'Here, hold these,' " he said. " 'I want to show them to my science class today.' " "I looked down to see the moose's eyeballs lying in his palm, still warm from the critter's head."

She goes on to express her disgust.

"I had my limits," she writes.

Palin makes an effort to establish her faith early in the book, which is also being published by a Christian books imprint of HarperCollins.

She writes that her family arrived in the remote Alaskan frontier town of Skagway six days after an earthquake had struck Alaska on Good Friday, and describes the Northern Lights as "shimmering like the hem of Heaven." She says that during Bible camp in Big Lake one summer she made the decision to "put my life in my Creator's hands and trust Him as I sought my life's path" and that when a nun taught her how to write the letter E, it "seemed a naked letter to me so I was determined to reinvent it." She loved to read "anything by C.S. Lewis."

And she uses that faith to score some political points.

She rejoices in Bible study groups in Wasilla when "ACLU activists had not yet convinced young people that they were supposed to feel offended by other people's free exercise of religion."

And when she first put eyes on Todd Palin in the school gym she whispered, "Thank you, God."

She writes that she really knew that he was the one for her when "he told me he had become a Christian and had been baptized at a sports camp."

(Yet, she shares how Todd was rather un-Christian when he told his locker room buddies Sarah "didn't even know how to kiss." "My young, crushed spirit learned a lesson about guys that day: even the good ones can act like jerks," she writes.)

Palin, of course, became the town beauty queen.

And while she suggests she was embarrassed to compete in beauty competitions, she adds, "I had to admit it was good tuition money, as well as a good testing ground for public speaking and issue advocacy."

On campaign staff: 'Let me answer the question'

McCain aides tried to prep Palin for her debate against then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) during last year's presidential campaign by giving her index cards with simplistic answers to complex questions, she writes.

The answers provided, she said, were more like nonanswers, designed by the McCain staff to avoid directly confronting the questions.

"What will it take to win the war in Afghanistan?" Palin says the front of one card read. On the back, the answer was: "The world is better off for the fact that the Taliban no longer rules Afghanistan."

When she protested, Palin says, she was told not to worry. She writes that she scribbled on one of the notecards: "Just let me answer the question, dang it."

In the book, "Going Rogue," which officially goes on sale tomorrow, the former Alaska governor offers scathing criticism of the way McCain's advisers prepped her, and she is especially critical of senior adviser Steve Schmidt, who she says proposed flying in a nutritionist to change her attitude during the preparations.

"I'm a forty-four-year-old, healthy, athletic woman raising five kids and governing a large state, I thought as his words faded into a background buzz," she writes. "Sir, I really don't know you yet. But you've told me how to dress, who to talk to, a lot of people not to talk to, who my heroes are supposed to be, and we're still losing. Now you're going to tell me what to eat?"

Schmidt has called many of the accounts in the book "fanciful" and has told media organizations that he offered a nutritionist because some concerns had been raised about Palin's health.

"I suppose if headquarters had flown in a nutritionist, I would've listened to what he or she had to say," Palin writes. "But as with much of what headquarters said, it never happened."

On VP selection: 'This is right. This fits.'

Palin harbored no doubts about her readiness to run for vice president when McCain called her last summer, saying in her book that her selection was a "natural progression" and that "it was only a matter of time before others saw Alaska's potential to contribute to America's future. Now the time was right."

The former Alaska governor says in the book that her selection was neither "anticipated nor sought," but she adds: "Yet when God presents those doors, we think, Yes. This is right. This fits."

Palin describes the early grilling she received from aides to McCain before her selection was announced. She admits worrying about the D grade she received in a college course (but doesn't say for what subject). And she says she gave no ground on her belief in "the C-word: creationism," even when McCain advisers noted the irony of her having a science teacher for a father.

That prompts a passage on growing up with her dad, talking about stalagmites and stalactites and learning "the elements of the periodic table between forkfuls of caribou lasagna. Didn't every family talk about what differentiated a grizzly from a brown bear?"

Palin addresses some of the controversies that quickly erupted after the announcement, including the racks of expensive clothing that suddenly appeared in her hotel suite at GOP convention, and more clothes and jewelry that were purchased for her during the early days of campaigning.

"I remember seeing one rather plain-looking blazer and thinking, that cost more than a semester at the University of Alaska," she writes. "I also noticed that instead of decent $7 pairs of nylons, one fancy package's price tag read $70. I hated to break it to them, but I doubted I'd even wear them -- it was still warm out, after all."

"We felt like we were starring in an episode of 'What not to wear,' " she writes.

The former Alaska governor describes the early campaign as a whirlwind of people around her -- "They were like human flash cards, there and gone" -- but says that her family enjoyed the ride.

Until the morning of Sept. 1, that is, when she saw the news of her oldest daughter's pregnancy crawl across the bottom of a flat-screen television embedded in the bathroom mirror in her hotel room.

"I nearly gagged on my toothbrush," she writes. "Oh, God, I thought. Here we go."

On the press: 'The media train jumped the truth track'

Palin really doesn't like the media. That is crystal clear in her book, which reserves some of its harshest words for members of the press who hounded her throughout the campaign.

She calls the journalists who descended on Alaska "black-suited, laptop-toting flatlanders" and asserts that they got little right in the days immediately after McCain chose her. "What they did report, patchy factoids cobbled together from the Internet and a few left-wing Alaskan bloggers, was usually wrong," she writes.

About her daughter Bristol's pregnancy, she writes that "the media train jumped the truth track in record time." She asserts that reporters misled the public on her views of sex education and whether she had tried to ban books. (She says she didn't.)

And she labels rumors questioning whether her infant son, Trig, was really Bristol's baby as "a bullcrap story" that entered the "wider media bloodstream."

But Palin reserves most of her anger at the media for CBS News and anchor Katie Couric, who she describes as biased and interested in "gotcha" moments more than serious substance.

Palin claims that McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace pushed the Couric interview, saying that "Katie wants people to like her. . . . She wants you to like her." But Palin wonders about the value of the "seemingly endless serial chat with the lowest-rated news anchor in network television."

She acknowledges that the interview didn't go well. But over several pages in her book, she blames CBS News, Couric and McCain aides. She says the long interviews were edited to make her look bad.

"When I saw the final cut, it was clear that CBS had sought out the bad moments and systematically sliced out material that would accurately convey my message," she writes. "The sin of omission was glaring."

Palin asserts that what was left on the cutting room floor were substantive answers to Couric's questions, including a discussion of the "need to wean ourselves off hydrocarbons" and her experience as "chair of the AOGCC and IOGCC," which gave her knowledge about how much more quickly oil could be drawn from the oil fields in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Palin's answers about Alaska's position in relation to the rest of the country was her attempt to "squeeze a geographical primer into a ten-second sound bite," she writes. Given time, she writes, she could have explained better.

"For instance, that Alaska's geographic position makes our relations with Pacific Rim countries of great strategic import, and that we're the air crossroads of the world," she writes. "That Russian bombers often play cat-and-mouse with our Air Force near Alaska's airspace. That I dealt with Canadian officials on a weekly basis. . . . That Alaska takes on Japanese and Russian fishing trawlers that want to ravage the ocean floor."

She explained the back-and-forth with Couric over what newspapers she read as a failure to conceal her annoyance.

"It wasn't that I didn't want to -- or, as some have ludicrously suggested, couldn't -- answer her question; it was that her condescension irritated me," she wrote.

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