Tina Jordan
September 22, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Rogue

Current Status
In Season
Joe Mcginniss

We gave it a C-

You may recall what happened when investigative reporter Joe McGinniss, under contract to write a book about Sarah Palin, rented the house next to hers outside Wasilla, Alaska: The Palins cried foul, threw up a fence, and incited their pals in the right-wing media, who called for the author’s head on a pike. The ensuing threat of violence was so real that at one point McGinniss had round-the-clock police protection. The mayor of Wasilla asked him, ”Do you want a gun?”

But The Rogue isn’t supposed to be about McGinniss. It’s supposed to be about Palin. I agree with McGinniss when he writes, ”If this is how she reacts, as a private citizen, to an unwelcome neighbor next door, what would she do as president if the Iranian government suddenly irked her?” Yet it’s one thing to use the house rental to set up Palin’s story, and quite another thing to be harping on it hundreds of pages in. Perhaps it’s meant to be a distraction — there just isn’t that much new to say about Palin at this point. Sure, McGinniss provides a more-than-respectable biography, and he does get plenty of choice bits — like the ones from Gary Wheeler, the state police officer who headed Palin’s security detail when she was governor. He remembers how Palin quickly dispensed with an official driver: ”…she didn’t want us around. She didn’t want anybody to follow her to Nordstrom’s when she went shopping every day…. she didn’t want anybody to know that she wasn’t coming in until 10 a.m. and then leaving by three to go home.” But for every on-the-record detail like Wheeler’s, there’s a more unsavory, unpleasant one, whether it’s about alleged cocaine use or parenting skills or dietary habits, and those are rarely attributed to anyone.

It’s toward the end where McGinniss loses me for good. That’s where he piously asserts that he believes Trig, Palin’s fifth child, is indeed her own, yet in the next breath he says ”the circumstances surrounding both Sarah’s pregnancy and her fifth child’s premature birth are very difficult…to understand.” He then repeats all the speculation surrounding Trig’s birth, adding, ”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.” It’s a flimsy straw-man argument, one that’s beneath McGinniss. In the end, his book is simply too weak to damage Palin. She’ll be done in by her own public record instead. C-

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