Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years
By Frank Bailey
Howard Books, 2011, 383 pages, $26.
Winston Churchill once observed, “In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times.” By that reckoning, Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin is a bloodbath.
A self-described “Fox News conservative” and evangelical Christian, author Frank Bailey was a staffer for Sarah Palin during her bid for the Alaska governorship in 2006. Later, he worked in her administration. By his telling, Bailey quickly became disillusioned with the Republican rock star’s conduct but stuck by her side until 2009.
Pulling from a hefty store chest of email correspondence, Bailey paints a morally harrowing picture of the chief Mama Grizzly’s stint in Alaskan politics: poll fixing, “planting” letters to the editor, and paying newspapers to publish editorials; illegally coordinating with the Republican Governors Association on a campaign ad; pulling strings to get her ex-brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten, fired; and resigning as Alaska’s governor because she “hated the damn job.”
The overall picture: a paranoid, emotionally volatile psycho chick obsessed with money. “Punishing enemies and wealth accumulation became a full-time job,” Bailey writes. “Jabez,” a biblical character blessed by God with riches, became a frequent password Palin used for her electronic accounts.
Bailey also contends that “Sarahcuda” cared little for her family. “I recall one day when Bristol [Palin] phoned from school crying while Sara sat in my office,” Bailey writes. “Sarah rolled her eyes and held the phone out, as if to say, ‘You wanna listen to this?'”
Turning to the 2008 presidential election and Palin’s stint as John McCain’s running mate, Bailey portrays a disjointed process. He says that McCain staffers didn’t vet Sarah until days after she was selected as the vice presidential candidate. “In simple terms, the woman who nearly became the second-most-powerful person in our country was chosen on a whim,” he writes.
The lion’s share of the book focuses on the much-discussed Troopergate scandal, in which the Palins allegedly targeted Wooten for termination following threats against their family. When public safety commissioner Walt Monegan did not bow to her wishes, Palin fired him. Such were the charges from political opponents, at least.
“First Dude” Todd Palin was more preoccupied (“obsessed,” Bailey says) with Wooten than anyone else near the governor. “His hope became that if we hurled enough accusation spaghetti against the wall, no matter how frivolous, something might stick,” Bailey writes.
Bailey was the lynchpin on Team Palin. He took scorching heat during the investigation after a taped phone conversation became public in which he asked a public safety department staffer why Wooten was still on the government payroll. Contrary to the official report, Bailey writes in his memoir that Todd and Sarah were intimately involved in applying pressure to oust Wooten.
A special investigation in October 2008 found that Palin had abused her power, but it did not recommend a criminal investigation or sanctions. Later findings from the State Personnel Board cleared her of ethical wrongdoing.
If for no other reason, Blind Allegiance is a worthwhile read for its first-hand account of the scandal. Whether the re-telling is accurate is another question.
Consider the source. Bailey devotes page after page to sanctimoniously smearing Palin’s reputation, yet he claims the book is a way to confess his own sins and clear his own conscience. That declaration would be more veritable were he not cashing in by trashing his former boss. Bailey has an ax to grind, and he grinds it with glee.
Adding to the doubt, Bailey’s co-authors — Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon — are anything but paragons of journalistic virtue. Devon, a regular blogger on the left-wing Huffington Post, has carved her niche as a professional Palin hater. Lefty economist Morris, meanwhile, publicly offered $100,000 to Palin’s favorite charity if she agreed to have dinner with him and four other “progressives” and allow them to ask any question they wished.
Worse, Bailey’s tell-all might be illegal. The Alaska attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into whether the former Palin staffer illegally used government emails that hadn’t yet been disseminated to the public for personal monetary gain — a violation of state law.
Although much of the email correspondence quoted by Bailey is embarrassing, Palin’s reputation on that front was bolstered by the release in June of 24,000 pages of emails from her administration. The document dump, in response to public records requests filed in 2008, provided no smoking gun for salivating journalists expecting to find a hotbed of scandal and political corruption.
Given those caveats, some of the evidence presented in Blind Allegiance is compelling, and conservatives ignore it at their own peril. It casts further doubt on whether Palin has the poise and personality to be a prime-time presidential candidate. Her near obsession with answering critics, clearly documented by Bailey throughout the book, is one example. Protecting a political reputation is good; reckless preoccupation with every negative word penned by a pundit is not.
Devoted Palin fans will no doubt find Blind Allegiance yet another entry in the growing genre of Palin-phobia. But it’s far more than that. It’s another piece of baggage that Palin must carry with her. Whether deserved or not, her image outside a loyal cohort of conservatives is tarnished.