The Palin files: Inside the crazy world of a Presidential wannabe
As 24,000 of her emails are made public, the American people get to see 'the hockey mum' as never before. Guy Adams joins the media frenzy
She has a temper. She hates the "lamestream media". When formulating policy, she likes to consult her husband and "first dude", Todd. She'll also talk important decisions over with God. And every now and then, you can expect her to issue folksy pronouncements such as "heck!" "you betcha!" or the newly-minted: "unflippinbelievable!"
It doesn't take much of a trawl through the 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin's emails, published on Friday, to get a sense of what makes America's foremost Mamma Grizzly tick. The former Governor of Alaska is ebullient, energetic, and occasionally hypocritical. She continually frets about her public image. When attacked, she asks staff to: "Pray for a mama's strength!"
The Palin Files, as they are already known, were turned over to a ravenous media pack in the State capital of Juneau at 9am on Friday (6pm GMT). Over the ensuing 24 hours, the six heavy boxes of A4 sheets were slowly uploaded to various internet databases. This morning, they are still being picked over by a mixture of professional reporters and interested members of the public, all of them hoping to stumble upon a bombshell revelation.
Supporters of Palin aren't quite sure what to think about this feeding frenzy. Some say the glee with which news organisations are sifting through reams of dull correspondence lays bare their hidden left-wing agenda. They are pouring disproportionate time into what amounts to a fishing trip. So far, they reckon this exercise in "gotcha" journalism is coming up pretty empty.
Other Palinophiles are more relaxed. In fact, they believe that the decision to release her communications, under Alaskan freedom of information laws, will improve her public image and add to the momentum growing behind her widely mooted (but still undeclared) presidential campaign.
"The emails detail a governor hard at work," said Tim Crawford, the treasurer of Palin's federal political action committee. "Everyone should read them."
In truth, plenty of useful nuggets of information have emerged during what Fox News has described as Palin's "media colonoscopy". Despite the heights to which she has risen up America's political ladder, important aspects of Palin's political identity have previously been kept under wraps. It now remains to be seen whether their emergence will be enough to change people's pre-conceived opinions of her
Until now, for example, we did not know the high regard in which Palin once privately held Barack Obama. Neither did we know that she has flip-flopped on climate change (a few years back, she accepted mainstream science on the issue). Or that, despite her public calls for cuts to government spending, she fought vigorously against reductions to her personal budget while in office.
Palin has recently criticised Obama's use of an autocue. She may have to stop doing that now. In one of the released emails, her aide, Meg Stapleton, tells Palin how she will "provide the answers" to questions being asked in a TV interview and display them on a teleprompter. "It needs to be very conversationally written," she said.
Palin, who is 47, replied by calling Stapleton "awesome", which appears to be her favourite term of endearment for staff. She often uses smiley faces in private correspondence, and her emails contain spelling and grammatical errors, some of which can be explained as the natural result of vigorous use of a BlackBerry.
We also have fresh insight into Palin's personality. She has in recent years made precious few unscripted public appearances (and many of them have ended in disaster). As a result, the public has been spoon-fed a carefully managed persona, which may not be entirely realistic.
The emails detail the strange, Nixon-esque obsession which Palin has had from the start of her career with her media profile. As far back as 2007, she was asking staff to post positive statements on comment boards below articles about her, saying: "I need folks to really help ramp up accurate counter comments to the misinformation that's being spread out there."
In June 2008, when a letter in the Anchorage Daily News criticised her failure to attend the Miss Alaska beauty pageant, she drafted a reply. "I'm looking for someone to correct the letter writer's goofy comments, but don't want the letter to come from me." When the same newspaper reported that she had purchased a tanning bed for the governor's mansion, despite having recently launched a campaign against skin cancer, she launched a witch hunt: "Any idea where this would have come from?"
Soon after being plucked from obscurity to be John McCain's vice presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, Palin was on the verge of quitting. "I feel like I'm at the breaking point with the hurtful gossip about my family," she wrote to the director of communications, Rosanne Hughes.
In the ensuing days, she blanched at being forced to respond to reporters seeking to find out her favourite poem. She also faced awkward questions about whether she believed in the theory of evolution, to which she responded: "Aaaaargh!"
Interestingly, Palin's evangelical Christianity informs many of her policies. During Alaska's complex budget negotiations, she told staff: "I have been praying for wisdom on this... God will have to show me what to do on the people's budget because I don't yet know the right path."
Her other major influence is "first dude" Todd. In 2008, he persuaded her to issue a bollocking to a local salmon processing plant which was failing to deal properly with her husband and other fishermen's catch. She also declined to ban the practice of hunting wolves from a helicopter because "Todd has interviewed buddies" who said it was a bad idea.
Regardless of what else emerges in the coming days and weeks, conspiracy theorists will be upset that what are potentially the most controversial aspects of her correspondence have been redacted, for legal reasons. Many messages detailing her stormy relationship with the State's congressional delegation is heavily redacted, as are dealings with oil and gas companies, particularly over controversial leases she granted.
Also censored are some important messages detailing the "Troopergate" scandal, in which she was accused of seeking to have her sister's estranged husband fired from his job. I'm seriously about ready to lose it," she said, shortly after the scandal broke. "I have been on the phone for two solid tonight on this alone. It's ridiculous." She may very well be thinking the same thing about the media circus which descended on Juneau this week.
The things she says...
On her selection as John McCain's running mate "Can you believe it! He told me yesterday — it moved fast! Pray! I love you."
On a speech by Republican John Harris, Alaska's Speaker at the time "I think that's the most stupid comment I've heard all year ... his statement says it all re: his beliefs: 'What the hell can we do... ?' Nice talk Mr Speaker, reflects well on your... ethical leadership."
On media inquiries as to whether she'd installed a sunbed at the Governor's mansion, at a reported cost of $35,000 "And the old, used tanning bed that my girls have used handful of times...? Yes, we paid for it ourselves. I, too, will continue to be dismayed at the media and am thankful you and Sharon are not part of the stange [sic] goings-on in the media world of today."
On internet rumours that her teenage daughter, Bristol, is mother of disabled son Trig "Hate to pick this one up again, but have heard three different times today the rumor again the [sic] Bristol is pregnant or had this baby. Even at Trig's doc appt this morning his doc said that's out there (hopefully NOT in their medical community-world, but it's out there). Bristol called again this afternoon asking if there's anything we can do to stop this as she receive [sic] two girlfriend-type calls today asking if it were true."
On media scrutiny "I feel like I'm at the breaking point with the hurtful gossip about my family. Many days I feel like it's not worth it when they have to put up with the hate that spews from people."
On the first anniversary of an aide's appointment "Oh you are awesome and encouraging! And congrats, also, on our first-most-awesome year in office together!"
On getting The Almighty to help write her first budget "I have been praying for wisdom on this ... God will have to show me what to do on the people's budget because I don't yet know the right path ... He will show me though."
On a media inquiry as to whether she believes that dinosaurs and humans ever co-existed "Arghhhh! I am so sorry that the office is swamped like this! Dinosaurs even?! I'll try to run through some of these in my head before responding."
On her decision to remove booze from the Governor's mansion "With so many kids and teens coming and going in that house, esp during this season of celebrationstt [sic] for young people — proms, graduations, etc, I want to send the msg that we can be — and 'the People's House' needs to be — alcohol-free."
On planning a party, six months later "Pls get small bottles of champagne for the house. Thanks."
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