‘The Sarah Palin I Know’

John Ziegler Contributor
Font Size:

For more on Ziegler’s Palin-related experiences and to read his pre-emptive rebuttal of his critics, go to: www.TheSarahPalinIKnow.com

For many reasons, the first week of January 2009 was clearly the longest and most difficult of my life. By late Sunday morning, exhausted and now preparing to cross the country for my grandfather’s funeral, I staggered out of the shower and my then fiancée told me someone had called.

“Hi, John Ziegler, this is Governor Sarah Palin,” said the familiar voice on my phone message. There was a pause. “From Alaska,” she added. It’s typical of Sarah’s underappreciated sense of humor to pretend this needed to be clarified. “I just sat down and watched your movie about 9/11,” she went on, “and it’s unflippin’ believable”—”flippin'” is one of her favorite expressions—”I would like to talk with you about this next documentary. Could you give me a call?”

At this point, Sarah and I had met only once, but we were already developing a bizarre relationship. Over the almost three years that followed, we would often act like friends—while at other times she would act like she barely knew me.

However you’d describe our dealings with each other, though, one thing is undeniable: the most controversial figure in American politics ended up dominating my life in ways I could have never imagined, until I finally reached my breaking point, days before she made her way up the east coast on a bus, stopping along the way to have public pizza with Donald Trump. The whole strange spectacle made pretty much the entire planet conclude that she’s probably running for president.

Now, with Sarah’s bus tour of historic sites seemingly completed, and the biggest decision of her life directly in front of her, I wish her the best—I genuinely do. Without a doubt, she’s been subjected to the most biased media coverage in modern political history; enough to leave even the most thick-skinned of candidates shivering in the fetal position on the side of the road. Instead, she’s survived and, in many ways, prospered. For that, I will always respect and admire her. Everyone should.

However, what she appears to be currently doing is almost certainly destructive to her cause and her country. I say this as the guy who risked $300,000 of his life savings to produce the very first pro-Sarah documentary back in 2009 (and the only one with her participation), while putting everything on the line to fight countless battles on her behalf—such as demonstrating outside David Letterman’s studios in New York after the late night talk show host made a joke about 14-year-old Willow Palin getting “knocked up,” being dragged away in handcuffs from a laughable awards ceremony for the liberal ‘news’ anchor Katie Couric, getting regularly attacked as a guest by liberal hosts on MSNBC, and responding with $100,000 offers to charity to debate them on her behalf.

I’ve fought so hard for Sarah, I’m almost unemployable.

But in spite of being approached by Sarah’s husband Todd only a month ago and specifically discussing the possibility, I won’t be working on any Palin presidential campaign. Why? Well, first of all, contrary to what geniuses like Andrew Sullivan and Howard Dean may want you to believe, there is absolutely no way that she can be elected. I’ve told this to her directly; more than once. While many pundits mistakenly think what she is doing is some Trump-like PR stunt, I’m pretty convinced she is running and in doing so will damage the prospects of any conservative defeating Barack Obama in 2012.

These aren’t my only concerns.

There’s also the fact that Sarah’s entire operation is increasingly managed like a CIA field office; that she’s adopted a bunker mentality; that she’s trusting the wrong people, some of whom I know are simply exploiting her. As a result, even those most loyal to her get tossed under the bus, with little or no effort to avoid the collateral damage. Which raises the question: if people like me who would once have taken a bullet for Sarah (and at least figuratively I did many times) can’t get behind her any more, what the hell happened?

I first got to know Sarah one morning at her frozen lakeside home in the tiny, blue collar town of Wasilla, Alaska. This was January 2009, right after she and John McCain had lost the election to the most under-vetted and media-aided candidate in modern American history .

To me, as a political junkie, former talk-radio host, and film-maker (my documentaries include Blocking The Path to 9/11 about the infamously censored TV miniseries The Path to 9/11), the treatment she’d been given by the press bordered on a crime. Admittedly, Palin’s performance in the 2008 presidential campaign wasn’t perfect but it was far better than almost anyone else would have done under the circumstances. The almost comically negative image the media created for her was truly just that—a media creation. And while the major news networks goaded her and ridiculed her, Obama was praised and hyped and given a pass on nearly every issue. It drove me almost literally crazy. That’s why I decided to make a film to set the record straight: Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted.

Naturally, I asked Sarah if she wanted to appear, even though I knew it was more than a long shot. After the election, she was one of the most famous and fascinating people in the world, and every news outlet in the country wanted the historic post-result interview. Incredibly, though, her Alaskan state office said ‘yes’ only to my request. I was just beginning to recover from the shock when, two days later, her political staff shot down a separate request with a one-line e-mail, leaving me in an excruciating limbo of not knowing whether to believe the “yes” or the “no.” This would become all-too familiar feeling over the coming years. In the end, because she rightly felt so strongly about the subject matter, Sarah overruled advisers and personally intervened to save the interview. This was an act which bought her enormous loyalty from me and which over the past two and a half years was repaid to her with compound interest.

Our meeting was set for January 5, which meant only one possible obstacle stood in my way: the due date of Sarah’s pregnant teenage daughter, Bristol. In the end, baby Tripp arrived a week before my flight, so I went ahead and made my journey in a massive snow storm to what felt like the end of the earth, checking into my hotel in Wasilla at 3.30am. Two hours of sleep later—and with a debilitating head cold—I gathered my film crew, put on my boots and arctic jacket, and trudged over to the governor’s residence.

The entire Palin property was practically a block of ice. First thing I see: moose antlers hanging from a tree, with a sign nailed to the trunk saying, ‘The Palins.’ I felt like I’d walked into a Norman Rockwell painting. Bristol opens the door wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt, looking totally uninterested in what I’m doing there, as one would expect from an 18-year-old with a newborn. Little Trip is crying. The ‘First Dude’, Todd—a man of very few words, but a good guy, even though he looks like he could kick your ass—was in another room somewhere, looking after Trig, who famously suffers from Down Syndrome.

Then Sarah walks in to welcome us, like she’s late for a date—boots, jacket, black skirt, no make-up yet. She’s a beautiful woman, but frankly, I almost didn’t recognize her. Maybe it was the nerves.

The interview was spectacular. I defy anyone who buys into the conventional narrative that Sarah is stupid to listen to it and not change their mind. She was engaging, smart, honest, revealing, vulnerable, funny, and charismatic. When I showed her election footage that she’d never seen before and asked for her comments, she not once asked to pause the tape, and nailed every answer. At one point she came close to tears while watching Tina Fey mocking Bristol’s pregnancy. It remains the only in-depth interview she’s ever given on the subject of the 2008 election.

Perhaps the most revealing moments came when we were talking for quite awhile after the cameras stopped rolling. I’d noticed that Piper, the Palins’ second youngest, was a huge fan of the Disney show Hannah Montana. I happen to know the head writer on the show (a die-hard Democrat, incidentally), so I offered to get Piper some signed memorabilia—and I was floored by Sarah’s response.

“Oh my gosh,” she said, her face lighting up. “Y’know, all of this will have been worthwhile, if Piper can just get one good thing out of it.” It was heartbreaking for me, because it was obvious Sarah knew what she’d put her family through, and you could tell that she wanted desperately to make up for it. Later, Sarah told me that Piper had been a hit at her cousin’s birthday party thanks to the stuff I sent her, though thankfully that I am sure that small gesture has long ago been dwarfed by all the cool things that have happened for her since.

Before I left, I felt I had to give the governor at least one piece of advice. After all, I know how politicians work. They surround themselves with yes-people. No one dares speak up. I figured I’d never get another opportunity like this again, so, with the very best of intentions, I told her: “You have to know, you can’t beat Obama in 2012. The media won’t let you. They won’t let him lose and the narrative about you is too negative to correct in three-and-a-half years.”

She said nothing. No-one else spoke, either. I looked around at my crew, and the same thing was written on everyone’s face: “What the hell are you doing, Ziegler?” It was the first of several times where it would be obvious to me that Sarah Palin does not like hearing bad news.

Media Malpractice—and the epic media campaign that included appearances on the Today Show and The View to promote it—put Sarah back in the spotlight when, thanks to being ensconced in Alaska, it looked as though she might become old news. But it also gave me my second bitter taste of the way her operation works. Even though I’d sent an e-mail to Sarah’s political spokesperson, Meg Stapleton, giving plenty of advanced warning that I’d be posting a clip of my interview on YouTube, the morning it went live, her office rushed out a statement, implying that I’d misrepresented my intentions. Meg later admitted that she just hadn’t seen my e-mail, but that didn’t stop Palin’s team from the state of Alaska continuing to blame me for something I didn’t do and which was actually helping their boss nationally.

That weekend, Sarah called me at my apartment in Burbank, California, leaving me that “unflippin’ believable” voicemail. “Oh, don’t worry about it, John,” she told me, when we finally connected. “My staff is just complaining because it’s extra work for them to do.” We talked for maybe 30 minutes in total, and she told me her biggest concern was coming off as “whiny” by fighting back against her treatment during the 2008 campaign. I told her that George W. Bush didn’t like fighting back against the liberal media, either, and look what happened to him. I urged her to learn from that lesson and it appears that she has.

From then on, our strange relationship took many twists and turns. I screened my film up in Anchorage (Todd showed up, along with Sarah’s father and brother). I became easily her most visible defender in the national press. I even staged a one-man “protest” at the University of Southern California, where the CBS anchor Katie Couric was being given the Walter Cronkite Journalism award for ‘National Impact on the 2008 presidential campaign.’ She received the honor seemingly for the feat of asking Sarah, ‘Which newspapers do you read?’ (Sarah thought she was being trapped, but was too polite to say so, so she dodged the question, and was crucified for it.) While Couric got the award inside, I was being physically restrained and handcuffed outside for supposedly trespassing on an open campus.

In fact, I was simply attempting to give away copies of my own, far more truthful Palin interview to audience members—which may have created a brand new level in the definition of irony. The LAPD gave me the option of leaving or being charged, so I left.

Todd called me later to ask if I was okay, which I thought was nice of him. He’s clearly a tough guy, someone you’d definitely want with you if you got lost in the Alaskan wilderness, but underneath that, he seems like a gentle soul and a great husband. In fact, when we last spoke, he was asking me how I was paying the bills while going out to bat for Sarah, and I told him that I was lucky to have a wife who worked as a school teacher. “So… you’re just like me,” he said. He was joking—I think. Whatever, it takes balls to admit you’re a kept man.

That was the beginning of my time as Sarah’s unofficial human flak-jacket. Two months after the Couric event, I flew to New York from LA on a whim to organize a ‘Fire David Letterman’ rally for his cheap joke about Willow—the news of which I’d broken to Sarah in person on my radio show. However, my problems with the governor’s operation quickly flared up again. Basically, Letterman offered a series of classic ‘non-apology apologies’ on his show. Without giving me a heads up, Sarah finally accepted one of them.

By then I’d already flown from to New York, talked about the protest on every TV channel that would have me, and started gathering supporters, but of course by the time I got out on the street, the story was dead and buried. Liberals had even hired fake protesters to hijack the whole thing, and I was hung out to dry. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and trust me, I’ve had a lot of them.

I vented my frustration with Sarah and Meg but remained loyal to the cause, even though I felt like I’d been taken for granted. After all, by this point I’d become virtually her shadow press secretary (at least according to MSNBC) while she was essentially sequestered from the national media in Alaska. But I was also starting to get a weird feeling that something wasn’t right, especially after my trip to Anchorage for the Media Malpractice screening. Under relentless abuse from the media and frivolous lawsuits, Sarah was sealing herself off from the outside world, with only Todd and a couple of others close enough to her to have any influence.

A bunker mentally seemed to be setting in.

Finally, on July 3, 2009, word came from Wasilla that a major announcement was imminent. I remember discussing it with a mysterious character named Rebecca Mansour—I’ve joked with her many times that she’s CIA—who was then running the website Conservatives4Palin after, bizarrely, being an Obama supporter. “I think she’s going to resign as governor,” I told her, remembering that a month earlier I’d asked Sarah on my radio show if she’d ever do this, and being taken aback by her honesty when she admitted, rather coyly, that she had indeed considered it.

(What Rebecca Mansour really thinks about Romney, Bristol Palin, and more)

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” said Rebecca.

An hour later, my prediction came true—and at that moment I knew that any chance of Sarah being able to win the White House in 2012 had just been destroyed. I completely understand why she did it. The Democrats and their supporters had filed so many baseless claims against Sarah in Alaska it was making her job miserable and impossible.

If she hadn’t resigned, the state would have practically ground to a halt. Plus, thanks to having to defend herself legally against largely bogus ethics complaints, she needed money, which meant it was essential to take advantage of her limited window of celebrity. So she did her best with a really bad hand of cards. But there was no denying the consequences. In fact, not long after she made the announcement, while I was on my way to Yosemite National Park for an annual family get-away, I received an e-mail from Rebecca.

“Shit, it’s over,” is all it said.

When I caught up with Rebecca on the phone later that day, we agreed that if you resigned after two years of a governorship, you were a ‘quitter’ in voters’ eyes. Your protests to the contrary would be futile. Your campaign was dead, especially against a preordained media deity like Barack Obama. Nevertheless, in an act that still angers my wife to this day, I rushed back to Los Angeles to do the seemingly impossible: be the lone defender of Sarah’s resignation on the next edition of The O’Reilly Factor. I hit a much-needed home run for her that night, but I no longer believe much of what I said back then.

Let’s face it, Palin made a great decision for her and her family, but one that disqualifies her from running for president, at least in 2012. Obama has the ultimate trump card against her: when things got tough you quit to become a rich celebrity while I was killing Osama bin Laden. Game, set, match.

The worst part about the resignation from a political narrative perspective is that it also stripped away Palin’s greatest strength. She is clearly a fighter but it is impossible to make “She will fight for you” the cornerstone of a campaign when she just quit her only big job, seemingly for personal gain.

What Palin and her many supporters apparently refuse to accept is that Palin is the Bo Jackson of modern Republican politics. She was a natural, but that talent has been taken away by circumstances beyond her control.

She once was a moderate conservative with the ability to appeal to Democrats and the charisma to energize Republicans. Not since Reagan has there been as gifted a politician as her and, because she is an attractive woman with a powerful personal story, you could easily argue she exceeded even the Gipper in overall political potential. I also believe her to be smarter than Reagan.

But like Jackson, she was cut down by “injury” in the prime of her career. The media-induced knee-capping during the 2008 election and its aftermath was grossly unfair, but it was also comprehensive and complete. Like Jackson after his freak hip injury, she still looked the same and could still plausibly play the game, but the magic was gone. It isn’t her fault and it is a travesty of justice, but to not recognize and accept that would be highly detrimental to the team. Jackson soon realized this; Palin apparently has not yet done so (or, potentially even worse, has, and just doesn’t care as much about the team as her brand).

When I confronted Kathleen Parker on CNN in late 2010 about her having “led” the “assassination” of Sarah Palin, I was very specific. I said that Parker and others killed off “Sarah Palin 1.0” and that what exists today is “Sarah Palin 2.0,” which is a very different program.

The first incarnation was actually rather moderate both politically and in tone, having made her reputation going after Republican corruption. This is how she entered the 2008 race with over an 80 percent approval rating in Alaska but came home with almost no Democratic support and very little love among a Republican Party establishment that feared and resented her. This lack of a political base is by far the most underrated cause of her resignation.

When after the 2008 election all hopes of being the Republican bridge builder (not the kind to “nowhere”) were destroyed by the unfair media coverage, Palin very astutely realized that it was only the conservative base that would rally to her defense and she quickly, I would like to think with some help from me, became their Joan of Arc.

While I like “Sarah Palin 2.0” just fine politically, it was a creation of necessity and it was designed for survival and not to beat Obama. It baffles me how relatively few Republican voters seem to understand that beating Obama with any conservative is the ONLY thing that matters and that quite literally, through no real fault of her own, there are almost no conservatives not currently in prison who have LESS of a chance of beating Obama than Sarah Palin currently does. Worst of all, her just getting in the race greatly reduces the chances of an electable conservative, like Tim Pawlenty, getting enough traction to win the nomination.

Her supporters will tell you that such heresy is just what the media wants you to believe. That I am naively falling into their trap. That an energized base is all we need to win. In this case, no matter what the great Rush Limbaugh says, that is all absolute hogwash.

First of all, almost everyone has already made up their mind about Palin and she has well over a 50 percent disapproval rating with no office/position where she can do/achieve anything to significantly change the narrative about her. About the only opportunity she would have to get a second look is to do high-profile interviews with liberal media types and, against my counsel, she has indicated she has no intention of doing that.

Secondly, it is a myth that “Palin 2.0” energizes the base in any extraordinary way. I know this from sales and traffic figures, and because while screening my film around the country I was essentially doing Sarah Palin focus groups. I can assure you that the number of ardent Palin supporters, while very significant, is largely overstated and that the number of normally Republican voters who have been duped by the media into strongly believing they would not vote for Palin under any circumstances is significantly underestimated.

Then there is the issue of how she greatly (thanks largely to being an attractive and successful mother of five who is still in love with her husband who makes women like Joy Behar feel bad about themselves) exacerbates the gender gap, which is the Republican Achilles heel in presidential races.

And finally there is the already incredibly long list of negative on-the-record statements from Republicans about her and the inevitable avalanche of Obama endorsements which would come from Republican “leaders” looking to ingratiate themselves with the media.

Palin supporters look at all of this and laughably claim that, if given the opportunity, she can change people’s minds. This is simply impossible. I have no doubt that, if presented with the chance, she would exceed expectations in virtually every area of a campaign (except organization), but that would hardly matter at all.

People rarely change their minds about anything anymore and everything she does will be seen through the media’s intractable prism that she is not real bright, which will inevitably foster even more alleged missteps (the classic examples of this being the absurd presumption that when didn’t tell Couric what she reads that it was because she didn’t read anything and, more recently, the flap over her take on Paul Revere’s famous ride). The new documentary about her record in Alaska is a nice idea, but unless they somehow buy network television time to air it, it will have absolutely no significant political impact.

Quite simply, the evidence is overwhelming that Palin would get crushed by Obama in such a resounding fashion that it may even threaten the Republican hold on the House and the party’s presumed taking of the Senate. We largely dodged a bullet once with Obama having virtually no checks on his power. We can’t afford to take that chance again.

As for Mansour, after the resignation, she was summoned up to Alaska, quickly becoming Sarah’s hard-to-reach and unpredictable chief speechwriter and media handler, a job she still holds to this day. Presumably she’s changed her mind that any chance of Sarah reaching the White House is “over,” or has conveniently “forgotten” what is so incredibly obvious.

After the resignation, my most demoralizing experience with the Palin organization was yet to come. It began when the Simi Valley Republican Women’s group invited Sarah to be the headline speaker at their 50th anniversary gala at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. The event created intense press excitement because it was to be her first post-resignation event and it was to be at a place with obvious presidential significance.

The Olympic champion Bruce Jenner, stepfather of the Kardashian girls, bought two tables. So did a number of other big-wigs. Mostly it was going to be an audience of wealthy older ladies—enormous Palin fans. I got involved because I was asked to be the MC that evening, but when I checked-in with Meg and Rebecca, the alarms in my head started going off. “It’s on the schedule,” Rebecca told me. Meanwhile, Meg seemed to be implying that they couldn’t give the final confirmation until Palin was no longer officially governor. As the date got closer I got more and more concerned and even predicted on my radio show that I didn’t think it was a sure thing Palin would be there.

Then I got an e-mail from Sarah herself, asking, “Can you tell me about this Reagan Library event?” Given my past experiences with her, I thought, “Uh-oh.”

She didn’t show up. Or rather, she canceled with impossibly short notice. It got worse: her office put out one of it’s by now familiar statements, essentially blaming the Simi Valley women for what happened. They were left fuming, and wanted to go to the press, so it was up to me to extinguish the brush fire before it evolved into yet another excuse for the Palin-hating news networks to once again pile on. It’s since come to light in the book Blind Allegiance (by her former staffer Frank Bailey) that even Sarah’s own staff were shocked when she didn’t attend, something I didn’t know at the time.

What was she doing instead on that night? Writing her book, probably, which meant she was in San Diego, within driving distance of the Reagan Library. To add insult to injury, Bailey’s book also reveals that while Sarah was writing her memoir, she sent an e-mail to her ghostwriter, saying, “We need you to watch that Media Malpractice DVD we sent you. I finally watched it [and] it is very, very good at explaining some of the things that must be incl in book. Thanks.” Just to finish the strange circle on that element of the story, I ended up writing the first authorized review of that book, a tome which made absolutely no mention of the film.

Oh, and guess who had to give the speech in front of the restless Simi Valley crowd in the half-empty Air Force One pavilion in Sarah’s absence? Yeah, me. Cue another of the most agonizing moments of my life. Some of my own friends didn’t even bother coming. Most who’d bought tickets understandably elected to get their money back rather than hear me speak.

My relationship with Sarah hit another pothole early in 2010 when I advised her via e-mail that her upcoming speech to the Tea Party Convention in Nashville was creating controversy because the event was both expensive and for-profit.

She forwarded my message to her team, apparently forgetting to delete my address, with the comment, “If I have to suffer thru Ziegler’s e-mails, we ALL have to suffer thru.” Wow, that was a punch in the gut. Less than four minutes later, a panicked follow-up pinged into my Blackberry’s inbox: “John—pls [sic] know that was a joke!  . . . you’re [sic] advice is very good, we have announced I will not be financially gaining from the speech, we need to get that word out there.” In other words, she’d acted on the message, but also made sure to take a pot shot at the messenger of bad news.

One screw-up led to another. For example: the news show 60 Minutes did a Palin hit piece based loosely on the book Game Change, focusing at one point on the completely twisted claim, essentially created by the Washington Post, that Sarah thought Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. This was just not true. At her son’s deployment ceremony Sarah was clearly referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq, at a time when Saddam Hussein was dead!

So I prepped her with notes for a rebuttal, which she texted me that she had received and liked, but when she was asked about that issue on The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, she butchered the answer, making it sound like 60 Minutes had got it right all along. That same week, she accepted a job as a commentator on Fox, which I thought was almost as damaging politically to her as resigning from the governorship. It meant she was giving up on the center—crucial to winning the presidency— and decided instead to sing to the choir.

Soon after that, she went on The Tonight Show, just blocks from where I was living. I was scheduled to be on Morning Joe on MSNBC very early the next morning. I asked the Palin team if I could simply attend the afternoon taping so that I could be prepared to defend her appearance without having to stay up very late before getting up absurdly early. Laughably, they actually told me that they had no ability to get any tickets to the very public and free taping.

On almost no sleep I did that show anyway and said that while she is clearly brilliant, that there was no way she could beat Obama in 2012, partially because of the choices she had recently made (resignation, Fox News instead of an over-the-air network, getting in bed with corrupt elements of the Tea Party, etc.).

Exasperated by the whole sorry situation, I sent Sarah and Todd an e-mail (which in retrospect was overly dramatic and really kind of silly) telling them that they obviously didn’t value my participation, so maybe it was best if we went our separate ways. Predictably, I got no response and we stopped all communication for several months.

The freeze between us didn’t last long, though. That autumn, Media Malpractice was re-released on video-on demand. Sarah and I posed for photographs together in San Diego to use for publicity, she Tweeted/Facebooked about it, and re-endorsed the film on radio. My loyalty to her was largely instantly regenerated.

I returned to writing columns on her behalf, still trying to correct the historical record about what really happened in 2008. In early May, I got the random call from Todd, apparently sounding me out about working on a potential campaign for Sarah (though I rarely knew for sure why Todd was really calling). By then, I’d already become convinced that she was actually going to run in 2012, so the conversation simply removed most of the remaining doubt. I actually considered it for a while as a Barry Goldwater-type campaign seemed fun—until I was reminded of all the frustrations that had been building since I was first jerked around by Sarah’s split-personality advisers back in 2008.

The first trigger was a story by this website detailing leaked tweets from Rebecca Mansour to a Palin supporter she didn’t even know. Mansour ripped into several prominent conservatives and even dissed Bristol Palin in a big way. At first she denied that the messages were hers and then finally admitted they were indeed from her (sound familiar at all?). Almost out of habit, I wrote to Sarah and Todd and offered to resign from writing columns in protest of the story. Once again, I got no response. Then I spoke to Tucker Carlson, the co-founder the site, and he said he’d actually had to redact many of Rebecca’s other remarks to protect the Palin family. It was clear no complaint was warranted.

After this came Blind Allegiance, which confirmed most of my worst suspicions about the various debacles that I’d been involved in on behalf of Sarah. When I asked Sarah and Todd for some sort of explanation, I again got no answer (in yet another irony, I did hear from Bailey and, after speaking to him, I actually think he is pretty credible).

Finally, as one last straw, Palin’s lawyer kept bugging me about sending him the “release” Sarah had signed for the movie, even though I had faxed it to her people at the time and I told him it was in remote storage because I had just moved. It seemed the only possible reason to even ask more than once about such a trivial issue was if they were somehow contemplating trying to make me the enemy, which was particularly aggravating because at virtually the same time I was going above and beyond the call of duty to help the new Palin film successfully navigate a potentially fatal legal issue. Regardless, it was insulting and clear that my loyalty meant very little to them. I was done. I could not longer work on behalf these people, no matter how good the Palins may be as or how clearly they have been wronged by the media.

All of which has left me wondering why she appears to be disregarding the advice of me and others as she seems ready to embark on this politically suicidal campaign. After all, contrary to popular belief, she is incredibly smart. Maybe she’s just getting bad advice from within her increasingly tiny and dysfunctional circle. Or perhaps she thinks it’s all good for her brand—which it probably is.

Whatever the case, the real enabler (in the ultimate irony) is the media. Without her, the Republican Party’s nominating process would be incredibly tedious and a commercial disaster at a time when news outlets pursue each tenth of a ratings point like crack addicts seeking their fix. Hence their paparazzi-like pursuit of the unorthadox and utterly newsless bus tour desperately hoping for a Hollywood starlet-like meltdown or a presidential announcement (or both).

Meanwhile, the conservative media is largely afraid to tell the truth about the dangers of a Palin campaign because they also fear a dull primary season, as well as offending the millions of Palin fans who make up the most loyal core of their audience. After all, beating Obama may not even be in their business interest.

Personally, I think one of the best ways to really understand Sarah Palin is to go back to 2008 and put yourself in her shoes when she got the call from John McCain that changed her life: you are the up-and-coming governor of the country’s most remote state; within the last couple of months you have given birth in your forties to a baby with Down Syndrome; and you’ve just found out that your unmarried teenage daughter is pregnant. You are surely questioning what you did to deserve all this as you survey your life suddenly in disarray. Then the phone rings, and instantly you’re being asked to run for Vice President of the United States! In an instant, everything makes sense: this is your destiny; you are meant by God for a higher purpose (interestingly, one of the very few relevant Palin e-mails that the media has found during their embarrassing spectacle over the past couple of days seems to substantiate that she indeed viewed things this way).

Since then, everything that has happened to her, and all that she has endured and achieved, is seen through that powerful prism. She is convinced all of this has happened for a reason. But whatever that higher purpose might be, it certainly won’t involve beating Barack Obama in 2012. I still hope it also doesn’t include ensuring his re-election.

If Sarah Palin still is the person I thought I knew, then she will do what is best for her cause and country by sitting this one out.

For more on Ziegler’s Palin-related experiences and to read his pre-emptive rebuttal of his critics go to:www.TheSarahPalinIKnow.com