On today's edition of Coffee and Markets, Brad Jackson and Ben Domenech are joined by Matt Lewis from the Daily Caller to discuss his new book, The Quotable Rogue about Sarah Palin, the picture it paints of her that might be different than the one you've seen in the media and how she may impact the 2012 presidential field if she decides to run.
Jackson: On the show today our friend Matt Lewis from the Daily Caller is here. We’ll talk about his new book, The Quotable Rogue about Sarah Palin, the picture it paints of her that might be different from the one you’ve seen in the media, and we’ll discuss how she may impact the 2012 presidential field if she decides to run. I’m your host Brad Jackson and you’re listening to the June 30, 2011 edition of Coffee and Markets.
Joining us this morning to talk about his brand new book, The Quotable Rogue, the one, the only, friend of the show, Matt Lewis. Thanks for coming on, Matt. Great to have you here.
Lewis: Hey, good to be back.
Jackson: So, your book which comes out this week is called The Quotable Rogue, The Ideals of Sarah Palin In Her Own Words. I found this really interesting because you essentially collected her quotes, broke it down by issue, and you sort of got to see a picture of Sarah Palin on issues that I don’t really think you saw during the campaign. The first question I wanted to ask you though, it had to have taken a hell of a lot of research to come up with all these quotes. How did you find all of these?
Lewis: Yeah. You know, it does take work but I have to say not as difficult as if you were sort of researching a historical figure. I mean, Sarah Palin is obviously a contemporary figure and so it’s pretty easy to verify quotes. And that’s the really hard part. When you do a book on quotes it’s pretty easy to, you know, a lot of people think that Edmund Burke said some things that he didn’t say. What’s the famous quote, “That all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I guess apparently he didn’t exactly say it that way when people think he did.
So, when you do historical quotes you run into that issue. Not so much with this. A lot of this stuff was really publically available. It was going through her speeches, or interviews she gave, or her book. And so it took work, but the easy part was I didn’t have to verify the authenticity of it.
Domenech: You know, that’s definitely a good point. And in terms of historical quotes, you know, I’m used to, you know, back when I was writing speeches regularly it was always a challenge because there are so many out there that just completely or assigned to the wrong person. I think one of my favorite examples is that there is an Alexander Hamilton quote that is all over the place and that you can find and purchase on-line at various places, you know, framed and that kind of thing. It’s actually a quote from Alex Hamilton who was a modern figure. So, yeah. Anyway it’s very interesting to sort of have to navigate things. Obviously the Orwell rough men quote is a great example, too.
Lewis: Yeah. And that’s actually, by the way let me just say, that’s actually part of the reason I wrote the book is that no, you know, no modern figure has had their words misrepresented more than Sarah Palin. And this is something I’m interested in. It has happened to other people and it can be very devastating. You know, Jimmy Carter never said the word “malaise” and yet that came to define him. Al Gore never said he invented the Internet. Maria Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake”. And Sarah Palin never said, “I can see Russia from my front yard.”
Lewis: But people think they did.
Jackson: Yeah. I found that one really interesting. The fact, you pointed that out in the forward, that she never said that line, but that line became her calling card on things like Saturday Night Live. They just poked fun at that forever and ever.
Lewis: Right. And people, and I’m telling you, a lot of smart educated people believe Sarah Palin said that to this day. That’s part of the reason that I think this book, and the movie, and a lot of other stuff is, you know, very much needed.
Domenech: Now, let’s talk about that a little bit. You know, obviously this comes at a time when Palin is in focus because a lot of people are trying to decide, you know, from the outside whether she’s going to run for President or not. We’ve talked in the past to Scott Conroy from RealClear and to other people who’ve been close observers, what is your opinion on sort of where her path ahead is going to take her? And do you think that, you know, this movie, your book, that all of these different things that are coming together at the same time are going to be things that urge her to run or ultimately just sort of elevate her role within the conservative movement?
Lewis: That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. I don’t think anybody knows except, I guess Bristol Palin today on Fox News Today. She knows that a decision has been made, but so apparently the family knows. But I have to tell you, I mean, I think anyone else who tells you they know is either an egomaniac or lying to you. I think, you know, the You Tube song, She Moves in Mysterious Ways, really defines Sarah Palin. I don’t mean that as an insult. Some people might think it is. I think that she is not a traditional politician, she is unorthodox, and she’s a rogue. I mean, that’s part of her appeal. I go back and forth, it’s 50/50. Today I’m leaning that, you know, maybe 51% that she is running. Yesterday I was like 51% she wasn’t. All I can tell you is I really hope she does run because it will help book sales.
Domenech: Yeah. Exactly. And you know, hey, as capitalists I think that that makes total sense. Here’s the question that I have, too, about your book. Do you think that in the future, you know, a couple years from now, let’s assume for the sake of argument that she doesn’t run. Do you think that your book will be viewed in, how do you think it will reflect on her as a figure? This is sort of a, it’s a very unique arc in American political history and it’s incredible to sort of see all the different things that she’s gone through in a very short amount of time.
Do you think that Palin’s star in the future is going to continue to rise? Is she going to continue to be a powerful source within the, her movement and within the Republican Party as a whole?
Or is she going to be looked back on in the future as someone where everybody sort of looks at each other and say, explain how that happened?
Lewis: I think it depends on her. I think if she wants to be a force, she will be. And I think that my guess is if she doesn’t run for President that she will continue to be a political superstar. And there is an argument to be made, in fact I think Andrew Breitbart has made this point, that Sarah Palin could arguably be more influential if she doesn’t run. And I have to tell you this sort of ties in with the rationale for me to do this book. One of the reasons that I decided to be part of this is that if you think about it Sarah Palin is arguably the most significant female figure of the 21st century, so far. You can make an argument for other people --
Domenech: Kim Kardashian, of course.
Lewis: Yes. Well, you really probably could or maybe Lady Gaga but, and I’m a Kim Kardashian fan, I have to tell you. But that aside, I think arguably Sarah Palin is the most significant female figure of the 21st century. And she has and will continue to have an impact if she wants to.
Domenech: I was interested by the sort of ever present undercurrent of faith in this book. It wasn’t something that I had really thought of as being such an ever present moment in Palin’s opinions on things or a motivation for her and yet it seems to crop up, you know, time and again. You know, her talking about the influence of God in helping a gas line being built and things along those lines. Do you think that that sort of is an underappreciated aspect of Palin?
What are some of the other things that sort of popped out to you about the quotes that you collected?
Lewis: So I think, you know, first of all I really recommend people should read Palin’s own book, Going Rogue. Now, a lot of people aren’t going to read that and I think my book is probably much easier to digest for people. I mean, one of the things about a quote book is number one, it’s a good reference. But number two, it’s just a quick read. It’s an easy read and Sarah Palin’s book is obviously a little bit heavier lifting. But if you read that book, you’ve seen the TLC show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, you really begin to see that Sarah Palin as a person is quite different from what the media, the way the media portrays here.
If you watch, you know, Sarah Palin’s Alaska or read Going Rogue, it’s almost impossible to come away with it without really liking Sarah Palin. And if you watch , on the other hand if you watch The Daily Show or MSNBC and watch the clips they show of Sarah Palin, it’s almost impossible to come away without hating Sarah Palin and thinking she’s stupid. And so there’s this major dichotomy between who she is and that’s the huge argument. I do think that what a lot of people don’t know about Palin, and what my book, you know, brings up and all these other things, you know, the e-mails that came out recently from (unintelligible) Governor --
Lewis: -- the movie, all that, is that Sarah Palin is a very good person. Her family is a very normal family. She was a great Governor. She had an 88% approval rating when she was selected to be John McCain’s running mate. I think there are things that people don’t fully appreciate about her. The fact that she took on the big oil companies in Alaska, that’s really highlighted in the movie, The Undefeated. The fact that she, you know, was an athlete. You know, she has some, there’s some great quotes. One in the book, in my book, where she says, “Everything I ever needed to know about life I learned on the basketball court.” I think, you know, to understand Sarah Palin you have to understand Alaska. I have a whole chapter devoted to Alaska in this book. You have to understand her as an athlete actually, and that’s very important. And she’s a supporter of, for example, Title 9, which a lot of people may not know. And so yeah, I think that Sarah Palin is arguably the most known/unknown person in America today. People think they know who she is, but most people don’t.
Jackson: The question is, will she play Barack Obama on the basketball court then?
Lewis: That would be fun. Maybe Palin and John Thune versus Obama and Nancy Pelosi. That would be --
Domenech: Foul, foul.
Lewis: As you know, she was known Saracuda on the, that’s a basketball nickname, so she was tough. And a lot about that in her book. And it’s very important, she’s also a runner. It’s very important to sort of understand, that’s part of, you know, her mentality as a fighter. Another thing that I think that people, I’ll tell you something that I think really hurt her with a lot of people, including myself at the time I didn’t understand. When she quit her job as Governor I think a lot of people really, that rubbed them the wrong way, because you know we’re taught don’t quit.
What you learn as you study Sarah Palin is that first of all, she was serving with Frank Murkowski when he was Governor she was serving on an Oil and Gas Board in Alaska that was very corrupt, and she quit that, and that actually propelled her to run for Governor. So, sometimes quitting is good. And also I think the movie really points out that although politically staying on as Governor might have been the politically sagacious move for the good of Alaska and Sarah Palin’s family, but especially the State of Alaska, it was essentially grinding to a halt because of all the, you know, frivolous ethics violations being thrown up against Palin. In a way it was the really heroic thing for her to do to step down, but I think it did cost her politically.
Jackson: Matt, one of the things I thought was interesting in your book is sort of the forgotten picture of Sarah Palin as a fiscal cost cutter. And one of the things that you highlight is the deal about her cancelling the use of her jet, that her jet was a waste of money and she found a way to get rid of that. That’s really a message that resonates a lot right now in the political sphere for 2012, obviously with the debt ceiling talks.
How do you think that aspect of Sarah Palin should be seen as opposed to how it’s perceived in the media?
Lewis: Yeah. This is interesting and it actually ties into your last question, which I dodged in a way. I didn’t talk about Palin’s faith, and I should, because interestingly Sarah Palin according to Going Rogue was Catholic, at least as I recall. It’s been a while since I read it. But her family at a young age --
Lewis: -- moved to Alaska and she became like a Pentecostal non-denominational evangelical. And faith does matter a lot to her and there’s no doubt about that. It’s a very important part of her life; however, I will say that when I first learned about Sarah Palin in like 2007, early 2008, it was not as a social conservative or as a sort of, you know, this sort of populous became once John McCain selected her. It was really as a fiscal conservative and sort of a club for growth conservative.
And I think that is really when she had control over her own brand initially in Alaska that was it. She was taking on the Republican Party, the establishment, she was cutting costs. She was known primarily as a fiscal conservative. And I think this is a problem that vice president, you know, running mates run into. Is that they sort of, a couple things happen. Number one, they have to defend the policies of the principal, in this case John McCain’s policies. And number two, sometimes they become used as attack dogs. I think it was, here maybe I’ll misquote somebody here, so I apologize in advance. But I believe Richard Nixon said something like if you own a dog, you don’t have to bark. And he was referring to Spiro Agnew, his attack dog.
Lewis: His running mate that went out there and talked about the nattering and the bobs of negativism (phonetic sp.), and I think to a certain degree Sarah Palin became the person that, you know, that John McCain sent out there to go on the attack. And all of this is to say that I think that part of what we think we know about Sarah Palin is a little bit screwed based on her service, part of John McCain’s running mate. And when you go back and read these quotes and you’re right, you’ll see that her experience, and by the way this could, if Sarah Palin gets in and runs the big contrast with Michele Bachman is going to be that Sarah Palin has executive experience. Michele Bachman, as far as I know, does not.
Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla. She was Governor of Alaska, which is a strong position unlike some states. It’s a powerful position being Governor of Alaska. And her 18 months is arguably as good as any 18 months any Governor has ever had. It was a time of a lot of change and of growth for Alaska. And as I said earlier, she had an 88% approval rating. It’s really unfathomable.
Jackson: Hey Matt, has Michele Bachmann stolen Sarah Palin’s thunder in this election by getting in early?
Lewis: Well, I don’t know. I think that is a great question. And I go back and forth on whether or not Michele Bachmann’s early success, and I think she had a great debate in New Hampshire, and I go back and forth as to whether or not I think that makes it more or less likely that Palin will get in. Whether or not that’s happened yet, I do think that there is a potential that if Bachmann runs, and if Palin doesn’t, and if Bachmann continues to do well and catch fire, that she could take up some of Sarah Palin’s sort of energy and excitement. And I know some people think this is a sexist thing to say because they’re both women, but I think the comparison is apt. You know, I wouldn’t compare Lisa Murkowski to Michele Bachman just because they’re both women.
Lewis: But I think that the comparison with Bachmann and Palin is a legitimate comparison. Because not only are they both, you know, obviously attractive females, but they’re both conservative, Evangelical, appeal to the Tea Party. And they both have to win Iowa. I mean, presumably. Presumably to win the nomination they both would have to win Iowa, so there would be a major conflict if Palin gets in.
Domenech: Matt, let me ask you this. I think that when you look at somebody like Palin and you look at somebody like Bachmann, sort of next to each other, there’s one thing that really stands out about both of them. And that’s an inability to keep or maintain any kind of staff structure that resembles a coherent view or approach to managing campaigns or managing offices. In the case of Bachman, obviously there’s the five plus chiefs of staff . In the case of Palin, there’s been all sorts of turnover within, sort of her clan. It seems to have shrunk quite a bit. You know, there’s always sort of complaints about the media trying to cover her, that there’s no organization there. That everything is just very flying by the seat of the pants.
Do you think that this is just sort of an ever present problem for them that’s never going to go away, or is this something that can be corrected? And why is it that in terms of the comparison between the two, that’s something that they both seem to have in common from the outside?
Lewis: Well, I think the interesting thing is that there seems to be an inverse relationship between a candidate’s charisma and their ability to run a disciplined campaign. If you look at the candidates who are interesting and charismatic and I would include Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, as well as Bachmann and Palin, so this isn’t a gender thing. They tend to not be good, and I mean Herman Cain the verdict is still out so I don’t want to disparage him here or his staff. But by and large I would say that for whatever reason the candidates who are really disciplined and run what I would consider to be sort of traditional effective campaigns, the stuff that, you know, that helps you organize, you know, and turn out activists in places like Iowa, it’s going to be boring people like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, right.
And if you look at the candidates who are really kind of inspiring and romantic, they tend to not be good at that. And I think the key is to combine the two. And so Michele Bachmann, for example, you know, had, I mean, she had that gaff about John Wayne Gacy, but up until that point basically for the last several weeks it appeared that she had really kind of gotten her act together. I think the key is to combine the two without losing one of them. It’s sort of like if you’re an underground band and you start to become successful, all of a sudden you kind of loose the thing that made you cool to being with. But this is a great debate. I don’t think it has to be that way, but for whatever reason there really does seem to be kind of an inverse relationship. And I mean, look, you know, like on one hand we don’t want candidates who are like overly handled and overly careful and --
Lewis: -- and always on message, and always scripted. But by the same token you’ve got to have a little bit of that or you are going to get tripped up and say stupid stuff. So, it’s a happy medium and it seems like we’re at extremes right now.
Jackson: Matt, I want to close with this. One of the quotes I found pretty funny, she says, “I’ve decided to stop in cities that are not usually included in a typical book tour,” when talking about stops in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Washington, Pennsylvania, some other places. Matt, I ask you, will you show up in places that are not usually visited on book tours when you do your book tour?
Lewis: No. She moves in mysterious ways, I do not. I will be only appearing in large metropolitan areas.
Jackson: Middle America, you’ve heard it here. Matt Lewis is skipping you.
Lewis: I’m not (unintelligible) in Fargo, North Dakota nor will I be (unintelligible) Iowa, but good luck to them and God bless her for doing it. I’m from, you know, I’m from a small town and so I appreciate that. But no, I’ll be, if the place has a Whole Foods Market, I will likely be there. But if they don’t, probably not.
Jackson: Well, you know, we do have the Whole Foods headquarters here in Austin, Matt, so you’re more than welcome to come down here for a book tour.
Lewis: Now Austin I would gladly, Austin is one of my all time favorite cities as you know.
Jackson: Well, thanks again for coming on Matt. The book is The Quotable Rogue, The Ideals of Sarah Palin In Her Own Words available on Amazon now. Everybody go buy it. Thanks again, Matt.
Lewis: Thank you.
(End of Podcast)