From the Cutting Room Floor of Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin – Obsessive Perfection and Anger Mismanagement
Wednesday 31 August 2011
By Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon
This is the first article we will be posting on material that was ultimately cut from Frank Bailey’s memoir – Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin. That book was Frank’s story, but we felt it was important to share what we learned that was outside the scope of Bailey’s direct experience. For a full explanation and introduction to this post, read HERE.
Note: All of the sources who came to the authors after McGinniss’s leak of the Blind Allegiance manuscript in February (and there were several) did so voluntarily. Their longstanding relationships with the Palins were verified and their comments were willingly taped or supplied in written form. While individuals remain fearful of the well-documented Palin retribution (therefore requiring anonymity), they are in unanimous agreement that Sarah Palin is ill-suited to have a position of power or influence. We have every reason to believe the comments are credible and accurate and in no cases did these stories conflict with our findings in researching Blind Allegiance for two years. In addition, when stories overlapped, the details corroborated one with the other. Finally, except where noted and referenced in Blind Allegiance, Frank Bailey had no part in conducting or writing these pieces.
Frank Bailey was one of the earliest volunteers on the Sarah Palin for Governor campaign and rose from toilet-scrubbing gofer to holding the powerful position of Director of Boards and Commissions in the Palin administration. His journey from naïve idealistic devotee to disillusioned outsider is the subject of his memoir, Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin (with Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon).
From the earliest months of his association with Sarah Palin, Frank Bailey had witnessed and been on the receiving end of her unpredictable temper. As a glass half full guy and loyal foot soldier, he told himself that passion—even if unjustly directed at underlings—was simply a normal response to the abnormal and highly stressful pressures of a hotly contested gubernatorial campaign. He also believed Sarah when she insisted that she was under constant assaults from “evil forces” and “evil-doers.” How, under these circumstances, could someone not buckle under from time to time? He even convinced himself that temper could sometimes be an asset in a political race.
To help staff manage these tantrums, husband Todd Palin often made morning calls to Frank, giving him a heads-up on Sarah’s mood so that staff would be prepared for which Sarah to expect that day. Todd, more than anyone else, was in a position to gauge her shifting moods, himself frequently the target of Sarah’s powder keg temper.
But Todd, as well as long-time personal friends, understood all too well that Sarah’s temperamental outbursts had more sinister roots. When Sarah said to her staff, “I hate being wrong,” others speculated she feared being perceived as anything less than physically, or intellectually perfect.
Sarah, as Frank noted in his book, seemed to live off coffee in the form of a drink called a Skinny White Chocolate Mocha. Around the time Frank first noticed Sarah’s dramatic weight drop, the candidate was staying with friends while Todd was away. These individuals said they grew concerned about Sarah; one going so far as to offer, “I don’t think she ate once. All she drinks is coffee.” When pressed further, the individual went on, “It’s terrible. She is in a hole. She’s completely blank.”
A long-time acquaintance who visited the Palin home gave additional insight into the problem with her fixation on weight: “I’ve seen boxes of diet pills on her bathroom counter, in the bedroom.” For many of these pills, the common listed side effects are irritability, mania, depression, and insomnia. While writing Blind Allegiance, the only one of these behaviors we did not document thoroughly was insomnia.
Todd, alarmed and frustrated, confirmed that his wife was taking these diet aids when heard to say, “She’s taking all those damn diet pills, keeping her wired out. Makes her a monster, she’s a bitch.”
That savage temper Todd referred to, whether or not a result of the pills, often went uncontrolled, even in the presence of their own children, and guests. One visitor sadly said, “We saw Sarah throw cans across the kitchen at Todd, denting the refrigerator. One time we saw her slap Todd hard across the face after he’d been drinking too much, saying ‘Do you know how bad that would be for me if anyone saw you like that?’ She was mayor at the time.”
Their household was reportedly a cauldron of verbal abuse and warfare. Beyond what was revealed directly to us, independent accounts confirmed this bitter family dynamic—including those made public by ex-almost-son-in-law and father of Bristol Palin’s son Levi Johnston. Bristol later called Johnston a “gnat” and indirectly suggested in her recently published book, that he was guilty of statutory rape. The following comments from Vanity Fair (Michael Joseph Gross, October, 2010) were confirmed and repeated to us first-hand with additional detail:
One friend of the Palins’ remembers an argument between Sarah and Todd: “They took all the canned goods out of the pantry, then proceeded to throw them at each other. By the time they got done, the stainless-steel fridge looked like it had got shot up with a shotgun. Todd said, ‘I don’t know why I even waste my time trying to get nice things for you if you’re just going to ruin them.’ ” This friend adds, “As soon as she enters her property and the door closes, even the insects in that house cringe. She has a horrible temper, but she has gotten away with it because she is a pretty woman.”
When the then-governor was considering the possibility of having a reality show filmed in the Palin home, Bristol Palin said directly to Frank Bailey in Sarah’s presence (reported in Blind Allegiance), “They’d see some shit, that’s for sure.” Sarah responded with a confirming giggle. While at the time Frank had no idea what Bristol might be referencing, those we interviewed knew exactly. Anyone, at any time, might find themselves front and center of a battle royal.
Observers described fights that began most mornings. Sarah, who often went to bed as early as five o’clock in the afternoon, awoke early. Todd usually slept on the old, red-leather sofa in the living room because the younger girls habitually slept with Sarah in her bed, or Sarah went to bed furious with him. The running joke with overnight guests was, “Hey, Todd! Got your bed ready on the couch, do you?”
As Sarah often shuffled from her bedroom pre-dawn, it was impossible for the couple to avoid each other, and it typically did not take long for their shouting matches to begin.
“The fights became so frequent that the kids seemed almost immune to them,” said a person who’d seen this scenario play out too many times. In describing how these outbursts degenerated, an observer noted, “Sarah and Todd said everything you can think of. There was cussing, swearing, and arguing in front of the kids all the time: ‘F*** you,’ ‘shit,’ ‘damn,’ ‘I hate you,’ ‘I’m leaving you,’ ‘no, I’m leaving you first.’” Todd admitted to at least one person that if Sarah had lost the governorship, he would have divorced her. Did he mean what he said? The couple’s actions would seem to indicate yes. Relationships are by their nature complex, so who knows, but more on Sarah’s supposed affair with Todd’s ex-business partner in a later post.
The claim that Sarah was never actually pregnant with her special needs child Trig—a widely circulated rumor that became known as “Babygate”—was partially based on Sarah shocking the world by announcing her pregnancy at seven months. Prior to that, nobody had suspected a thing. The revelation was even a surprise to staff, Frank Bailey, and the media. Even State Senator (and, according to Sarah and staff an evil-doer) Lyda Greene incredulously said, “It’s wonderful. She’s very well disguised. When I was five months pregnant, there was absolutely no question that I was with child.”
How did Sarah manage to hide that pregnancy for so long? That question seemed to defy explanation to all except a small number of personal insiders who expressed alarming speculation. During her pregnancy with Piper (and it was suggested later with Trig), Todd asked a friend whom he thought knew about such matters, “As unhealthy as her eating is, what can those diet pills do to the baby?”
The friend explained to him, “I’m not sure, but I’d be concerned about having a failure-to-thrive child.” (Failure to thrive is where there is a significant interruption in the expected growth rate during early childhood and can result from malnutrition). Was Sarah so vain as to try and hide her pregnancy and prolong her petite, almost perfect figure through drastic means? It’s a proposition that shocked everyone, including, reportedly, her husband.
When the newly revealed pregnant governor went into labor, she was in Texas at an energy conference. It was more than a month before her due date with a high risk pregnancy. She chose to continue delivering a speech, and then flew from Texas to Washington to Alaska in a commercial aircraft after her water broke, bypassing several excellent hospitals in order to return home to Alaska to deliver the child. She described the final stages of labor, as she drove out of Anchorage, past two major hospitals and headed toward the Mat-Su Valley.
Landed in, uh, in Anchorage at about 10:30. Got out to the valley at 11:30 and [my doctor] met us at the hospital, checked me out and said, ‘Um, Yea you look, you may have it um tonight or in the morning.’ And it was smooth, it was relatively easy, in fact it was very easy, the easiest of all of them because he was so tiny.
The official story of Palin’s can only be described as a demonstration of what is universally regarded as poor judgment. Even if taken at face value, her story demonstrates a wanton disregard for her own health and safety, and that of her unborn baby. The story speaks to the truthfulness of what these concerned people are saying.
It was also suggested that this problems went beyond dieting. Todd spoke to a couple visiting their home concerning what he regarded as his wife’s increasingly dangerous behavior. Sarah, he once said, had not eaten in two days. Then, to break her fast, she’d “suddenly eat four packages of Oreos and a loaf of bread and butter,” only to follow up by buying and eating “those damn big honey buns.”
One of their guests reported, “I told Todd, ‘She’s binging and purging.’ It wasn’t something he didn’t know, but I wanted to make sure, so I watched, and then one day she did come into the house in the afternoon with honey buns and a couple of fast-food bags, and disappeared into the bedroom.”
At times, Sarah reportedly would retire in the late afternoon and not come out of her bedroom until morning. After these gorging sessions, when she occasionally came downstairs for a drink, “she had a red, glassy-eyed stare and reddened knuckles, as if she’d rubbed them against her teeth.” When confronted by friends who told Sarah these were classic symptoms of bulimia and that she needed help, Sarah simply scowled and walked away. In a pattern she repeated on matters large and small, she did not want to hear the negatives. In this instance, assuming Todd had requested this confrontation she directed her considerable anger at him.
Partially as a result of her irregular presence, she was, to be generous, a lax housekeeper and sometimes disinterested parent; in many ways this mirrored her dealings with perceived political enemies, a fixation that often precluded her from attending to state business. In Frank’s mind, this is where Todd Palin did his best to compensate.
While Frank Bailey eventually came to know Todd Palin as someone whose demands would lead to personal anxiety and crisis (including his tragic involvement in Troopergate), he was not alone in seeing the man’s love for his children. In the words of someone who saw the Palin children grow up: “Todd was a good dad. He would sit and braid his daughters’ hair in the morning before breakfast. He would make his little girls pretty before they went to school. He’d put bows in their hair, and he did well with those girls.
“And Sarah might be awake when he did this, drinking coffee and staring at her BlackBerry. And his little girls would have their hair braided by their dad because she was too off on another planet to make sure it was done. Sarah was too busy for ‘Time to brush your teeth’ or ‘Get your homework done.’ Todd put in a very nice set of washer and dryer, the really big ones. And laundry wouldn’t be done. One time I went to do laundry for them because everything was stained, and socks were terrible and nothing matched. I remember trying to put bleach in the bleach hole. Obviously someone had put soap in it and just left it, because it was a big, caked, molded mess.”
When Todd was gone from home for work on the North Slope for British Petroleum, “Everything was just nasty: Wal-Mart bins of used cotton balls; forty-eight bottles of half-used shampoo thrown on shelves. There’s a half-bath right off the kitchen, and it was disgusting. Clothes were kept in piles on the floor. But it was so funny because Todd would run home from the slope . . . and within ten minutes of being home, was using a Swiffer Duster in the main foyer of the house. Seriously. Or he would be running the vacuum cleaner in the front entranceway before he’d done anything else.”
Frank directly observed in Blind Allegiance that when Todd was home from his shift on the North Slope, he seemed both mother and father. Further confirming this picture, an occasional guest said, “First thing Todd does when he gets home is stop at Costco and buy fruit cups, tuna cups, all the groceries, because there would be none or very little at the house.”
Sarah’s desperate need to manage her weight was only part of a greater desire to appear glamorous. When in the presence of people like arch conservative supporter Bill Kristol, she understood that her beauty was disarming, helping to deflect shortcomings. Rarely was a discussion of her not prefaced with the identifier “Former beauty queen.” Once a flattering image was then flashed on the television screen or on the cover of a magazine, it was hard not to think she was also a current beauty queen.
Rush Limbaugh, in an early 2008 radio broadcast, said of Sarah: “Governor Sarah Palin’s a babe. By the way, I’m not diminishing any of her accomplishments by pointing out that she’s a babe; the babe aspect is just icing on the cake.” Without any self-consciousness, the comment and the word babe were circulated as sources of pride to the entire campaign staff, including Todd Palin. On local conservative talk radio in Alaska, she was often referred to as the “babalicious” governor.
In a quest to maintain physical perfection, she became, in the words of someone who spent weeks at a time in close contact with her, “addicted to Botox.” Reportedly a family member, an aesthetician, was on call to perform the treatments as an easy and convenient confidante. Many women in the public eye seek to maintain their youth with treatment, even surgery, so Sarah wasn’t alone. But her seeming compulsion to maintain cover girl glamor above all else—including family duties and state obligations—disturbed many who regularly witnessed these behaviors. If there was an unflattering picture of her, such as the October 2008 Newsweek cover that showed unwanted facial hair, pores, and wrinkles, that became an unfair attack; people in her circle complained that printing an un-retouched photo was an example of biased journalism. When Michelle Obama was placed on Maxim magazine’s Hot Top 100 list in 2009, and Sarah was not, aide Ivy Frye, knowing this would upset the governor, said, “I wish there were some way we could point out the stupidity of this without having to say, ‘Sarah is waaaaaay hotter than Michelle Obama.’”
Her focus on looks and tin ear for appropriate decorum became, at times, puzzling if not bizarre. But guests to their Wasilla home saw even more startling evidence of a woman almost wholly self-absorbed with looks.
When, as an infant, Piper was photographed as the poster child for the Alaska Right to Life campaign, Sarah had the photographer take shots of her in what one visitor described as almost softly pornographic photos.
“You have to check this shit out,” Todd said, leading one guest to the bedroom where, for a time, the photos hung on a wall above the bed. In three similar photos, Sarah was seen in white women’s underwear and a thin white men’s cotton shirt that was unbuttoned and teasingly open enough to expose ample cleavage. Sarah was perched seductively on her knees, her shoulders twisted to one side in a classic come-hither pose.
In what qualified as a second shock, Sarah had her girls, Willow and Bristol, dressed similarly and posed at her side with infant Piper in the foreground also wearing white.
“It’s hard to imagine those hanging outside her office at the White House,” one person quipped. “It was really weird. A lot of us were not surprised she spent so much money on clothes during the campaign. Even when she and Todd were younger and on a budget, she’d loved shopping, and they’d get in huge fights about all the money she was spending.”
When McCain’s staff complained after the campaign that Sarah was a “diva,” she became agitated and swore she wasn’t. For those who knew her well, including Frank, saying so didn’t make it true.
In an incident from the original text of Blind Allegiance, she grew surly and nasty when a cold sore appeared on her lip ahead of a campaign event and lashed out at family and staff.
But her fragile image-making went beyond looks. Sarah felt the need to manage her intellectual persona as much as her physical one. To add intellectual heft to her resume, she had staff pen op-eds that she didn’t always read or understand. She also (now famously thanks to Blind Allegiance) penned her own letters to the editor praising herself and had others sign, insisting they lie when asked by editors if they wrote the pieces. The image-building was a permanent crusade, and all that mattered was what people saw on the surface.
While there is always room in this world for misinterpreting observations or motives (maybe especially someone as controversial as Sarah Palin), what we heard in these interviews—coupled with our own exhaustive two year journey in writing a book—leaves us with the conclusion that Sarah’s judgment in all these matters was, at best, poor. Is this, rhetorically, someone we want near the red button at 3:00 a.m.?
We will explore more evidence uncovered in these interviews later.