An unlikely voracious reader

AN UNLIKELY VORACIOUS READER…. The New York Times‘ Sunday magazine has a lengthy piece from Robert Draper today on a certain former half-term governor. The piece covers quite a bit of ground — and should probably dispel any lingering doubts about Sarah Palin’s national ambitions — but a couple of things stood out.

Palin was asked, for example, about why she initially ran in Alaska as someone interested in bipartisanship, but then abandoned that approach. As Palin sees it, she learned a lesson “when John McCain chose me for the nomination for vice president.”

“[W]hat it showed me about the left: they go home,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you do. It was the left that came out attacking me. They showed me their hypocrisy; they showed me they weren’t willing to work in a bipartisan way. I learned my lesson. Once bitten, twice shy. I will never trust that they are not hypocrites until they show me they’re sincere.”

So, in Palin’s mind, she doesn’t want to work with Democrats because Democrats criticized a Republican candidate during a competitive presidential campaign. I get the sense that Palin may not fully appreciate the meaning of the word “hypocrisy.”

But it was an exchange towards the very end of the piece that was probably the most memorable.

Palin became testy when I asked her about the books I heard she had been reading. “I’ve been reading since I was a little girl,” she snapped. “And my mom is standing 15 feet away from me, and I should put her on the phone with you right now so she can tell you. That’s what happens when you grow up in a house full of teachers — you read; and I always have. Just because — and,” she continued, though in a less blistering tone, “I don’t want to come across sounding caustic or annoyed by this issue: because of one roll-of-the-eye answer to a question I gave, I’m still dealing with this,” she said, referring to her interview with Katie Couric.

“There’s nothing different today than there was in the last 43 years of my life since I first started reading. I continue to read all that I can get my hands on — and reading biographies of, yes, Thatcher for instance, and of course Reagan and the John Adams letters, and I’m just thinking of a couple that are on my bedside, I go back to C.S. Lewis for inspiration, there’s such a variety, because books have always been important in my life.” She went on: “I’m reading [the conservative radio host] Mark Levin’s book; I’ll get ahold of Glenn Beck’s new book — and now because I’m opening up,” she finished warily, “I’m afraid I’m going to get reporters saying, Oh, she only reads books by Glenn Beck.”

Isaac Chotiner, noting the same paragraphs, asked, “Does anyone find this remotely believable?”

Put me down for a “no.” It sounds like the books Palin happens to have on her bedside are intended to score carefully chosen political points — a Thatcher biography, C.S. Lewis, the letters of a founding father, and “of course” Reagan, as if it’s to be assumed that conservatives are reading a biography of the 40th president at all times.

But more importantly, it’s the defensive qualities of her response that stand out. Likely presidential candidates aren’t usually so worried about perceptions of their intellect that they’re tempted to tell journalists to check with their parents about their reading habits as a child.

I don’t imagine Palin would care about my advice, but my suggestion would nevertheless be to just stop trying, because it’s probably a pointless exercise anyway. Those who’ve watched Palin and been unimpressed aren’t going to believe she’s a voracious reader, and those who worship her don’t care about her conspicuous unintelligence.

Palin has worked hard to cultivate an image as a “regular” person. She’s never been about book learnin’; Palin is about shooting from the hip with folksy tweets and semi-coherent Facebook posts.

“I continue to read all that I can get my hands on”? I can appreciate why Palin may want to improve her reputation, but this is both literally unbelievable and entirely pointless.