Q&A with Shushannah Walshe, Co-author of ‘Sarah from Alaska’

A conversation with Shushannah Walshe, co-author of Sarah from Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. Walshe worked as a producer and reporter for the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the the 2008 presidential campaign concluded.

When did you join the campaign as an embedded reporter, and how was that decision made?

Walshe: I joined when Gov. Palin was selected, and the decision was made way before her selection. I had covered Gov. Romney during the primaries for five months, so the decision was made for me to cover whomever the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee would be. We were obviously surprised it was Palin.

How did you collaborate with Scott Conroy on this book?

Walshe: We were friends. We met covering Romney, but then we also covered Palin together the entire time. We decided on election night. I reported that she was going to give a speech because a source of mine had told me. I got this pretty irate phone call from a press secretary saying that I was wrong, that there was never going to be a speech, there was no speech and now we know that that was not true. And throughout that night, we learned more and more information, but it was all off the record and so, finally, the next morning, this is great…is this stuff ever going to get on the record? And they said ‘yes,’ and that’s when Scott and I decided maybe it would be a great book project…

As you conducted your research, what did you find most surprising?

Walshe: I think that going up to Alaska and what I learned there was the most interesting. I did not know that her allies before the campaign were Democrats, and that’s who she worked with closely to get her ethics and oil and gas legislation passed. She was on the campaign, billed as a reformer, but the Republicans there really did not like her and it was the Democrats that were her allies. That was the most surprising thing. Also, that she was really a media darling up in Alaska. I didn’t know that. The media up there was so sick of Frank Murkowski and how inaccessible he was, and then Palin came in and she was breath of fresh air. It’s funny now seeing that every single day she just slams the media so much, but she really was a media darling before the campaign.

If she has future presidential aspirations, do you think she can really maintain her “media is evil” stance? She’d have to be able to work with them.

Walshe: Absolutely. But the people that love her, her base, her supporters also hate the media. They also think she is being picked on. This new phrase she brought up, the “lame stream media,” they love that. So, her base is with her on this. They believe that the media is treating her wrong. It’s not just the media she needs to have a relationship with though. In order to become President of the United States, she would need to get independents and appeal more in the middle of the country, more politically I mean, and that’s not happening either.

Do you think the Katie Couric interviews were the turning point for her?

Walshe: I thought it was funny during the Oprah interview how Oprah said “Do you think that was turning point of the campaign?” and she said “No,” when clearly it was. They were a disaster and had a huge impact on the campaign. And through the research in our book, we were able to find out that she really did not prepare sufficiently. She thought that she could wing it and trust her instincts that she had throughout her life and throughout her career but in that situation, it really did not work.

Did McCain ultimately regret choosing Palin?

Walshe: I can’t get into John McCain’s head, but everything that he says openly is that he’s proud of her and proud of the campaign. In our book, we forward the idea of celebrity and that John McCain was surprised at how much Palin was taken with the idea of celebrity. But I just don’t think that I can get into his head if he has any regrets. He says he doesn’t.

She cited bloggers in her resignation speech. What do you make of that?

Walshe: She cited in her speech that liberal bloggers were one of the reasons she was leaving. This is just an incredible change from the person, the Sarah Palin, who existed before the campaign. This is somebody, the youngest governor of Alaska, who stood up to the oil companies who had owned the state and said “No, we deserve more money,” and she got the money for Alaskans. Then in such a short amount of time, she resigned citing liberal bloggers. I mean it’s quite extraordinary.

It was reported that Going Rogue has gone platinum. Why are people so fascinated with Sarah Palin?

Walshe: I’ve been with people waiting overnight to get her to sign a book. They definitely want her to run. You hear over and over, “I like her cause she’s just like me.” She’s a mom, but are there enough people to make her president? It’s not enough numbers, because she’s made no movements to woo independents or people that are politically in the middle, people that maybe aren’t happy with President Obama. She’s done nothing to move to the center on any kind of issue or to help woo those people.

What do you think she’ll do next?

Walshe: I do think these are the first movements of laying the groundwork for running in 2012. I think that we would both agree that she has presidential aspirations. Sarah Palin continues to surprise, so I could be wrong about that.

Was there anyone that you had wanted to talk to, besides Palin, that you couldn’t reach for this book?

Walshe: We would have loved to speak to John McCain, but he didn’t want to speak either.

Looking back, is there anything that you wish you had or hadn’t included in the book?

Walshe: That’s a good question. No. Since the book came out, people who thought the book would be one way or the other have called and said I wish I had spoken to you. I don’t think there’s anything missing. I think it’s a fair, full analysis of who this person is.

What do you think of Going Rogue?

Walshe: I think it’s pretty extraordinary, because there is so much that has been proven wrong and incorrect in the statements. I was pretty stunned by it. It reads a lot like historical fiction where some of the scenes take place, but the conversations just didn’t.

Is Palin a politician that thrives on anger?

Walshe: I think she just feels that every single controversy or situation, she has to respond, and sometimes, in a really over-the- top manner. An example of this is Levi Johnston. This is someone that I think, everyone agrees, if she would just ignore, would go away. I mean, his 15 minutes of fame are over. But because she continues to engage this kid, he remains in the picture. She doesn’t give the appearance of being above it all. Of course now she’s not a politician, she’s a private citizen, so she’s going to do whatever. I think it would serve her better to stay above it all.

How have people reacted to your book?

Walshe: I know it sounds extraordinary, but even people for Palin gave it a positive review, and they are tough. I guess I got a few tweets saying that I’m mean or whatever. From both sides, they’ve said it’s a very fair book so we’re really happy about that. I had no idea what the reaction would be. I thought that because they were so loyal and protective of Sarah Palin that they would not like it all. We were on Bill O’Reilly and we’ve gotten other media and they’ve all really liked it.

Has Palin directly reacted to your book?

Walshe: Her political spokesperson said the truth will come out in Going Rogue. That’s it, actually. I’ve spoken to my sources around her and they’re all happy with it. She’s such a polarizing figure. I think people were surprised that anyone could write a fair book.