Joe McGinniss Visit

Bestselling author Joe McGinniss has no place in his heart for Sarah Palin. 

“She had little native intelligence,” McGinniss said of Palin, “a thought process is not part of her skill set.” And that was just the tip of the iceberg on McGinniss’s opinions on John McCain’s 2008 vice-presidential running mate.

McGinnis unleashed his views on the former governor of Alaska and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in his talk titled “From Nixon to Palin: Forty Years of Writing About Presidents and Pretenders,” which he gave to about 100 UMass faculty and students Monday evening.

The fact that John McCain could have become president and Palin would have been his next in command was a “close brush with political disaster,” McGinniss said.

“She came, with absolutely no qualifications for public office, within a few percentage points of being a heartbeat away of the presidency, and this heartbeat was that of a 72 year old man who had already been diagnosed with cancer. This was a close call for America,” McGinniss said about Palin and the failed election.

“We’re so lucky that Barack Obama won, not for what he is or isn’t, but to keep Sarah Palin away from any levers of power.”

McGinniss’s views of Palin are informed by the entire summer of 2010 he spent living within the shadow of the Palins’ large home on Lake Lucille in Wasilla, Alaska, in order to write a biography on Palin titled “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.”

“The book has been credited by some for helping to convince Palin not to run for president this year,” McGinniss said.

McGinniss explained how the Palin’s built their house within 10 feet of their neighbor’s modest ranch house in order to force them to move. In retaliation, the owner rented her house to McGinniss for four months while he wrote “The Rogue.”

“If you needed to borrow salt, you could just reach over and take it right off their dining room table. That’s how close it was,” McGinniss said.

“It was a long four months,” McGinniss said of the experience, “I came away with a much worse impression of her than when I started.”

The Palins already had a bad taste for McGinniss from his article on Palin’s claim to bring a new oil pipeline to Alaska which turned out to be false, showing Palin in the light of a liar.

Palin’s husband Todd Palin greeted McGinnis with hostility McGinniss said, and Sarah suggested via her Facebook account that the respected author had moved next door to peek into their daughter’s bedroom.

“There was a crusade to make McGinniss leave Sarah Palin alone,” McGinnis said. “Some right wing talk show host gives out my email address, and I’m getting hundreds of death threats and what people are going to do to me, and how if my grandchildren ever visit me out there, they had better buy a one way ticket, because they’re going to be found floating out in the lake.”

With townsfolk generally viewing the Palins with disdain, and worried for McGinniss’s safety from radical right wing Palin supporters, McGinniss claimed “for the next three weeks, I didn’t meet a single person in Wasilla who didn’t offer to loan me a handgun.”

“She attracted so much attention of my living next to her, that my moving out in the summer of 2010 made national news,” McGinniss said.

McGinniss also took some time to speak briefly about his current book, “15 Gothic Street.”

“The address may ring a bell with some UMass students,” McGinniss joked, “because it’s the address of the Hampshire County courthouse.”

McGinniss revealed the book will be about the view of a single courthouse in a small county.

“A lot of people believe the criminal justice system is hopelessly broken now,” McGinniss said, “I’m not so sure that it’s hopeless.”

At 69, McGinniss reveals he has no plans to retire.

“When you’re a writer, there really is no such thing as retiring, because what are you going to do? There’s always something else to write about,” McGinniss said.

McGinniss is known for the bestselling book, “The Selling of the President 1968” on the marketing strategies of the presidential campaigning of Richard Nixon.

When looking back and comparing Nixon and Palin, McGinniss said “Richard Nixon doesn’t seem so bad at all!”

Justin Surgent is a master of swag and can be reached at

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