As the title makes very clear, this is no “on the one hand, on the other hand” summation of the 2012 Republican presidential prospect. For Dunn, an award-winning investigative reporter who is a frequent contributor to the liberal Huffington Post, there is no other hand to Palin. (Except for one acknowledged factor, with which any fervent Palinite could agree. That sine qua non of presidency seekers, that all-consuming drive? She has it in spades.) Dunn has that quality too: his 400-plus pages setting up the case for Palin as a pathological liar, an “approval-seeker on steroids” and someone almost universally considered—by former supporters, let alone enemies—to have some sort of mental disorder, is backed by more than 100 in-depth interviews. It’s probably more than he needs; Dunn’s subject, after all, is the woman who signed her email announcing the birth of her fifth child, Trig, not with her name but with “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.”
The early Alaska material is interesting but probably too insider for most readers. Things pick up when Dunn gets to Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s manifestly inadequate vice-presidential vetting procedures in 2008. Everyone present at Palin’s last-minute audition for the job agrees that she was “direct and specific” on her belief in the theory of evolution. Everyone but Palin, that is—in her memoir, Going Rogue, she asserts she was forthright about her creationist beliefs. Given that McCain was adamant that any VP candidate wasn’t to bring more controversy—over intelligent design, for example—to a campaign that already had more than enough, it’s far easier to believe his staffers that an honest declaration of creationist beliefs would have sunk Palin’s chances. Those were early days in Palin’s national celebrity, but Dunn is just getting warmed up. For the rest of his book, in a stupefying and depressing parade, Palin and the record contradict each other as steadily as her popularity levels slide.