Joe McGinniss’s new book on Sarah Palin has had a surprisingly strong backlash from the left, as Politico reports this morning. Most of the focus has been on this unfavorable New York Times review by Janet Maslin, but even progressive activists have been jumping to Palin’s defense.

“If male political figures were subject to the cataloging of hookups and reverie from their young-and-single years as Sarah Palin apparently is in this book, these invasions of privacy and dignity would stop. I am no fan of her politics, but she doesn’t deserve this gossip,” wrote Adam Bonin, the chairman of Netroots Nation on Politico’s Arena yesterday.

Greg Dworkin, a contributing editor of the Daily Kos, a hotbed of anti-Palin conspiracy theories, was more succinct. “The book is as irrelevant as Palin is,” he wrote.

Is that perception of her irrelevancy part of the reason why the left now feels comfortable defending her? McGinniss’s book release was expected to coincide with the beginning of Palin’s presidential campaign. Would liberals be as quick to stand up for Palin if she had actually decided to run?

Based on the reviews, McGinniss’s book sounds like a compilation of poorly-sourced gossip. But there have been attacks on Palin that have been nearly as vicious – allegations she’s not Trig’s mother, for instance – that progressives let slide when Palin was more of a political threat. Now that the left has Rick Perry to worry about, is the blind hatred for Palin starting to fade? If so, that might explain why a New York Times columnist was recently so surprised to find Palin actually has “intelligent” and “wise” ideas.

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