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Sarah Palin: Did fame go to her head? Is John McCain to blame?

July 13, 2009 |  8:36 am

Levi Johnston, the father of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's grandson, told the "Today Show" this morning that he thinks the governor changed markedly after her losing bid as the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate.

"She wasn't as outgoing and I just didn't see the spark in her eyes about being the governor anymore," said Johnston, who lived with his then-fiance Bristol Palin and the Palin family at the time. "She became quiet, she would come home and just hang out in a room, you could tell something was wrong."

Johnston's conclusion: "The fame got to her head."

Admittedly, the 19-year-old Johnston is hardly the kind of character witness anyone would summon to their cause. An aspiring model who posed bare-chested with his infant son Tripp for GQ magazine,
Johnston is routinely derided by Palin spokesmen for exploiting his 15 minutes of fame.

But Johnston may be on to something when he says Palin's sudden resignation on July 3 was fueled by a desire to cash in on her fame -- and to end the stress that her sudden catapult to national fame had created, complete with myriad ethics charges she has derided as bogus and a Legislature no longer enchanted.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Palin traced the roots of her resignation to Aug. 29, the day that presidential nominee John McCain plucked her from national obscurity to be his running mate. "It began when we started really looking at the conditions that had so drastically changed on Aug. 29,” she said. “The hordes of opposition researchers came up here digging for dirt for political reasons, making crap up.”

On her return home to Alaska after losing the election, she told the Times, Democrats in the Legislature no longer seemed willing to cooperate, and ethics charges piled up. “It’s like, ‘Ooh,’ ” Palin said in the interview, “ ‘not so good anymore, because it’s got Sarah’s name on it.’ ”

For his part, McCain deflected any criticism of his own role in Palin's gubernatorial meltdown and blamed the media. "I have never seen sustained, personal, family attacks that were made on Sarah Palin and her family in my life. ... I'm sure that had some impact," he said, adding, "I don't think she quit. I think she changed her priorities."

As for Johnston, he said that after the November election, Palin got "tons of offers" and talked about "how nice it would be to take some of this money and run with it."

She has accepted one deal, a book contract, estimated at $7 million. Just this weekend, the Republican Women Federated of Simi Valley announced that Palin would headline its 50th anniversary event next month at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. And word is she's also being courted to keynote a major Iowa Republican event next fall.

Palin did turn down one offer, he noted, to do a reality TV show. Everyone in the family voted against that one, Johnston said.

-- Johanna Neuman

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