I'll predict that McGinniss' deck-side observations of the Palin family will not likely turn up much beyond atmosphere for his book. But that's not the reason he rented the house. It's his way of skywriting for all of Alaska—and America—to see that he's on Palin's case and that he's very available to sources if they want to share with him. A couple of more stunts like this, and you can expect the Joe McGinniss book to debut in the Times best-seller list.
The best joke so far to come out of the story was filed to Twitter by Slate's Christopher Beam: "Janet Malcolm should move into the house next door to Joe McGinniss and write The Journalist and the Governor." Damn you and your cleverness, Beam! Get clever via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and follow my witless Twitter feed. (E-mail may be quoted by name in Slate's readers' forums; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)
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