NEW YORK — In her new book, Sarah Palin takes on everything from "American Idol" to "American Beauty" to "Murphy Brown," revives talk of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Levi Johnston and takes issue with JFK's famous religion speech, saying he "wanted to run away from religion."
Who gets praise? Simon Cowell, for one. Barack Obama? Unsurprisingly, not so much — she accuses him of "a stark lack of faith in the American people," among many other things.
The former Alaska governor's potential presidential ambitions have been the subject of increasing chatter recently, with her every remark parsed for clues as to her 2012 plans. In the new book, Palin does not detail her plans but speaks of a need for new leaders.
"We're worried that our leaders don't believe what we believe, that America is an exceptional nation, the shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan believed it is," she writes. "We want leaders who share this fundamental belief. We deserve such leaders."
Palin devotes several pages to a discussion of John F. Kennedy's noted speech on religion during the 1960 campaign — a speech many saw as crucial in persuading the country to elect a Catholic president. "I am not the Catholic candidate for president," Kennedy said then. "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic."
Discussing her own faith, Palin writes that JFK's speech "essentially declared religion to be such a private matter that it was irrelevant to the kind of country we are." Kennedy, she says, "seemed to want to run away from religion." She praises Mitt Romney, a Mormon, for not "doing a JFK" during his campaign for the 2008 GOP nomination, but instead speaking forthrightly of how his faith would inform his presidency.
Palin also returns to the subject of Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor. And she revisits Michelle Obama's comment during the presidential race that "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."
"I guess this shouldn't surprise us, since both of them spent almost two decades in the pews of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's church listening to his rants against America and white people," Palin writes.
On the subject of Levi Johnston, Parlin writes that it was "disgusting" to watch the estranged father of her grandson exploit his sudden fame after she was chosen as U.S. Sen. John McCain's running mate in the 2008 election. She alleges that he was absent when her daughter Bristol Palin gave birth to Tripp and that he disgraced himself by repeatedly criticizing the Palins.
"Of course, we all had to bite our tongues — more than once — as Tripp's father went on a media tour through Hollywood and New York, spreading untruths and exaggerated rhetoric," Palin writes. "It was disgusting to watch as his fifteen minutes of fame were exploited by supposed adults taking advantage of a lost kid."
Johnston, who has feuded often with the Palins over the past two years, said last month he wasn't doing any more interviews for a while.
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But Simon Cowell, the acerbic judge who left the show at the end of last season? He is "almost alone in his willingness to tell hard truths," Palin writes.
Her pop-culture critique is not limited to "Idol." Palin praises Jimmy Stewart's uplifting "It's a Wonderful Life," which teaches, she says, that "working hard and doing the right thing pays off in the end." Now look, she writes, at Kevin Spacey's character in "American Beauty," who comes home and tells his wife he quit his job and blackmailed his boss and asks her to pass the asparagus. "Message: Hard work is for suckers and brainwashed, brain-dead drones."
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On the other hand, "Juno," the movie where a pregnant teen chooses to keep her baby, earns Palin's praise. "Most Americans, I think, are a lot like Juno," she writes — they may not be actively religious, but they want to do the right thing.
Palin's book, "America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag," is not out until next week, but pages were posted Wednesday on the blog Palingates. Palin's previous book, the memoir "Going Rogue," was a million seller.
The former Alaska governor will start a promotional tour next week for "America by Heart." As with "Going Rogue," she will not make appearances in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco or other cities usually included on book tours. She will spend little time on either coast, sticking mostly to the South, Southwest and Midwest.
Palin, a commentator for the Fox News Channel, also will be interviewed by Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren. Her book is being published by HarperCollins, a sister company with Fox of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
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