NEW YORK If seeing Sarah Palin as a cable television pundit and a reality show star has Americans wondering who she is, her new book makes her case that she is not just a celebrity but a politician -- one with what clearly sounds like plans for a White House run.
In "America by Heart," published on Tuesday by HarperCollins, the former Alaska governor aligns herself with the Tea Party movement and takes shots at both Democrats and Republicans. Without saying if she will run for president in 2012, she states her positions in a manner not unlike a campaign platform.
She believes federal taxes are a Washington "power grab" which should abolished, wants prayers allowed in schools and wants to overturn what President Barack Obama sees as his biggest legislative achievement -- healthcare reform.
"The reason for books like this is to lay the groundwork for a potential presidential candidacy," said Thomas Schwartz, history professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
"Books like this have long been used in the American political tradition as a campaign policy paper. If it mobilizes supporters, it will have accomplished its goal."
Palin portrays herself in the Ronald Reagan mold.
She opens with "Do you love your freedom?!" and calls America "the shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan believed it is." She says one of her favorite films is "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," recalls the fall of the Soviet Union and says the Declaration of Independence gives her "chills."
"SPUR TO ACTION"
But her book goes beyond rhetoric. She calls Obama's healthcare reform an "unsustainable bill (which) jeopardizes the very thing it was supposed to fix."
"We don't consider the health care vote a done deal, not by a long shot," she says, calling it "a spur to action."
And on taxes, she shows her Tea Party stripes.
"America hasn't always had an income tax," she writes, noting the first such tax was in 1861 to fund the Civil War and was later repealed. "It wasn't until 1913 that the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and the individual federal income tax that we know today was created."
Palin calls her 2008 presidential running mate, U.S. Senator John McCain, a hero and cites Alexis de Tocqueville's writings. She also loves "The Incredibles" animated movie and broaches the topic of abortion by praising Jason Reitman's movie "Juno," about a teenager choosing to have a baby.
"A European movie might have had Juno get her abortion in the opening scene and then spend the next hour and fifteen minutes smoking cigarettes and pondering the meaning of life," she writes. "It would have been depressing and boring."
Schwartz said Palin's use of modern media, from having her own reality TV show to her astute use of Twitter, will boost her profile. But, he said, what she really needs is more gravitas to better appeal to the independent voters needed to make her a serious presidential candidate.
Rather than call herself Republican, Palin calls herself a "Commonsense Constitutional Conservative."
"If Democrats are driving the country toward socialism at a hundred miles per hour, while the Republicans are driving at only fifty, commonsense constitutional conservatives want to turn the car around," she writes. "We want to get back to the basics that have made this country great -- the fundamental values of family, faith, and flag."
Michael Musto, pop culture writer at New York's Village Voice, said calling for no federal taxes will appeal to many voters. But he said the Palin brand may be spread too thin, noting her daughter Bristol has generated endless headlines as a finalist on "Dancing with the Stars."
"She's certainly reaching out to the masses, both with this book and the fact that she and her daughter are on just about every channel you click on these days," Musto said.
"The problem with that approach is that by 2012, she and Bristol might both be thought of as former reality stars," Musto said. "Anyone remember who came in second on 'American Idol' two years ago? Exactly."
(Reporting by Mark Egan; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Osterman)