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November 16, 2009

WSJ Reviews "Going Rogue"

Lots of reviews out there but the Journal is likely to be more fair than most media outlets, so I figured it would be worth a look.

First though, I hate this book. Not what's in it, not because it's Palin and not because I begrudge her making money from it. I hate it because in someways she's becoming the Bill and Hillary Clinton of the Republican Party/conservative movement. Palin is a figure bigger than the party or movement in the media at the moment. Like the Clintons did to Democrats for a number of years after Bill's term ended, she is sucking all the air out of the room. I don't meant that in a policy or electoral terms but in a celebrity sense. She's going to get far more time and attention in the next week than say the Republican health care plan has received in the last year.

No other Republican or conservative figure could get this kind of media attention and so for the next week or two we are going to relive and re-fight the 2008 McCain campaign. Let's just say that as Republicans and/or conservatives, it was not our finest hour. Why we want to remind people of that in the midst of debates on health care, Afghanistan troop levels and Cap and Trade is beyond me.

But it is out of 'our' control, so here we go.

That said, "Going Rogue" is more a personal memoir than a political one. More than half the book is about Mrs. Palin's life before the 2008 campaign. She discusses her coming of age in the "new frontier" state of Alaska; her personal faith journey; her experiences with marriage and motherhood, including two miscarriages, a special-needs child and a pregnant teenage daughter; and the free-market convictions that have guided her political career. As a politician, she comes across as a prodigious worker capable of mastering complicated issues—not least the energy policies that matter so much to Alaska's economy—and of building bridges to Democrats.

...But of course it is for details of the McCain campaign that many readers will pick up "Going Rogue," and Mrs. Palin will not disappoint them. She describes in particular how campaign aides muzzled her and mismanaged her family. If anything, she is too gentle on the staffers who kept her out of the loop and under wraps. She is certainly too gentle on the man at the top of the ticket who let them get away with it. She has hardly a critical word to say about John McCain, whose appearances in the book are surprisingly few.

The mistakes started on day one. The McCain communications team had not compiled the usual press-briefing guides, she writes, with the result that the national media had "zero information" on her or her record in Alaska. Moreover, her "family, friends, and political associates were under strict instructions not to talk to the media." She wasn't even allowed to speak to her home-state press, which was very friendly. When one of her aides asked McCain headquarters for permission for her to go to the rear of the campaign plane to talk to reporters, the response was swift: "No! Absolutely not—block her if she tries to go back."

...Speaking of which, "Going Rogue" offers little guidance on the big question: Is Mrs. Palin preparing to run for the presidency? The final chapter, "The Way Forward," is a mere 13 pages and reads like a stump speech. It consists mostly of generalities on conservative values, fiscal restraint and the need for a strong defense. But the quotation from her father with which she introduces the chapter perhaps offers a clue to her future plans: "Sarah's not retreating; she's reloading!"

All that I said above the quotes not withstanding, I'm not immune from Palin Curiosity. If the book plays out as the Journal's review and others indicate, I'm not entirely sure what she's trying to do (I don't think most people are, it's the Palin enigma thing).

Does reliving the '08 campaign and settling scores with McCain staffers help position her for '12? The fact that McCain was a lousy candidate and his staff was a nest of vipers of the worst kind (incompetent) is not exactly a state secret.

If '12 is her goal, I'm not sure how this kind of thing helps with people who aren't already in her camp or at least wiling to be convinced. Of course a book that leaves all of that out and only talks about her background and her thoughts on America's future, doesn't sell more than 25 copies and land you on every TV show under the Sun. Any book by her is always going to be a compromise of sorts.

If she's not angling for '12, then it makes perfect sense. This is the best way to keep her 'brand' in the public eye and to make some money. Again, I don't say that pejoratively, I'd write "Dirty Secrets: My Life and Times at AoS HQ in a heartbeat if anyone would pay for it, I'm just not fond of any diversion from defeating health care at the moment.

I know it's not her fault and there will 'always be something' important we don't want to lose focus on. So, we will live with the distraction and the walk down the unpleasant memory lane that is the 2008 election.


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posted by DrewM. at 10:51 AM

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