I picked up Going Rogue at Target a couple of weeks ago. It has a number of surprises, some pleasant, some just startling. It tends to confirm my belief that Sarah Palin, while perhaps not qualified to be president or vice president last year, was certainly more qualified than McCain, Obama, or Biden.
My biggest surprise was that Going Rogue was apparently not “ghostwritten.” In a few places, I noticed sentences with “I” instead of “me” for the direct object — a mistake that a professional writer wouldn’t make. There is also a bit more use of “I” (at least, properly used as the subject) than a professional writer might use, even in an autobiography. There are also quite a few places where her tangents in telling her story mark this as a first book; they don’t show the organization that I would expect from a professional. (Before you ask what I know about ghostwriting, I have ghostwritten part of a book by someone not as well known as Governor Palin. No, I can’t tell you for whom; that’s part of the contract.)
Going Rogue is well written, and it reads quickly and easily. Unlike some other “first books” that I have read (and many books by academics), I almost never found myself going back over a sentence to figure out her meaning. Palin’s B.A. from the University of Idaho is in journalism and she worked as a journalist for a while. She also had the advantage growing up that television was still not dominant in her remote corner of Alaska. Her schoolteacher father came up with some clever ways to make sure that books took precedence over television — such as putting the idiot box in an uninsulated room above the garage (pp. 25-27). It is possible that Going Rogue was ghostwritten; it just doesn’t read like it. Or perhaps Palin hired a ghostwriter so skilled that you can’t tell! (If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?)
There are some surprises in Going Rogue. She makes a point of telling you that her administration set a goal of achieving 50% of Alaska’s energy from renewable resources by 2025. Throughout the book, she emphasizes the importance of both developing resources and protecting the environment. Big Oil (yes, capitalized by Palin) is her recurring enemy throughout her involvement in Alaska government. This is no surprise; like many Alaskans, at one time she made her living in the fishing industry, which was badly hurt by the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Another aspect of the book that surprised me is her portrayal of what went wrong with the McCain campaign. I assumed that part of why McCain operatives tried to throw her under the bus in the closing days of the campaign was ideological: that they represented the left end of the Republican Party (like McCain) and therefore found Gov. Palin offensive. My guess was that these left-wing Republicans had picked Palin in the hopes of getting conservatives to enthusiastically support the McCain ticket. When it became apparent that this was not enough to win the election, I assumed they vented their personal disapproval.
Palin’s version of events is a bit different. Her take is that the foul-mouthed and amoral campaign managers who blamed her for the campaign failure did so for a purely mercenary reason: concern that they might have trouble getting another job, if they were perceived as the failure.
Watching news coverage of Palin’s campaign stops leads me to think that she was the real bright spot of the campaign. For all that I can respect about John McCain’s service to his country in the military, his track record in Congress has always been disappointing. McCain was unable to rouse any real enthusiasm from anyone except the largely left-wing news media, at least partly because he no longer has anything in common with ordinary Americans. When I contrast John McCain’s 2006 claim that Americans won’t pick lettuce for $50 per hour with Gov. Palin’s description of the jobs that she and her husband Todd have done over the years, I can see why Palin became an immediate star to working Americans — and McCain produced a reaction no stronger than “better than Obama.”
When I saw Gov. Palin’s speech announcing that she was to be the vice-presidential nominee, I was genuinely thrilled. When I learned more about her, I was wildly enthused. After reading this book, I am even more impressed and more appreciative of what a raw deal she received from the mainstream news media. Palin’s description of why she responded so stupidly to the “What newspapers do you read?” question makes me sympathize with her. In retrospect, the correct answer should have been, “As governor of Alaska, I make news happen, I don’t spend a lot of time reading about it after the fact.” It appears that a left-wing mole had been planted in Palin’s campaign, a friend of Couric’s, who contributed to this disaster.
I still think that Gov. Palin is less qualified to be president of the United States than I would like. I would have preferred she had at least two terms as governor. But what’s the alternative? Palin’s executive experience — and especially her experience cleaning up the notoriously corrupt Republican Party of Alaska — dwarfs anything that Senators Obama or Biden brought to the table — and even Senator McCain’s many years in Congress are no substitute for executive experience.
I would also prefer someone who is a bit more of an intellectual. But the incredibly ignorant goofs by President Obama (there is no “Austrian” language, Emperor Hirohito did not sign the surrender with General MacArthur, the United States did not invent the automobile) show that this isn’t a job requirement. (I fear at times it might even be a disqualifier.)
There does come a point where honesty and some connection to ordinary people who have to work for a living are worth more than fawning and gushing from the mainstream media. So far, Gov. Palin is looking like our best shot for 2012.