Surprises Abound in Sarah Palin's Going Rogue

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.