Skip to comments.Rogue Thoughts: Chapter by Chapter on Sarah Palin
Posted on 12/01/2009 8:22:33 AM PST by Bob J
Introduction to the Project:
(This is a completed live blog. I have decided not to correct most typographical errors or fix it. Some was done as late as 3 AM as I finished the book, but I felt the authenticity of the moment generally better than a smoothed out version.)
I have defended Sarah Palin on numerous occasions against critics. I thought some conservatives turned on her too soon and that her executive experience outweighed any negatives known about her. I certainly did not think flubbing some interviews made her unfit to be a chief executive.
If one were to support a pol based on their enemies, no conservative Christian would vote for anyone other than Palin. The fact that Sarah Palin has a womb has apparently caused some critics such as Andrew Sullivan to lose their minds.
Over time, however, I have grown a bit disenchanted with Governor Palin. Nobody reasonable expects to like everything about a political figure . . . conservatives and Christians dont put much trust in princes or princesses for that matter. Her inexplicable resignation as governor of Alaska years before her term ended should be difficult for even the most devoted Palinista. She has also not been much of a team player and it has been hard to discern a coherent pattern to her positions.
She appears driven more by personality than by philosophy in making policy decisions.
On the positive side she has mastered new media and shows awesome instincts in capturing the mood of parts of the nation in terse Facebook prose. I waited for her book Going Rogue with some interest as a window into her ideas and to address some of these concerns.
Even though I am a Romney guy, 2012 is too far away to have overly firm commitments if you are just a regular guy and not a Party apparatchik and Palin could persuade me.
This is a live chapter-by-chapter reaction as I read that book this weekend. It will follow my thoughts and so may not be particularly orderly or well written! You will notice that I may change my mind as the live reading progresses.
I took this book seriously, because I want to take Palin seriously.
I will post my final thoughts at the end of the review and as a separate post.
This is not a well written book so far. It is overly purple and reads like a parody of high prose. The good news is that it is not a fake book like Mike Huckabees dreadful post-election conflation of speeches, revenge, and random thoughts.
Still, this is a bad book up through chapter one.
Should Palin get the blame?
There are few things more irritating to the reader than the modern practice of ghost writing. How much of this book did Palin write? Is she responsible for the description of the Alaska state fair that I had to re-read twice just to grasp?
Palin did not invent the ghost written book, but she has not been well served by it so far. The adjectives in this book are the worst part: steely, plucky, scrappy.
The description of her childhood is like reading a grocery list. Everything is there, but it is hard to care. Her family life sounds warm, but the warmth can only be guessed at because she tells us rather than shows us that it is so.
The book is given to stating things as if we will know their truth by their merely being said.
Palin, the Monkees, and Plato
The most irritating thing about the book so far is Palin overreacting to critics. I once went to a Monkees concert scarred by the group insisting on showing how many instruments they could play. They were still upset about critics from the 1960s who said the boy band was fake!
Palin obviously was justifiably upset by accusations she is dim, but so far this book is not helping her case. She keeps describing herself as a reader and even named C.S. Lewis as a favorite writer, but so far there is no description of anything in a book that moved her and changed her life.
What Lewis does she like? Is the Lewis of That Hideous Strength or the Lewis of Til We Have Faces? Is she a fan of the Narnian Lewis or the argument in Abolition of Man? Did she poke the backs of closets when she was a kid?
We get none of this and so we are left wondering if she read books deeply or as a television substitute in the Alaska of her youth.
It is easy to see the difference when she talks about sports. She can describe in detail what she learned from running, but she never mentions what she learned from a book. There are mentions of Pascal and Plato (!) in the first chapter, but they are referenced as sources of thoughts and not as a source for critical ideas or challenges to her life.
I dont believe a pol has to read Plato for fun to be effective. God knows that many a liberal arts graduate has proven useless at doing things and that Palin has done more in her way than I ever will. Anybody from my home state of West Virginia knows scores of people whose common sense would serve us better in government than angst ridden college graduates whose very uncertainty leads them to believe that they alone should be our philosopher kings.
May Obama be our last president of that sort!
But the ridiculous use of quotes or big ideas from great writers that one does not really read or know should end as well. When Palin artlessly writes: Plato said it well, Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle, did she know the context of the quotation? Is it even in Plato? I cannot find it, dont remember reading it, and I suspect that it is spurious. Can someone give me a reference?
It looks like the sort of thing Google tells you Plato said, but where the reference is impossible to find.
I am willing to bet at this point that Plato never said it, but if he did I am even more willing to bet that Palin and her writer are quote mining. If Plato said such a thing, it was likely in the context of the battle of each man against his lower nature. For Plato the chief battle was the inner one, but Palin uses it to reference our need to sympathize for peoples physical pain and life torments.
It is hard to imagine the Socrates of Phaedo making such a statement. So even if Plato said it (and he wrote so much it is hard to be sure), I am guessing that the context is wrong.
Why do I care? Partly, this is a live blog of my reading and I am a Plato guy so you are stuck with reading what I am thinking, but mostly because I find this kind of misuse of Plato irritating. Why do it? What is gained? Why quote mine?
A Political Philosophy?
As for political ideas, Palin is apparently for things that have helped her and her family and against things that have harmed her or her family. She is a populist about oil spills (rightly I think), because it impacts her state, but otherwise is sunny about big business.
If I read the chapter right, the only bad big business, oil, is bad because Palin has experienced its badness.
This may be uncharitable. Perhaps Palin is a default libertarian who will change her mind in particular instances when big business forces her to do so. In her world view business and business people are innocent until proven guilty.
If so, this is an appealing blend of populism and free markets. It would be nice, however, if Palin said this. Maybe she does later in the book as she spells out common-sense (or roguish!) conservatism.
Is Palin a Christian Existentialist? Sort of?
I am not enjoying this book so far. If I could hear Palin telling her stories about basketball and Alaska, I bet I would love it. She is a speaker and not a writer . . . I think I would like her more than I am liking this book. Perhaps I am just a snob . . . and want something more from Palin than I should.
What is bothering me about her tales of childhood? One thing I like about President Obamas writing is that it is reflective. One thing I dont like about President Obamas writing is that it is too introspective as if every thought he ever had is worth scrutiny. One can imagine him debating why he likes arugula and what it says about self. Palin seems to be just the opposite.
I am hoping at some point she displays some introspection. Is it wrong to hope for some?
Am I now demonstrating the same self-indulgent introspection about introspection that I dont like in Obama?
At least Palin has me thinking . . . though mostly about her not thinking.
The section on Todd and his family is generous and authentic. Sarah learned something from Todds diverse background and it shows. Her voice seems very present in this section. There is hope in this part of the book as it contains no slogans drawn from dimly remembered Reagan speeches.
She loves Alaska, loves the land, and hates people who wreck it. There is no doubt in my mind about any of those things and there are worse traits than these in a leader.
Are there two Sarahs? There is Sarah who is force fed policy speeches and Googles Plato quotes and then there is experiential Sarah who learns by doing.
I am wondering if Palin likes to read, but learns from actions. Perhaps, she would be better served by embracing this, but it also is open question whether this style of intellect is good in a leader of a republic. I am open to it.
This would explain how Sarah has used books and authors so far. She learns something from her experience or that of others and then finds the smart person to confirm her ideas of the world. Is she a Baconian politician seeking a covering philosophy for her real world experiences?
So far Sarah has been pretty easy on herself. She seems to be learning from other peoples sins more than her own. What were her vices? Nerdiness? This strikes me as the equivalent of listing works too hard as a vice on a job application. She calls her nice guy husband a jerk for a high school indiscretion, but she has yet to mention ever being wrong herself in any interesting way.
Mattering Most Of All
Palin writes: hard work and passion matter most of all.
This is not true. What if someone has bad ideas? What is an oil company executive works hard an dis passionate in his goal to despoil Alaska and make money? Is he good?
Of course, taking the prose this seriously makes me a clueless academic. This is the sort of thing people write and do not mean. They assume we know that it only applies to morally good people. I am not sure that is true at the higher level of politics, however.
One would not tell the leaders of Iran to work harder and be more passionate about their ideas.
Even in a generous context, however, the idea seems wrong. Palins account of her championship year is oddly Palincentric. So far people have appeared in her life and been described, but seem to exist as props in her story. Most likely this is the fault of the writing, but it presents her as self-absorbed.
She scored one point in a championship game, but we are led to believe her playing with pain somehow inspired the win. Who if anyone was the real hero of the game . . . the person with talent who made the baskets?
Talent, which Palin obviously has in abundance in many areas, seems at least as important as hard work and passion. If I had worked as hard as Palin, she would still have been a better athlete than I am, because I lack her gifts.
However, I do believe Palin, when she says she learned a great deal by winning the state basketball championship.
Palin and College
Palin is right to complain about snobbery regarding her college career.
She went to several schools, but seems to have done so to remain debt free. Just going to college and finishing was an accomplishment given that her social set would have accepted her without a college degree.
What does Palin report about college?
Her first year (in Hawaii) seems to have been mostly fun in the sun. It is hard to blame her for that and many of my students can report the same thing.
Her next years of college were (on her account) dominated intellectually by Reagan. As a person about Palins age, I can relate to that. She describes Reagan in familiar terms, but as political science major does not interact with Reagan and what she was learning in class.
Was her school so pro-Reagan that she did not have any conflicts? That was not my experience in either a Christian or a secular college. Reagan was controversial amongst most academics and was often treated with disrespect by my professors. Was this true of Palins?
Where are her professors?
What were her notable classes?
College appears to have been a union card for Palin as it is for so many of us middle-class kids. Other than her Dad and some coaches, she appears to have had no notable teachers.
It is a good reminder to college professors how little impact we have on our students. We are not nearly so important as we think . . . and it is hard not to believe that Idaho failed her. It certainly did not inspire her to mention anything she learned in class.
What exactly is the point of the big general education classes that Palin attended? Isnt it safe to assume they have almost no lasting impact on most their students? College as a mere right of passage of this sort appears an incredible waste of opportunity.
Couldnt Palin have gotten what it appears she received from an on-line college?
Palin as Hard Worker
Palin has worked hard.
That is a good thing and her hard work made a bigger impression on her than college. That too is not surprising given the education she was offered at the schools she attended.
Would McCain have picked her without the college degree? Isnt it absurd that she spent five years earning something, a diploma, that impacted her so little and that we demand such a thing of our leaders?
If it impacts most of them so little, why?
A true sentence in this book: I did what I had to do.
I believe and admire Palin for this, because it is obviously true. Palin is (in the right sense) a self-made woman who had to sacrifice and work hard to make it.
We discount this kind of womans experience at our peril. Leaders can be born in many places and I see no reason that Palins choice to work a fishing boat to help her husband and son is not as formative as any other.
I hope she gets very rich from this book.
The first chapters closed with a description of the oil spill that rocked Alaska. Her justifiable wrath with ExxonMobile oil company is obvious.
Criticisms of Palin on this point have been overdone, in my opinion. It is coherent to think that oil should be drilled, but to be angry when bad practices by some oil companies harm Alaska. To think you should drill baby drill does not mean that all drillers are good.
Palin is more nuanced in this section than in any part of the book so far.
Perhaps her second chapter will continue this improvement as the book shifts more to politics.
The writer appears to be a Christian evangelist writing for a Christian website called "First Things" who is a Palin fan. It looks to be a fair and unbiased book review as opposed to either the over the top slobbering or gratuitous attack job we have seen so far.
Palin fans may not like it's rawness, but here is your chance to counter argue the authors points.
And no, I haven't read the book yet but that is because it has been hinted I might receive a copy at Christmas, so I'll have to wait until then.
He says -
Her inexplicable resignation as governor of Alaska years before her term ended....
Even though I am a Romney guy...
I don’t need to read past that.
This admission kills any credibility the writer of the piece may have in terms of objectivity.
re: Even though I am a Romney guy
Oops, I think I hear my mother calling me. May I be excused?
Say no more.
Yep his whole tone is like that of a Romney guy: curtsy, semi-liberal, and pseudo-sophisto.
Even though I am a Romney guy...
The opinion of anyone who supports the charlatan from Massachusetts isn't worthy of consideration. Plus, it's the same kind of slimy "I used to like ___, but now that I think about it, I'd rather support a medicine socializing liberal, because ___ just isn't perfect enough for me." that Romney supporters have been depositing on conservative forums like so much bird droppings for years now.
Even though I am a Romney guy..................... Bye Bye!
First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.
Even though I am a Romney guy...
I dont need to read past that.
Exactly, that's where I stopped.
"Her inexplicable resignation as governor of Alaska years before her term ended should be difficult for even the most devoted Palinista. She has also not been much of a team player and it has been hard to discern a coherent pattern to her positions."....
First of all she didn't have "years" to serve as governor - just one year or less and was prohibited from running again. Second, the frivolous lawsuits she was bombarded with by the LEFT made it all but impossible to actually work as governor. In addition, she needed to make some real money because Alaska doesn't shield their public servants - they're on their own for legal bills.
Not a team player???? How can he say this when she stifled her own impulses to be available and up front with people but the McCain handlers kept her down. I'm convinced they saw all too clearly that she was the real star of that team - not McCain by a long shot.
So after reading those points in the "review" and seeing how wrong they were - I figured it wasn't worth my time to read any more. I'm reading Sarah's book and I'm enjoying it simply because it's not the slick, snake oil salesman we're used to hearing!!!
Romney guy? Who the heck thinks Romney can win anything?
He has the charisma of a pile of dirty laundry..........Oh yeah, let’s run him...........
Sarah has more charisma and leadership skills than the entire Republican party and Demon-crat party...........in her little finger..........
“Her inexplicable resignation as governor of Alaska years before her term ended....”
Obviously a political Know-Nothing.
“Even though I am a Romney guy...”
Obviously a supporter of ObamaCare too.
yawn not worthy of analysis...find something better to dissect numnutz.
Apparently out to sabotage the the conservative girl early.
I stopped reading right there.
Hey Bob, aren't you a Romney guy too?
“The writer appears to be a Christian evangelist writing for a Christian website called “First Things” who is a Palin fan.”
Where did you get that idea, the writer starts off with “I’m a Romney guy!” NO ROMNEY GUY is a Palin fan, their goal in life is to trash Palin, and you put this CRAP up as “an objective well written review” IT’s a HIT JOB by a Mitt fan. Let me guess, you’re a mitt fan too? So the I’m a Ronmey guy admission didn’t strike you the way it did me....
Plus, I'm only 153 pages into Sarah's book, and I love it so far.
No deal on this blogger.
Yes, he’s a Mitt fan.
Also a big McCain supporter.
I confirm that.
More drivel from another loser RINO a-hole.
“Her inexplicable resignation as governor of Alaska years before her term ended....”
Her resignation is very ‘explicable’ - he just needs to get to the end of the book. I finished it last night & enjoyed it thoroughly. While it isn’t what I would call ‘deep’ it still indicates an intelligent, kind, practical human being. Her experiences would fit a leadership position. If Obama can be president with his background, then Sarah can be president. And I bet she’d do this country proud.
390 pages. Read it in four days. Found it a very fun and informative read.
You must have tons of time on your hands. Why not just send Freepers to
so they can read the final summary of JM Reynolds. They’ll be able to get the whole story, and get it in a much more succinct manner.
If the writer was a covert operative for Romney I doubt he would admit it upfront in the article.
If Palin wins the nomination, for her to win the general she is going to have to win over Romney fans as well...or they might sit out the election because “my guy didn’t win”, just like the Palinistas threaten to do.
Burning all your bridges on your way out of Atlanta is no way to win a national election.
John Mark Reynolds' writing is insufferable. But suffered I, I, I, I, did. I, I, I suffered so much I, I, I documented it. Here is a condensed version of his review:
I have decided . . . I finished the book . . . I felt the . . . I have defended . . . I thought . . . I certainly did not think . . . I have grown . . . I waited . . . I am a Romney guy . . . I read that book . . . I may change my mind . . . I took this . . . I want to take . . . I will post my . . . I had to re-read twice . . . I once went to a Monkees concert . . . we are left wondering . . . I dont believe a pol has to read Plato . . . I cannot find it . . . I suspect . . . I am willing to bet . . . I am guessing . . . Why do I care? . . . I am a Plato guy . . . I am thinking . . . I find this kind of . . . (rightly I think) . . . If I read the chapter right . . . I am not enjoying . . . if I could hear . . . I bet I would . . . I think I would like . . . Perhaps I am just a snob . . . than I should . . .What is bothering me . . . One thing I like . . . One thing I dont like . . . I am hoping . . . Am I now demonstrating . . . There is no doubt in my mind . . . I am wondering if . . . I am not sure . . . better athlete than I am . . . I lack her gifts . . . However, I do believe . . ., I can relate . . . We are not nearly so important as we think . . . I believe and admire . . . I see no reason . . . I hope . . . in my opinion . . .I, I, I confess. Or I, I, I admit: John Mark Reynolds maybe have made some decent points. But I, I, I was so distracted by the I's, I, I, I couldn't see them.
I am reading the book out of order.
I don’t think many of us expected Samuel Johnson or Thomas Wolfe when we decided to read “Going Rogue.”
I think you will agree with me, that there are degrees of ghost-writing. If the the ghost writer is deemed competent, and she is, then we can either assume that the work was too hurried, or that the book was largely the work of the official author. We might be seeing a lot of both, here. This is substantially Sarah Palin’s voice.
Sarah Palin describes herself as a “common sense” conservative. Like defining pornography, it is a “know it when you see” type of thing. Indeed, I read the second half already, and went back to the beginning, and am less than whelmed by her defense of Title IX. Or, as you put it, she likes things that help her or her family. However, I also appreciate the fact that she puts her thoughts out there, with little regard for whether they will help or hurt her politically. Her position on Title IX will not get her a single lefty voter, it might alienate a handful of conservatives. It certainly provides fodder for those who jump and say “See! See! She has no grand-arching philosophy. She is no Reagan, she is not even a John Connolly.
No, she isn’t.
I found it interesting that the early parts that jumped out at me were not even mentioned in your piece. Religion has been an important part of Sarah Palin, her family and yes, her political career. In her earliest years, the book read as if she caught just the tail-end of the “old” Catholic Church (before the nuns dropped their habits, etc.), and then she describes her mother wanting to do more liturgically, and finally joining the Assembly of God because they were the liveliest.
That can’t be the whole story. Her mother would have been raised in an era where she would have known that going to other churches would be wrong. Either she had a reaction to the Post Vatican II changes, especially an apparent relaxing or moral standards, or the local church was nutty early, so no distinction between it and the protestant churches would seem essential. I could list other possibilities, but it wasn’t that she just wanted to “do more liturgically.”
In a different era, I would not be so much on the Sarah Palin bandwagon. She brings a lot to the table. She has the ability to force a realignment, where entire groups of people disassociate themselves from the Democrats for a generation. When the boat has holes and is sinking, sometimes you just want someone who is good at serious baling and a quick patch. The wonky engineer can come in later to seal the job. In the short term, heart, energy and a genuine desire to get the job done may be the best we can do. But that’s awfully good. She loves the country, and I believe would sacrifice herself for it. Would Clinton, Obama, Huckabee, Romney?
I will also defend her placing herself in a good light. One, what she is writing is substantially true. Two, she goes out of her way to say some good things about some of the people she had troubles with (you haven’t read that part yet.), and you also get the feeling she is holding back, mainly saying what has to be said to defend her own reputation (especially about the campaign wardrobe). Three, I have followed politics seriously for over thirty years, and have read archives from the past. I have not seen anyone slimed in such a way ever. Not Reagan, not Bush the Younger, not Bork, not Nixon, not Grover Cleveland. These attackers would take the slightest hint of a deficiency, and take it out of context or reword it entirely. She has no choice but to write the book with that in mind. There was no way the book could be written without being somewhat stilted.
I’ll give her a pass on the Plato. I had a similar quotation but it was from Ralph Kramden. People just hear these things. And she is just as likely to quote Ralph Kramden as Plato.
The guys who read The Republic will be her advisors. Not commie tax cheat pedophiles.
You’re kind of a “Cliff Notes” guy?
No sh!t. John Mark Reynolds on Mitt Romney:
Mitt Romney is nearly a picture perfect Republican candidate for President. LinkThere's lots more from Reynolds on Romney. I think I'll pass on his "review" of Palin's book.
Romney demonstrates he is intellectually ready to be President of the United States. He is not just smart (in the MBA sense), he is thoughtful. Link
On Romney's abortion flip-flop -- Romney has over time come to traditional points of view on culture of life and family issues. This is not surprising given his religious and social background. Romney is a man of profound faith (though it is not my own) and of deep and abiding traditional values in his personal life. As he has grown older, it is no surprise that a maturing statesman would bring his personal life into closer consistency with his political life. Link
Yeah, reflective of the fact that somebody else writes it.
Thanks for the thoughtful analysis.
ping for later
I agree, this guy is about as objective as David Axelrod.
How bad can the book be if on ABC’s own website there is a story in which it is reported the book has sold 2,700,000 copies.
John Mark Reynolds is a milque-toast, beta-male, mealy-mouthed seminary “professor” that I haven’t heard from since I last listened to Romney sycophant Hugh Hewitt’s radio show in November of 2007 when his irrational, cult-like support of Romney turned off everyone but the Warren Jeffs family members. Does any man here on this website, that has made a living doing real, back-breaking work with his hands, and/or risked his own capital to build a business for himself to support his family(like Sarah and Todd Palin have done), want to listen to some pasty-faced seminary professor? Does any man here really respect a seminary professor? Reynolds talks out of both sides of his mouth in that predictable, gooey, wimp, nondenominational, watered down doctrine, evangelical mush-mouthed say-nothing way.
bkmking your post...
This is not a fair and unbiased review. Don't believe it? Sorry, but that is my take on it, too many little things said that scream "Sarah Hater". Period. BTW, I liked the book, especially the second half, I liked all of it but the second half detailing the campaign crap she had to put up with was a real eye opener and explained many puzzling aspects of the campaign. She is an amazing women and this book shows that up very well.
Yeah, reflective of the fact that somebody else writes it.
I think it is more reflective of the fact he is a communist. BTW, Bob, don't you get tired of trying to trash Sarah? Are you a Romneybot or just a DU plant?
Cliff Notes are not a summary written by the author. Sometimes a recapitulation is just as informative as pages and pages (Chapter by Chapter) of a critique. I certainly wouldn't suggest a simple condensation of the author's work. And I'm no guy.