Going Rogue, Chapter 3

>> Friday, November 20, 2009

I realize this is a pedantic complaint, but would it be possible for Sarah Palin to launch her chapters with epigraphs that aren't of dubious origin?

The first chapter, for example, opens with a quotation from Lou Holtz that the former football coach apparently wrote exclusively for this book. (Alas, as it turns out, Palin and her ghostwriter were simply mangling a nearly identical aphorism that -- while always attributed to Holtz -- never leads back to an actual source and only appears in "inspirational" books of quotations.)

Chapter Two is introduced by a fake quote from Aristotle, who never in fact wrote that "Criticism is something we can avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing." Instead, such banalities are more properly credited to a book called Seeds of Change Greatness by Denis Waitley, a hack motivational speaker and author who once served as an executive for a skin-care Ponzi scheme.

So far as bungled epigraphs go, the third chapter is arguably the winner so far, attributing this nugget of wisdom to the renowned former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden:

Our land is everything to us.... I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember than our grandfathers paid for it -- with their lives.
Now, if that's not the sort of thing you'd expect a hall of fame basketball coach to say, that's because, of course, he didn't. Students of American Indian history might recognize that passage as belonging instead to John Wooden Legs, the post-WWII Northern Cheyenne tribal leader who -- though a contemporary of John Wooden's -- was not the same guy.

Yes, yes -- it's absurd to expect much from Sarah Palin, but imagine if these sorts of gaffes had appeared in books by Hillary Clinton or Obama himself.


OK, moving onward.

In brief, chapter 3 is a cumbersome, hundred-page turd that covers Palin's campaign for the governor's office; her first 18 months as chief executive, including her push for ethics reform and a natural gas pipeline; all the people who were mean to her for one reason or another; her last pregnancy, including the letter Palin wrote to her family in which she pretended to be God; and her family's random exploits from 2006-2008, including Todd's 4th place finish in the Iron Dog snowmachine race and Bristol's 1st place finish in getting knocked up.

Like much of the book so far, there's almost nothing in this chapter that readers wouldn't already have known if they'd closely followed the campaign last fall. With the exception of Palin's gossipy, adolescent snark about colleagues she now hates (e.g., her first legislative director, whom she describes, with devastating wit, as a "BlackBerry games addict who couldn't seem to keep his lunch off his tie"), there's not much news about Palin's public record. She warbles at length about her own mavericity -- taking on "Big Oil," deleting line items from the state budget, clucking her tongue as one state legislator after another was loaded into the paddy wagon -- but we've suffered through this exaggerated folktale too many times already. The overriding lesson from this chapter is quite simple:
  • Alaskan politics was a Roman orgy of corruption before 2007
  • Sarah Palin (and the few people who remained loyal to her) restored purity to state government.
  • Well, OK, Jesus Christ -- whose spirit was conveyed through the righteous work of Sarah Palin -- restored purity to state government.
What's more interesting, certainly, are the details about her early governorship that Palin decides not to mention. Though she discusses the "reassignment" and resignation of Walt Monegan, for example, she neglects to explain why she and her husband had been badgering the commissioner about State Trooper Mike Wooten (Palin's former brother-in-law) since the day she came into office. Though she defends her decision to leave Juneau at the start of the '08 legislative session to attend her son's graduation from boot camp, she chooses not to address the matter of why she stayed away from the capital city for nearly half of the days the legislature was in sesssion during her first two years in office.

Indeed, anyone halfway connected to Alaskan politics will read this chapter with slackened jaws, stunned by Palin's ability to claim for herself a leadership role that she doesn't actually deserve. It's the sort of performance that left the boys from the Weekly Standard squirming uncomfortably in their chairs -- for which, I suppose, in a strange way we should all be grateful -- but it's still quite maddening to watch.

....and here's some bonus material from chapter the third, in which Palin suggests that the Obama folks ripped off her campaign theme:
Every part of our campaign shouted "Change!" A change in campaign financing: we ran on small donations from all over the states, mostly from first-time political donors, and we turned back some large checks from big donors if we perceived conflicts of interest. A change from photo-op stops to honest conversation with actual voters. A change from emphasizing politics to emphasizing people. A change from smooth talk to straight talk -- even then.

We were amused a couple of years later when Barack Obama--one of whose senior advisers (come to think of it) had roots in Alaska -- adopted the same theme. Kris [Perry, her campaign manager] and I joked about it: "Hey! We were change when change wasn't cool!"
Because really -- after six years of George W. Bush, no one was really thinking a change of direction would be a good idea.


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