Review: "Going Rogue: An American Life" by Sarah Palin
I guess the first thing to do is get my feelings about Sarah Palin out of the way, as I tried do when beginning the book. When Sarah first came on the scene, I was excited about her and what she would do for the McCain campaign. Keep in mind I'm not American so I wouldn't be voting, however that political science degree of mine keeps me interested in all sorts of elections around the world. As the campaign went on though it became clear that Sarah wasn't who I thought she was. I found myself disagreeing with some of her choices and I lost the enthusiasm I had for her at the beginning. That being said, I always kept an open mind about her, as I did other politicians. I get that we don't see what goes on behind the scenes, that politicians are at the mercy of the political machine and that who we see on the campaign trail may not be who they truly are. And so, I was hoping that Going Rogue would change my mind about Sarah once again.
In the beginning there were many times I felt I was reading a brochure put out by the Alaskan Tourism board. Other times, I felt that the campaign was still going on and she was working for my vote. I often wondered if this was a biography, or a way of holding on to votes for a future campaign. But I do get that this is a huge part of who Sarah is, to understand her, you need to understand Alaska and her early entry into politics. It was refreshing to see that she is not your typical politician, that she didn't rise through the ranks because of her bank account or who her father is, but through good old-fashioned hard work. Her early political life wasn't influenced by loyalty to the party machine, but by truly doing what those who elected her to office wanted her to do. How often can you say that about a politician?
As she got into the 2008 Presidential Race, I truly expected my opinion of her to be changed. I thought, "here we go Sarah. Here is your chance to take on all those criticisms, set the record straight, and present the truth you say you stand for." Unfortunately, I was disappointed on this front. I definitely felt more sympathy for her as I learned how much of the campaign strings were pulled by her "handlers" and how little of a say she truly had. Everything was controlled for her and no matter how many times she tried to speak up, tried to give them ideas, tried to do things her way, she was shot down. And in this I truly felt sorry for her. You could tell during the campaign that the Sarah we saw on tv wasn't the real Sarah. I often wondered, why did she allow that to happen. If she really stood for the truth, and didn't bow down to the party machine, why did she allow them to do that to her? That has been answered for me, and I get why she chose the path she did. But that is what brought me the hope that her book would be the opportunity to set things straight.
There were quite a few "criticisms" from the campaign that she skimmed over in the book, giving only one or two sentences. Of course you can say "that is not true" but tell me why that is not true. I found myself asking for more of an explanation quite a few times. Then there was the infamous Katie Couric interview. We all knew when it aired that editing can be a heck of a thing and that Sarah's team did not handle things well. However, I found Sarah's explanation of it all a little distasteful. I would have thought that time would have given her the opportunity to take the high road. And for the most part Sarah did, but bringing Katie's "self-esteem problems" into it and recounting personal things a former Couric staffer told her was a little low to me.
My only other criticism of the book is Sarah's attack on the left-wing media, bloggers, fanatics etc. Of course they did harm to Sarah's campaign, releasing personal and false details about her and of course, that is not fair. It pains me to say this but isn't that politics? Is that really only something the left-wing is responsible for? I remember her being critical of them for one specific instance and I instantly remembered another specific instance in which Fox News did the same thing. This isn't me getting political or sticking up for the left wing media, I'm just pointing out that both sides are guilty of playing the same game. And only once did Sarah acknowledge this. I did wonder if this book was just an opportunity to blame everyone else for what went wrong.
This brought me to the end of the book wondering, why did things go wrong for Sarah in the campaign? Why was everyone harder on her than the other candidates? Reading her book definitely made me see her in a different light, but it left me wondering. Was she just naive? Unprepared? Underqualified? What was it about her? Would this have happened to anyone else chosen to be McCain's running mate? Was this really her fault, or was this all beyond her control? The end of the book, and still as many questions as I went into it with.
Here's the thing about the book. If you like Sarah Palin, you're going to like the book. You are going to see the Sarah you love and you're going to cheer for her and stick up for her. If you don't like Sarah Palin, you're not going to like the book. You are going to see the Sarah you disliked and you'll consider it more political rhetoric. But if you're like me and you were on the fence about her, the chances are good that is not going to change. This one book can be read three different ways depending on your attitude going into it.