Friday, October 16, 2009

Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue:" Soap-Opera or Inspiration, it's a Bookseller's Dream

Sarah Palin remains an enigma.  Given a piece in today's Wall Street Journal, perhaps the way she helps our country best right now is by selling her memoir, which writers Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Michael M. Phillips claim  is "a shot in the arm for the book business."  She's her own stimulus package, speed-writing the book in just four months, thanks I'm sure to collaborator Lynn Vincent, but, according to Time, because she had an agenda: defining "who we are, what we stand for, and what Alaska is all about."

Now the first printing of 1.5 million copies, not even available until November 17, is in such demand that pre-orders on Amazon kicked it to number 5, and Wal-Mart is furiously serving the bargain market with $10 pre-orders.

We should all be happy. Conservative views will be spread far and wide, and booksellers can stop being glum over third-quarter profits.  So why do I find myself so...uncomfortable?

Perhaps because by violating my conservative values, she's getting what she wants.  Which appears to be loot, suggests Ron Bonjean, Republican pundits' spokesman.  "She obviously has designs on 2012, but her immediate concern seems to be making lots of money quickly off of the support she has out there."

This troubles me because fundamental conservative values include honoring  commitments, never quitting, and focusing on the long-term.  This lady, physically attractive and congenial as she is, was elected by Alaska citizens to serve as governor.  Without that office, John McCain would never have selected her as his VP candidate.  In her campaign, it was her experience in Juneau that she drew upon to show her national and international qualifications--even though at the time, she'd served for just a year and a half.  And after her loss, she looked around and saw that even if the tundra was cold, the iron was hot. She left office, disappointing those of us who felt that any future career required a brilliant performance as governor to bolster her tissue-thin resume of PTA mom, City Councilman (in a victory of 512 to 310 votes) and until 1992, Mayor of Wasilla (population 5,469 in the 2000 census).

If her new book zeroes in on her values and what Alaskans are all about, great, but the same message by one less colorful would flop cold.  Just a couple days after her gracious acceptance to Sen. McCain's VP selection, she announced her 18-year-old unmarried daughter Bristol's pregnancy, flummoxing supporters.  Throughout the campaign, Bristol and fiance Levi Johnston were shown publicly holding hands; they broke up before marrying and he now provides amusement to detractors by disparaging the Palins and posing for magazines like GQ and Playgirl.

Given all the stories about Palin hunting moose, approving a plan to cull wolves by aerial gunshot, switching colleges four times, winning third-runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant, sportscasting on local TV...there's bound to be plenty in the book to criticize and with which to sympathize.  Despite its stated goal, what Gov. Palin won't do in her memoirs is convince anyone that conservative values are the most direct path to a satisfying and productive life.

Though I have sympathy for the lady, and admiration for her spunk and independence, on the international stage, she's not only an unsophisticated neophyte, but target of snickers and chuckles.  She reminds me of Chauncey the gardener in Jerzy Kozinsky's Being There, thrust into prominence with no basis, because the suit makes the man, much like Sarah Palin's glasses and upswept hair make the intellectual-looking woman.

Still, I wish her well, and hope her book bolsters booksellers so they consider conservative titles all the more worthy of touting and celebrating. And Going Rogue might even be a Horatio Alger story of sorts, reminding us that in this great nation, you don't need a Harvard education to command the national spotlight.


  1. Do you hold Hillary to the same standard? She didn't finish out her term, either. She went on to greener pastures [a presidential run and then Sec. of State]. I think Palin's resignation was a game-changer when her opponents were willing to personally bankrupt the woman into silence. And yet there she is, tapping little messages on her Facebook page, that put a megaphone onto the misgivings many have with the health care putsch. Isn't there something to be said for her putting Alaska's business in Parnell's hands, knowing that he can get the job done without multiple baseless lawsuits? I'm sure there's a great general in history who retreated to come fight another day on a field of his choosing. At the very least, an injured point guard can change the game plan at half-time.

    Not everyone who goes to college has the luxury of having it paid for. Some have to work while in school. Some switch schools for a better major for career ambitions or maybe a better scholarship package. I have difficulty in not hearing a little snobbery in these comments. She is not, nor will she ever be, an East Coast blue blood. And THAT is part of her great appeal to people like me who can hear a familiar twang in her Alaskan pattern of speech.

  2. Ruth Anne, I wholeheartedly agree that there's too much "Hah-vahd" snobbery among politicos, and I regret if I implied differently. Ronald Reagan wasn't an Ivy Leaguer and was, I think, the better for it. I don't hold Palin's alma mater against her, but she attended FIVE different colleges, and to me, that says something about sticking things out--umm, like one's term of office.
    As far as Hillary, I considered her underqualified to run for president, too, but she did have a legal background and certainly an insider's knowledge of the presidency. Plus, she was in her second term, not her first, having been in the senate--a national, not state body--since 1991. I do think Hillary was using her Senate job as a stepping stone to the presidency. But it's different, in my mind, to quit after serving eight years in that job than serving just 1.5 years, as Sarah Palin did.
    I agree that Parnell can do Palin's job well. To me the issue is about Palin showing herself ephemeral and not serious. Being in office subjects any politician to insults and attacks (especially if you're Republican) and her ability to weather those while doing an outstanding job for Alaska would have shown her more fit for any future office, or even for commenting on politics nationally.

  3. Oops, I made an error in my comment; Hillary was in the Senate since 2001, not 1991. Boy, time is flying...

  4. Yeah... thin resume. Electing officials based on their resume is what's wrong, not what's right, but if I were to do so...

    Reagan-divorced; can't maintain a marriage: ineligible.

    G. Bush-alcoholic; ineligible.

    Clinton-draft dodger; ineligible.

    Obama-resigned from offices; ineligible.

    JFK-resigned from office; ineligible.

    Ford-resigned from office; ineligible.

    Carter-good resume (disastrous president).

    GHW Bush - good resume (disastrous president).

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