BOOK REVIEW: GOING ROGUE: An American Life, by Sarah Palin
News Weekly, March 20, 2010
Too good to be true?
GOING ROGUE: An American Life by Sarah Palin (HarperCollins) Hardcover: 432 pages ISBN: 9780061939891 Rec. price: AUD$39.95
Reviewed by Len Phillips
Here's a story from Sarah Palin's Going Rogue you haven't heard, but you can find it on page 200, exactly half way through the book. And what she wrote about was a meeting she had had with a number of oil company executives.
She writes: "Even some ExxonMobil officials from Australia were there for the event, and as a gift of goodwill, they presented me with a jar of Vegemite. I felt bad that I didn't bring a jar of smoked salmon to offer in return.
"'Take it home and share it,' the folks from down under said of their gift. 'See if your children like it.'
"That night, I tried Vegemite for the first time and realised ExxonMobil wasn't trying to thank me with the gift. They were trying to kill me."
You haven't heard that story? Yet you would have to admit that it is pretty funny and shows a side of Sarah Palin seldom remarked upon, especially since it is the only bit in the book about Australia. What I conclude is that few critics actually bother to read the book in full.
All of the book is interesting, but this humorous aside comes in the middle of a very long discussion about her negotiations over oil development in Alaska. It is a part of the book in which she tries to demonstrate that she is a person of serious substance, and she proves it by writing sections so intrinsically difficult to read that hardly anyone to my knowledge actually has done so.
But her point is proved. She is a woman of substance, able to formulate a coherent policy over some of the most complex issues anyone is going to face, can then develop a strategy to get what she wants, and finally stare down some of the most experienced negotiators in the business world.
With Obama in the White House - who is well on his way to showing himself to be the most inept president in American history - it remains a mystery today why in a head-to-head contest between the two, the polls show that he would win. Yet his failures may yet see her win the presidency. Given his poor record so far, this might be the only positive consequence of his years in office.
On no measure is Obama doing even an adequate job. In health care, he has managed to come up with a plan that would make matters infinitely worse, something you would not have thought possible. In the fight against terrorists, he has made the US, and therefore also the rest of the world, more vulnerable to attack. He has isolated the US from its allies and has ceded not just terrain but moral authority to the enemies of the West. His economic policies have been catastrophic, with high unemployment unlikely to diminish for a very long time.
Palin offers a contrasting approach on every front. She is pro-American and pro-West, whereas he wants to be only the first citizen of the world. She is prepared to fight on the side of freedom and the value system of the West, while he abstains from providing anything but the most perfunctory encouragement, even for those who have put their own lives on the line to oppose oppressive regimes. She is a fiscal conservative, whereas he is the most profligate spending president in the history of America (and therefore of the world). She stands for protecting the unborn child, while he is prepared to allow even children born alive after an abortion to die without care.
The differences between Palin and Obama mark out in the sharpest way the schisms that divide America. She represents the politics and economics of self-reliance, whereas his policies will inexorably lead to increasingly large numbers of people sinking more deeply into dependency and moral degradation.
Palin says: "Americans with common sense and a passing acquaintance with history do not agree that you can build a strong and sound economy by spending money we don't have and redistributing wealth. Common-sense conservatives recognise that not only is there no justice in taking from one person to give to another, it doesn't work. Abe Lincoln reminded Americans that you can't lift up the poor by pushing down the very people who create jobs for them. The rich will simply move their wealth elsewhere, and the poor will wind up even poorer."
She is the living embodiment of these "common sense conservative" ideals. At no stage, as the book so comprehensively shows, has she succeeded because powerful vested interests have stormed in behind her to finance her agenda. She has, instead, risen on the back of her sound judgements and personal principles.
She is someone who for whatever reason - background, education or experience - seems to know the right thing to do. You do not rise as rapidly as she has from being on the school board, to city counsellor, to mayor and then to state governor, and do so among people who know you personally and well, without the kinds of integrity that others respond to and admire. Her book outlines the steps along the way, with which we are generally familiar since the last American presidential election campaign, but adds the kinds of detail that makes her story even more remarkable than it had seemed.
It is almost too good to be true, which is why I think there has been so much effort, on the part of those whose values she puts at risk, to blacken her name. Yet, in spite of it all, there is virtually nothing that can be said, other than that her autobiography is not that of your standard Harvard-educated, smarmy sophisticate who is your typical presidential candidate in the modern world.
Palin is also the living embodiment of her Christian values. Take, for example, how she dealt with the dilemma she faced when she found she was carrying a Down Syndrome child, Trig. There is probably no aspect of her persona that maddens your typical elite "progressive" than these passages in her book chronicling this crisis in her life.
She recalls: "Rather than focus on what could be perceived as negative, I wanted our loved ones to focus on the fact that this baby, every baby, has purpose, and that not only would he learn from us, but we could learn from him.
"I decided to write the letter as though it were from Trig's Creator, the same Creator in whom I had put my trust more than thirty years before. I hoped that even though this new baby would present challenges, we'd trust that God knew best, that He didn't make mistakes."
Read this book. If you are a News Weekly reader, you are the kind of person who is likely to find this book an inspiration. Skip the bits on policy development in Alaska if that's not your cup of tea. But the rest, I can promise, you will thoroughly enjoy.
Sarah Palin is a phenomenon of our times and a serious candidate to be the leader of the free world.