GOING ROGUE

(To answer your question in advance, I owe early access to the text to blind luck, persistence, and a helpful friend in the industry who demands anonymity. Cross-posted at the Putz.)

Following American politics for the last two decades (and teaching about it for the last six years) I often feel like our political spectacles have taken on the air of an elaborate Dadaist performance piece, with each "Tea Party," Fox News segment, and Republican Savior more egregiously blurring the lines between reality, farce, and surrealism. We watch each Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal speech fully expecting Ashton Kutcher to appear and let us in on the joke, informing America that it has in fact been punk'd and laughing uproariously at our gullibility. Our collective capacity for credulity has been strained to breaking.

Now we are faced with the daunting task of wrapping our minds around the Palin memoir Going Rogue, appearing atop a bestseller list near you. Millions of copies will be sold of a book written by someone who can't write, intended for an audience that doesn't read, about the thoughts of a person who doesn’t think. God is dead.

If you are in a hurry, here is the succinct version of this review: Going Rogue is shit. It is groundbreaking in its banality and disregard for facts. If you are sentient, it will pain you to read it. Imagine watching your parents 69 one another while John Madden sits behind you and bellows out color commentary and you will have some idea of how excruciating and profoundly scarring it is to plow through each page of this wholly fictional monument to self-aggrandized mediocrity. Going Rogue is to the art of writing what the Holocaust is to the concept of a just God – the piece of disconfirming evidence so overwhelming that we are left questioning whether it can exist at all.

Going Rogue is not without merit. It certainly delivers what its intended audience wants. Readers who already like Palin will love it, much as America's pedophiles will find the latest Jonas Brothers DVD to their liking. The authors' talent for communicating the ex-Governor's unique rhetorical style in print is remarkable – the Sesame Street cadence of her delivery and the intermittent Tourette's-like winks leap off the page. The book, recession priced at just $9, is also an ideal gift for the Aunt or Uncle who assaults your email inbox with a dozen weekly communiqués on the President's Kenyan birth and the constitutionality of income taxes.

Unfortunately that is an exhaustive list of its strengths.

The book is less a biography than an elaborate press release. Its 432 pages (with sixteen pages of pictures – and no index) barely feign interest in describing Palin’s life in detail. It moves as quickly as possible to its real raison d'être – a methodical re-imagining of her entire political career replete with more excuses than a Cleveland Browns post-game press conference. Palin has never done anything wrong. The public have merely been led to believe that she is a dangerously stupid, erratic narcissist. Going Rogue is all about setting that record straight, offering a wildly implausible excuse for every crash and bang in her train wreck of a political career.

The theme that permeates the book – and with all the subtlety of an Oliver Stone film – is Palin's overwhelming magnanimity. The book itself was written solely for our benefit, to set straight all of our misconceptions. Her Hindenburg interview with Katie Couric was done only because Palin pitied the struggling journalist (no mention of how her personal generosity forced her to answer simple questions like a lobotomized rube who had never ventured beyond Wasilla). Her hillbilly-wins-the-Lotto shopping sprees and misuse of Alaska taxpayers’ funds to take her daughters on vacations in $3000 per night hotels either never happened (er, she "usually" eschewed lavish accommodations for simple ones) or were forced upon her by others; McCain aides practically held a gun to her head and made her buy a new wardrobe. She resigned the governorship halfway through her only term for the benefit of the people of Alaska (admittedly she may be onto something there). Her enormous legal bills stem from frivolous ethics complaints by her enemies, and she has borne these costs for you – out of the kindness of her heart. Buying her book and electing her to the presidency is the least you can do in return, ingrate.

A serious question arises from her narrative. Is she a sociopath with a messiah complex – i.e. she actually believes the version of events she relates here – or is she simply a shameless liar? Does she honestly fail to realize that the McCain team was bending over backwards to protect her from her own stupidity when she rails on about how they abused, demeaned, and stifled her? Does she honestly believe it when she describes herself as someone who "wouldn’t stand for" a conflict of interest from a public servant, or does she consciously sit down at the keyboard and say, "I think I"m gonna make some shit up here!" with the intention of burnishing her image?

It is not coincidental that everyone – and we can use that term without hyperbole – involved with the McCain campaign and not named "Sarah Palin" has already lambasted this book as, variously, "pure fabrication," "other worldly," "blatantly and absolutely inaccurate," "total fiction," and "a serious mixing of truth and imagination." These charges would be predictable from liberal opponents, but they come from fellow Republicans. That is the shocking and crass aspect of this book. It is petty, vindictive, and reads like Palin was checking names off of her Nixonian enemies list one by one as she wrote, and the targets of her limitless bile are almost exclusively other Republicans. Barely a word is uttered of President Obama or his campaign aside from some factually errant potshots at his policies – including the "bailout" legislation signed by George W. Bush, underscoring Palin's slavish attention to detail. Nary an insult is leveled at Obama, Biden, or other Democrats on a personal level, something that cannot be said for Steve Schmidt and the rest of the McCain team. Schmidt may have seemed to the rest of us like a salty, dumpy campaign pro desperately trying to maintain order in a campaign that, thanks to Palin, skirted the line between chaos and comedy – half Ringling Brothers circus, half Triangle Shirtwaist fire. But Palin once again sets straight the record, depicting Schmidt throughout as a profane, hysterical misogynist hell-bent on destroying her and, she bizarrely claims, forcing her to abandon the Atkins Diet.

Going Rogue is many things, but it is not a good biography. It is a fantastic work of fiction and therefore not totally undeserving of commercial success. Every autobiography – be it from a political aspirant or the latest WWE superstar – massages the truth to some degree. Abraham Lincoln once called tact the art of describing others as they see themselves. This book proves that there is not enough tact in the world for a person with even the most tenuous grip on reality to describe Sarah Palin as she sees herself. If this is her attempt at positive spin, it is cynical and petty. If, on the other hand, she believes a single word of this, she is psychologically unfit to run for dog catcher let alone President of the United States.

In short, the book provides ample proof that Sarah Palin's version of her own life is like the Turkish government's version of the Armenian Genocide – and approximately as trustworthy. Going Rogue is an irritatingly vernacular, fantastical, and cloying autobiography of a malignant narcissist, every bit as thunderingly stupid throughout as the person behind it. In what world is it either necessary or desirable to spend $9 and four hours to figure that much out about Sarah Palin?

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148 Responses to “GOING ROGUE”

  1. Milesius Says:

    I do not think Sarah Palin was a good choice for VP but there is nothing more worthless than a political "scientist" and it is laughable that such a person would criticize the ability of other people to write, read, and think. You are an oxygen depletor and a do nothing parasite. If you were truly intelligent, then you would have pursued a degree in a real discipline.

  2. Desargues Says:

    Milesius, methinks you doth protest too much. You don't happen to be a former seller of derivatives and credit-default swaps, do you? They also worked under the delusion that they were holding real jobs, of real utility to the nation. What is it that you do, to afford to be so withering to political scientists?

    Should you re-read the review here more carefully (if you were ever taught that in school), you'd see that the Palin woman is criticized for her failure to think. She made it real hard to anybody to divine, much less criticize, what she "thinks." In fact, she proudly stands for the America that doesn't think. Thinking is for eggheads and liberals, don't you know?

    Do you ever think?

  3. atray Says:

    Milesius, what are YOU doing to make the world a better place?

  4. Connecticut Man1 Says:

    I hope you submitted this to the Amazon books review section.

  5. Bob Says:

    This is fun writing, but hard to read. It may help if you google "wordpress weird character" – I saw fixes for the weird characters I see on your web page.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=wordpress+weird+character

    enjoy,
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  6. Tom Boutell Says:

    A memorable review, saving me much misery. Thank you.

    Just FYI, there's a nasty character set problem with this page, all of your punctuation marks are coming out as bizarre WTF marks on my screen. Everyone else I've discussed the review with has the same problem. You might want to take a look at it.

  7. Bob Says:

    Is there someplace I can read this without all the excess punctuation that only robots understand? I can't get through it as is, and I really wanted to.

  8. Jon Lester Says:

    Nice article. Regarding the funny characters people mentioned, if you use FireFox, just change View->Character Encoding to Unicode to fix that.

  9. Lisa Says:

    Ditto on the crazy punctuation issues. That said, I review books for a living, and this review kicks ass–in my professional opinion. Forwarding to friends, family & colleagues!

  10. Beth Says:

    Excellent review, Ed, and one of the funniest I've read in quite some time. I have to wonder, though, if you have noticed her resemblance to another person in denial–O.J. Simpson. I see so many parallels between them, except almost everyone hates him and so many inexplicably love her.

  11. Eric Tadsen Says:

    Hi – I love your rant but the punctuation, especially the quote marks, causes serious problems and stray characters on my firefox for the mac. It renders your piece almost unreadable. I hope you can fix this somehow.

  12. Raj Says:

    I will honestly admit that I have read this book. I will honestly say that I did so while enjoying a Latte from Starbucks (Note: I'm trying to lose weight, and considering how nasty the local Starbucks is at making a decent Latte, the book actually improved it. Yes, sad isn't it?).

    And before anyone acts SHOCKED! SHOCKED! that I would give up my hard earned money on this tome, rest assured that after I was done, I closed the cover, put it back on the shelf (in the fiction section. Oops!), bought a Mt. Dew to wash out the bad taste in my mouth (caused by both the book AND the Latte), and drove home, confident in my knowledge that when I go to confront the local Neocon Nutjob, I will be able to do so knowing I read the word straight from the Horse's Asshole (quite appropriate considering Mrs. Palin's reputation and her acknowledged view to the west — shame the horse is facing east).

    And a brief digression: most guys love her simply because she keeps winking at them. Personally, the habit disgusts me. Her facial tick reminds me a great deal of my ex-girlfriend's uncle's final hours, just after the stroke that claimed his life. The only difference is that he had redeeming qualities about him (in marked contrast to both Sarah and my ex-girlfriend).

  13. lillyli Says:

    When I see the pictures of this woman on tour with her prop TRI-g and her family I am appalled.

    When I read anything she has a hand in, well I can't express the depth of my disgust it is so visceral and deep

    Thank you and Andrew Sullivan for something actually WORTH reading

  14. Bill Ayers Says:

    Read my book instead. It's the bomb!

  15. Chiron Says:

    Is it safe to say that you didn't like the book, or its author?

  16. saç ekimi Says:

    Instead of thinking of Palin as a shockingly bad politician who came within shouting distance of the Presidency, I find it helpful to think of her as a highly successful performance artist. I find that my blood pressure stays much lower if I wonder when she'll take a bow and drop her "terrifying rube" persona, instead of worrying that at some point she'll have her finger on the nuclear (sorry, "nukuler") button.

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    Nice review here, glad to know the story talk about except the punctuation error on my firefox browser. Overall, good work sir!

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