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Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.
November 24, 2009
I kind of like Sarah Palin. I did, really, from the moment she burst onto the international scene as John McCain’s running mate. Of course I live in Canada so she would never have been my Vice President but still, I found in her qualities that I admired. Mostly I appreciated her common sense approach to politics and her aw shucks, hockey mom persona. It was attractive mostly by virtue of how approachable it made her, how normal she seemed. She compares very favorably in this way to the many career politicians who seem completely out-of-touch with the rest of us—men and women who have lived their whole lives in the upper tier of society and who can’t imagine life on the other side of the Forbe’s lists.
With an initial print run of 2.5 million copies, Palin’s memoir, Going Rogue is a guaranteed bestseller. It is interesting to note that it is selling faster than Hillary Clinton’s memoir did in the days after its release and only moderately slower than Bill Clinton’s. Going Rogue has dominated the Amazon sales charts and remains today at #1. Clearly I am not the only one who likes Palin and neither am I the only one who is interested in learning more about her. Not by a long shot.
This is not a memoir written by a politician in the twilight of her career, one who is reflecting on a long life in the public eye (as, for example, Ted Kennedy did very recently). Instead this is a memoir written by a woman who hopes that the best is yet to come. Because of this, the book often reads as an attempt to drum up support and to put to rest the tired old rumors and innuendo. We all know that she will be a front runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (though she obviously never says anything about it in the book) and it is clear that the book is part of a carefully-crafted advance campaign. She has the difficult task of attempting to win over the American people. She needs to tread carefully, drawing in the all-important evangelical vote but without alienating herself from others. She needs to be the all-American mom but without leaving the impression that all she can be is a mom.
Palin positions herself as the anti-Obama, the anti-Democrat. Yet she also distances herself from much of the Republican party. She writes about her fiercely independent Alaskan spirit and her evangelical faith. She provides abundant examples of her leadership skills and her constant battles against corruption. She writes about the delight she finds in being both a mother and a career woman and defends her ability to do both with excellence. She does not quite seek to be all things to all men, but still she seeks to be the every-woman, or perhaps the any-woman. She portrays herself as a completely normal person who has been given remarkable opportunities. She writes often about her faith, though she is sure to mix in the occasional caveat (yes I believe in creation but don’t worry, I believe in evolution too) and the occasional “ass” or “hell” just to show that she isn’t one of those fundies. While she will discuss her faith, she says little of church or denomination or anything that might indicate that her faith is something more than personal. It is, all-in-all, a very carefully-crafted book that must have been vetted by long lines of politicos.
Along the way Palin answers many of the charges against her. She writes about Troopergate (or Tasergate depending on the side you take), about her daughter’s pregnancy, about the firing of one of her subordinates, about her infamous and ill-advised interview with Katie Couric, about the birth of her son Trig and the ridiculous assertions that he was not her son at all. The bulk of the book is given to her weeks in the international spotlight as she joined the McCain campaign trail. There are some very interesting inside looks at life in that spotlight. She tells about having press releases dealing with her family released in her name even though she had not signed off on them. She talks about the campaign completely abandoning her the very moment the election was over. She writes about the constant and vicious attacks against her that she had to defend with her own money and how she spent over a half million of her own dollars simply to head off the worst of these. We see how some people will stop at nothing (nothing!) to implicate her in something (anything!) that will discredit her. The level of corruption in the American political system is both sickening and infuriating.
Palin inadvertently raises some interesting issues for the Christian. Predominantly, Christians will need to consider the implications of having the most powerful woman in the world be a career woman who holds such a job despite having young children. While Christians will be pleased to be able to support a woman who is strongly pro-life, pro-family and pro-constitution, they will also wrestle with the fact that she will want to lead the country even as the mother of several young children. And Christians may wonder what she really believes and how strongly she believes it. She is anxious to win over evangelicals but in the end she offers little of spiritual substance beyond what we might expect from any American politician. After all, no President has yet denied being a Christian.
Going Rogue is well-written and flows very nicely. I suspect that those who hate Sarah Palin will hate her even more by the time they read the last page, and I suspect that those who love her will love her all the more. Already the book has several hundred reviews on Amazon and, judging by the ratio of positive to negative reviews, they show the expected partisan spirit.
Having finished this book I still like Sarah Palin. In my mind I have a difficult time picturing her as President of the United States of America, but I can’t deny that it would be awfully refreshing to see her bring just a little bit of common sense to the White House. Of course 2012 is still a long, long way away and a lot can change between now and then. But still, if half of what she says about herself is true and if she does half the things she claims she would do if given the opportunity to lead, well, we may all be a little bit better for it.
Buy this one. I think you’ll enjoy it.