Review: Sarah Palin's Memoir a Mostly Tame Affair

By: Mark Kennedy AP Email
By: Mark Kennedy AP Email

"Going Rogue: An American Life" (HarperCollins, 413 pages, $28.99), by Sarah Palin: There should be a feeling of palpable glee running through Sarah Palin's memoir: Now, finally, she gets to talk, unfiltered and unedited.

This is, after all, a politician convinced that the media twists her words, who says she's been parodied and mocked by establishment elites, and who complains she was muzzled by her own party.

"Going Rogue: An American Life" offers her a chance to answer back, without pesky interference from the likes of Katie Couric or GOP handlers. It is, to steal Nancy Reagan's memoir title, "My Turn."

So why is there so little bloodletting, why no mustn't-miss gory bits? Her book, written with an assist from Lynn Vincent, is less the revealing autobiography of a straight-shooting maverick and more a lengthy campaign speech - more lipstick, less pit bull.

The book can be roughly divided into two halves - the years before she was asked to join John McCain's ticket and the time since. The second half is the more lively: It's got her take on the designer clothes embarrassment; the vice presidential debate with Joe Biden; and the "campaign professionals" she blames for losing the White House.

From the beginning, Palin seems determined to prove she has always been maverick-y and never a mental lightweight. She says her nose was always in a book while growing up and the first big word she learned to spell was "different." She casually mentions that Mount McKinley rises to 20,320 feet, and she quotes Plato, Thomas Paine, Lou Holtz, Pearl S. Buck, Thomas Sowell and Mark Twain. She says she was riveted by Watergate at age 10.

Her five children make adorable cameos and her husband Todd arrives with great promise - he "roared" into her life in a Mustang - but then largely disappears. He never becomes a flesh-and-blood man, only a remote repository of manly goodness. Ronald Reagan is more of a presence here, constantly evoked and cherished.

Other things missing: No dissection or prognosis of the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq (though her eldest son is a veteran), no Iran, Israel, China or Russia. No race relations, Hurricane Katrina or Bush policies, either. McCain emerges unsullied, Dick Cheney is mentioned only in passing and Hillary Rodham Clinton gets an open invitation for coffee.

More often than not, Palin spends chunks of time reciting campaign pablum. Not surprisingly, Palin, like a former beauty contestant, considers America's most precious resource to be our children. Oh, and the Constitution.

There are a few moments of candor, such as her initial, fleeting reaction in New Orleans to discovering she was pregnant with her fifth baby - "I'm out of town. No one knows I'm pregnant. No one would ever have to know" before snapping out of it to choose to have the child.

But just as quickly, the curtain falls back down. Of finding out that her unwed 17-year-old daughter Bristol was pregnant, she writes that the family prayed and then made preparations for baby's arrival into the family. That's about it, except for saying that with God's help, good would come from it all.

Other than a few smarmy asides directed at Democrats and the media, Palin reserves most of her attacks for McCain's advisers, with their emphasis on packaging. She says she was told to stick to a script and spout nonanswers, which remain unanswered in her book. She says she preferred her "simpler style" because she did not need "to spin."

Of her future, she's coy. "I always tell my kids that God doesn't drive parked cars, so we'll talk about getting on the next road and gearing up for hard work to travel down it to reach new goals," she writes at the end, ever folksy, ever optimistic, weirdly ungrammatical.


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