Not Going Rogue
I’ve not yet had the chance to read Sarah Palin’s new book, but if early reviews are anything to go by, I haven’t missed much of substance.
Yesterday, Palin kicked off her campaign — er, book tour — in Michigan. The choice was certainly a political one. The Alaskan blogger’s critical remarks about the McCain campaign’s decision to pull out of this state was what originally earned her the “going rogue” status.
It came as no surprise that throngs of people showed up to the event. Many camped out overnight to guarantee their book would be signed the following evening, and many others spent hours that day waiting in line for the signing to begin.
MSNBC sent Norah O’Donnell to cover the event. Over the course of the day, Norah went up and down the lines, interviewing the “Palinistas” as some of them called themselves. But as was discussed in Norah’s report, Palin’s fans seemed to have a lot of trouble identifying what exactly it was they liked about Sarah Palin. Of course, they liked her charm, her down-to-earth folksiness. But other than that, they were at a loss for words.
Those that attempted to justify their support based on policy often garbled her positions. My favorite was a girl who said she was such a huge fan because Palin supported the Constitution, unlike Barack Obama who favored unconstitutional bailouts.
It got awkward when Norah pointed out that Sarah Palin supported the bailouts as governor, too.
More than anything, the signing yesterday highlighted the fundamental irony of the Alaskan Blogger. Sarah Palin has become exactly what she criticized Obama for being during the general election — a celebrity. Her book isn’t a somber reflection on the current state of affairs or an outline for how she would solve the tough problems we’re facing as a country. It appears to be nothing more than a shallow, vindictive attempt to settle scores with a handful of McCain staffers who didn’t treat her as adoringly as the fans at her signings.
The main problem for Sarah Palin during the campaign was a lack of credibility. There is no doubt that she gave an incredible speech at the Republican National Convention. But after the interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, people stopped taking her seriously. Her image of incompetence was cemented in the minds of Americans by Tina Fey’s portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live.
I was astounded to hear her announce her resignation from the Governorship of Alaska just months after the election. This was her chance to hunker down, gain valuable experience, and learn a thing or two about the political process before potentially running again in 2012. This was her chance to restore the image she crafted during her Convention speech. This was her chance to prove that she was, in fact, more than just a pretty face. More than just a celebrity.
But she blew it. She resigned. And she left everyone asking, Why?
The answers she gave during her concession speech were all very weak: Legal bills caused by “frivolous” lawsuits were costing the great state of Alaska too much. Her conscience couldn’t bear it. She wasn’t planning on running for a second term, and wanted to avoid a “lame duck” session. And so on…
As bad as quitting halfway through one’s first term is, Palin could have probably redeemed herself if she showed she was willing to put the past behind her and start looking to the future. This book was the perfect chance for that. Sure, the release so soon after her resignation and the reported $1.5 million advance offered by her publisher do raise questions about her motives for quitting as Governor.
Still, a thoughtful book about policy and the future of America could have been a solid foundation for a 2012 run. It worked for a certain Senator from Illinois. But books about policy don’t get $1.5 million advances, and they don’t let you settle scores and get back at those you believe wronged you. Writing such a book was much too tempting to resist.
And so here we stand, wondering what on earth is going through Sarah Palin’s mind. Or indeed, if anything is going through Sarah Palin’s mind. Does she see Going Rogue as just an opportunity to make money or land her own talk show? Or does she seriously think it will boost her credentials and help her to be seen as a more viable candidate in 2012?
Only the Alaskan blogger knows.