I couldn't resist reading former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's book, especially after viewing excerpts of her television blitz on Oprah and Barbara Walters. The book is Palin's effort to reintroduce herself to America, as well as to cash-in on her popularity.
I found the first half of the book to be an interesting account of her childhood in Alaska. I could hear her voice as I read about hunting trips, like one where her father bagged a moose and offered his young daughter the animal's still warm eyeballs. Outdoors is a vital source of food and entertainment in the largely rural Alaska. National network television programs were not aired live in Alaska back then, rather they were delayed as much as a week. Palin's father didn't want to know the final football scores until he had seen the tape-delayed game. Palin says she developed a love for books because of her mother, reading Jack London's The Call of The Wild and The Wizard of Oz.
When Todd Palin and his family moved to town during high school, she was immediately attracted to him. At one point he tried to kiss her and she ran away. She was embarrassed when Todd told all his friends about the incident. They talked to each other each night via hand held two-way radios until truckers began interrupting their conversations. Todd worked hard to earn money and landed a position in the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay, several hundred miles from Wasilla.
On August 29, 1988, they decided to elope, recruiting two residents from an old people's home to witness the ceremony. Palin writes that she and Todd could not stand being away from each other anymore. They celebrated at a nearby Wendy's, and later informed their parents. On April 20, 1989, 7 months and 21 days after they suddenly were married, baby Track was born. Track was named after track, as in Palin was on the track team.
The book begins to shift to her life in politics, starting with council member and later mayor of Wasilla. This is when she says she began knocking heads to hold down costs, wipe out corruption and help small businesses. She began developing enemies who would later come back to haunt her in 2008. She failed in a run at lieutenant governor and then later she was elected governor in a surprise result. As governor she says she continued her focus on costs, reform and investing in energy.
Governor Palin devotes much of the rest of the book to telling her side of the 2008 election; it is payback time. She blames McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt, adviser Nicole Wallace and her husband, Mark (she says he has a terrible temper), and other staffers for most of her problems. She says Nicolle Wallace pushed the Katie Couric interview because the CBS News anchor suffered from low self-esteem. She blames Couric for "gotcha" questions, asking her views of abortion again and again, and leaving her substantive answers on the cutting room floor. "Couric wasn't interested in substance," she wrote. She accuses Couric and the mainstream media of bias.
Palin blames the controversy over her wardrobe on McCain campaign staffers. She insists they wanted her to dispose of her usual outfits and wear expensive designer label clothes. The campaign supplied hair and makeup that she was ordered to undergo, "I always did my own makeup." Her new makeup and wardrobe team had worked with Katie Couric. Press releases went out in her name that she did not write and did not agree with. For instance, the first press release issued after their daughter Bristol's pregnancy became public. Further, she didn't like the responses the McCain campaign prepared for her to rehearse in advance of her debate appearance.
Palin did not agree with McCain's strategy to suspend his campaign for the crashing economy, "that's a strategy the vice president's team didn't agree with." She attacks the campaign team for micromanaging her campaign and making too many mistakes. It should be noted that Schmidt and Wallace deny Palin's charges and Senator John McCain has come out in support of his former staffers.
What is missing in this book are serious in-depth proposals for dealing with foreign policy, or the complicated economic mess the previous administration got this country in to, or how she will significantly reduce unemployment, or cut trillions from the nation's deficit, or reform health care or reduce hunger in America. Instead, what passes for policy with Palin are the standard conservative talking points -- lower taxes, lower deficits, less government and a strong defense.
Her bitter sniping throughout the book makes her seem more like a diva than a humble everyday small town girl. She comes off as ambitious and self-consumed, more like Paris Hilton than Clara Barton or Pearl S. Buck, both of whom she admired. Yet there is a populist streak in Sarah Palin that many conservatives embrace. After all, going rogue does have its appeal. And, while Palin remains a very polarizing figure, this book does reinforce her image as an important conservative personality. But she is no Ronald Reagan.
It will take a lot more than whining for Sarah Palin to begin winning over the rest of America.