I bought Sarah Palin’s book, “Going Rogue,”(1) for Chris for Christmas. As he was reading it, he mentioned highlights to me, and I was eager to read it by the time he was done. His assessment was basically:
1) The writing was great.
2) He likes Palin even better than before.
3) His general comment was, “It wasn’t very presidential.”
Hmmm. I asked him what he meant by it not being presidential, and he said that Reagan or Bush would never write such a thing. Well… so? She is different from anybody else. That’s part of what I like about her.
So, I read it myself, a few pages at a time at bedtime. It is hard to put down. I enjoyed the writing and stories very much, and I found her to be an impressive governor. I had a few general twinges of discomfort that led me to sort of understand what Chris may have meant by “not presidential,” though I wouldn’t have put it that way. In general, I thought she, “took no prisoners.” In some sense, it comes across as pointing fingers. On the other hand, I believe that is the very point. The book was her chance to answer back to criticism she received, particularly during the VP run. There seems to be some sense of “dignity” involved in not answering back, and maybe folks will perceive some “tattle tale” or "sour grapes" aspect of the book. For example, I thought she went on for far too many pages about what a pain Katie Couric was. I think we are taught from a young age not to blame other people for things going badly, and so speaking out about shenanigans has a tendancy to come off sounding petty. Why is it that we are not allowed to speak in our own defense? Who else will? One of our greatest presidents of all time, Abraham Lincoln, is known for answering back. (2) When Stephen Douglas criticized him for being a grocery keeper who sold cigars and whiskey, Lincoln fired back in one of his next speeches, “What Mr. Douglas has said is true enough…but I remember in those days that Mr. Douglas was one of my best customers.” And he could have left it there, but he went on to say, “Many a time I have stood on one side of the counter and sold whiskey to Mr. Douglas on the other side, but the difference between us now is this: I have left my side of the counter, but Mr. Douglas still sticks to his as tenaciously as ever.”
The one thing that left me thinking that she lacked leadership and will was the way she handled “headquarters” during the national campaign. I can only imagine that being the VP candidate is a very “controlled” position at the best of times, and mainly involves being relegated to the back seat. I’m sure VP candidates are under a lot of pressure not to “interfere” with the main candidate’s agenda, message, image, and spotlight. She certainly stole the spotlight! The thing that bothered me was that “headquarters” issued statements in her name. The first infraction she mentions is her “response” to the leaking of her daughter’s pregnancy. They drafted a statement, she red-lined it, and then they issued it without her redlines. Her response in the book is, “Whoever ‘headquarters’ was, they were firmly in charge. And if they weren’t going to let me speak my heart and mind even about an intimate issue affecting my family, what would they let me speak to?”
That really bothers me. It bothers me that they did it, and it bothers me that she let them do it. I’m not sure what I think she should have done to either prevent it or respond to it. Certainly, issuing an, “I didn’t say that,” press statement would have been extremely messy and not worth it. She says she talked to staff and was told to stick to the script. It is hard to imagine being in her shoes, and I'm sure it is "easier said than done," but it seems like a time to draw a line. The person who made that call was either McCain himself, or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t, then what is a VP candidate doing letting some campaign staffer write her press statements? And if it was McCain himself, then I think it called for a little chat with her running mate about where lines would be drawn. Either way, a VP candidate shouldn’t be letting ANYBODY issue statements in her name (especially when she has already disapproved the wording)!
However, that is the extent of my criticism, and I have to admit that I assume it is difficult to be part of the “machine” of a campaign, especially as the VP. The staff probably has a lot of “input,” shall we say, in what the presidential candidate’s press statements say, let alone the VP. So while that bothered me, it doesn’t keep me from liking her. I like her a lot. By the way, I think she got treated really poorly by the “party” in many ways, including being charged $50,000 in legal fees for her “vetting,” retroactively after the election. She asked them about it, and they said they would have covered it if McCain had won. That seems corrupt to me. Either the vetting is something the party covers, or it isn't.
Things I like about Sarah Palin:
1) She reviewed every line of the Alaskan budget and cut out pork, line by line. Woo hoo! This included things like $43,000 to landscape a grade school because it had some dead shrubs, all the way to a congressman’s friend’s suicide memorial. I can’t believe the things that people put in there. I wish someone with scruples had reviewed the national “stimulus package,” or the national budget. Pelosi said there were “no earmarks” in the stimulus package, but I get the strong impression that it is nothing BUT earmarks. It looks like someone said, “We’re going to spend. Get out your Christmas lists,” and everybody did. Outrageous. Someone like Palin would be a blast of fresh air to a completely bogus spending trend in Washington.
2) She cut pork that directly affected her and her family, too, such as getting rid of the governor's jet and reducing staff at the governor's house, such as the chef. (Ironically, the one "ethics" complaint on which she "settled" was travel expenses for trips where her children attended as official invitees. I suppose that if she had kept her predecessor's jet, that wouldn't have been an issue.)
3) She forced EXXON to drill on land that they had been maneuvering to hold in limbo for thirty years.
4) She re-vamped the system for splitting oil profits, bringing more money returned to Alaskans and incentivising oil companies to explore and expand… leading to record profits for them, too. Talk about win-win!
5) She formulated a plan for the gas pipeline as a private project, the largest in North American history. She finds ways to get things done… without making corrupt deals. I’m extremely impressed.
6) She’s a good mom. She takes some media hits on this that seem beyond unfair. I’m sure we all have our opinions and assessments of what we see... but how much could we possibly really know? The fact that her oldest daughter had a child as a teenager, out of wedlock, is a point that folks like to pick on. That’s life! Her daughter also finished high school and is working to put herself through college at the same time she raises her son. I don’t find this to be a point to criticize, but it really isn’t any of our business, anyway. I appreciate a point Sarah made in the book, “Let’s debate ideas. Let’s argue about legislation and policy. Let’s talk about political philosophy. But leave my children alone.” Well said! The problem her opponents have is that they can't win debates with Sarah on political philosophy.
(1) Palin, Sarah, “Going Rogue, An American Life,” HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.
(2) Gross, Anthony, “The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln,” Fall River Press, 1994.