Reading Rogue: Awful

>> Thursday, December 03, 2009

Page 370. No, nothing terribly exciting on page 370, except a convenient section stop and it happens to be where I am. The light is at the end of the tunnel, my travails coming to an end, thirty-three pages of the text proper and then the little afterword.

I will be glad when this project is finished, not just because this is a terrible book, but because it's a terrible time-suck. It's kept me from writing things I wanted to write and reading things I'd rather read. I may have to delay one of those--I was planning on taking up a biography of Pol Pot I'd been putting off for a while, but now I'm afraid he'll actually seem vaguely sympathetic after Going Rogue. I'm not even quite kidding, I'm afraid: while there's obviously no comparison between a politically lightweight American governor and one of the worst genocidal despots of the 20th Century, I expect the Pol Pot bio to be scholarly, sourced, and reasonably well-written, while Going Rogue has frankly made me detest Sarah Palin a bit more than I was inclined to. You can blame a liberal disposition, say that I was predisposed to dislike her, but the fact is that Going Rogue makes Mrs. Palin into a singularly detestable figure who is vengeful, foolish, ignorant, and possibly batshit crazy.

This seems as good a time as any to go back to something I alluded to a few times in earlier posts, because it's an example of just how wretched Going Rogue is. One of the portions of the book that frankly just blew my mind was chapter two, specifically the section in which Mrs. Palin covers her efforts as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). This was the short and stormy tenure during which Mrs. Palin established her bona fides as a rogue, a commonsense crusader with a strong moral compass who boldly stood up against corruption, resigning in protest and filing complaints against a leader of her own party because it was the right thing to do. When her AOGCC role was first described to the country in 2008, before the disastrous television interviews and the debate with Senator Joe Biden in which she apparently had something in her eye, when everybody outside of Alaska was wondering "Who the hell is Sarah Palin?", this was the story that had everyone thinking Senator John McCain had picked a maverick, someone even a lefty might be able to respect in however grudging a way. Wikipedia summarizes Mrs. Palin's AOGCC term thus:

Governor Murkowski appointed Palin to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. She chaired the Commission beginning in 2003, serving as Ethics Supervisor. Palin resigned in January 2004, protesting what she called the "lack of ethics" of fellow Republican members.

After resigning, Palin filed a formal complaint against Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner Randy Ruedrich, also the chair of the state Republican Party, accusing him of doing work for the party on public time and of working closely with a company he was supposed to be regulating. She also joined with Democratic legislator Eric Croft to file a complaint against Gregg Renkes, a former Alaskan Attorney General, accusing him of having a financial conflict of interest in negotiating a coal exporting trade agreement, while Renkes was the subject of investigation and after records suggesting a possible conflict of interest had been released to the public. Ruedrich and Renkes both resigned and Ruedrich paid a record $12,000 fine.


This tale stands out as one of Mrs. Palin's true, legitimate political achievements. Imagine my surprise and even distress, then, over the fact that Mrs. Palin essentially leaves it out.

Not entirely, mind you: she devotes seven pages (pp. 93-100) to the affair. But the way Mrs. Palin describes it, she plays a curiously passive role--in her account, she basically stonewalls the Alaskan state legislature while writing ineffectual letters to Governor Frank Murkowski, and finally resigns. Here's Sarah Palin's entire account of her resignation, from pages 98 and 99:

Finally, I wrote Governor Murkowski another letter. I reminded him that I had warned him and the rest of the chain of command about all this for months, and I detailed my communications with all of them. I concluded the letter with the suggestion that for the good of AOGCC, to salvage its reputation, and to prove a commitment to transparent government, as chairman I should be allowed to speak publicly about all this.

Nothing happened.

So I had to make something happen. I prayed long and hard. I loved the job. And I had to consider that by making any drastic moves I would be crossing swords with the most powerful men in my own party. My political career would be over. My whole future was before me. But I also knew I couldn't sit there and be a party to all of this.

I knew what I had to do, so I resigned--stepping away form the ethical lapses and hierarchical blinders1 to effect change where I could--on the outside.

After I left, a state assistant AG issued a sixteen-page ethics complaint against Randy, who eventually agreed to pay the highest civil fine in Alaska history. He retained his GOP chairmanship. [emphasis in original]


And that's it. Compare it to the shorter and more-informative Wikipedia version. Mrs. Palin's one real political accomplishment, the time she really put her ass out on the line by bravely filing a pair of formal ethics complaint against prominent members of her own party--and Going Rogue practically reduces it to a deus ex machina-like event from on high, an ethics complaint that just sort of happens, filed by the Alaskan Attorney General's office.

In my notes, I was fair or unfair depending on whether you prefer Rogue's account or the one in Wikipedia and the general press: "Wait--I thought you took these people on but it sounds like you sort of spectated"; "SP quits again". Indeed, that's part of why I went to Wikipedia, because I was compelled to check my memory of what was claimed about Palin's whistleblowing heroics with what Palin wrote. Were there signs of it anywhere else in the book, I might suspect Mrs. Palin of modesty, but she clearly isn't a humble woman. Another possibility, of course, is that Mrs. Palin's efforts to reform the AOGCC were grossly exaggerated by the press and the Wikipedia version has been written by partisans, and Mrs. Palin has decided to give a restrained account lest embarrassing truths be outed; that possibility is laughable, however, given her utter lack of restraint in her account of the 2008 presidential campaign and willingness to repeat dubious claims and outright falsehoods in general. That only leaves two other likely possibilities: first, that Going Rogue is so incompetent an account that it inadequately portrays its subject's better points, or, second, that Mrs. Palin has decided that prospective supporters would read her willingness to turn on her own party as an act of treachery and not principle (this might also explain the way her account emphasizes her internal efforts through what she even explicitly refers to, on page 98, as "the chain of command").

That's what an abject failure this book is: Mrs. Palin's epic, public failures are portrayed as secret, epic successes (or they would have been successful but for acts of sabotage by the media, the McCain campaign, or other ne'er-do-wells) while Mrs. Palin's personal triumphs are buried and barely described. Is it any wonder, then, that I'm finding myself disliking Mrs. Palin more and more with every page? So far, the only thing she's got going for her is Piper Palin as a human credential, and I'm not even sure the spunky, media-savvy, straight-shooting kid Sarah Palin describes is a real person or a synthetic kid celebrity personality like Miley Cyrus. (And, by-the-by, the fact that Mrs. Palin periodically feeds her kids to the media and then complains at the invasions of her family privacy doesn't make her more endearing.)

This is an awful, awful book about a horrible human being.



1No, that's not a typo, at least not on my part. What the hell is a "hierarchical blinder"? I have no fucking clue. Does she mean that people at various levels of the Murkowski administration turned a blind eye to misdeeds? Did she mean to say "blunders"? Did she just stick in a semi-random adjective-noun pairing to balance off the phrase "ethical lapses"? Did Sarah Palin accidentally invent a verbal Lament Configuration that, once deciphered, opens a portal to a dimension of pain and desire? Possibly.

This book is full of that kind of thing. At some point, you mostly stop noticing. Sarah Palin is talking a lot, but she's not saying anything, better run fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far away.


8 comments:

Nathan Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 11:40:00 PM EST  

This may not be a deep thought, but I think Eric deserves more beer.

Hey, fair is fair!

Eric Friday, December 4, 2009 at 12:19:00 AM EST  

Thank you, and I certainly wouldn't want to dissuade you, because I agree that I generally deserve beer. But looking at Michelle's most recent blog post, I can take comfort from the unfairness.

Because I really can't think of why I would deserve to read this book.

Tom Friday, December 4, 2009 at 9:01:00 AM EST  

Hey, YOU! More beer here for Eric. And not just any beer. It better be your best beer! The poor man deserves it after what he's been going through!

Our (pronounced "R", not "hour") Eric is to be commended for his perseverance in the face of such "Paliniquity."

And yes, if you like it, you may make it your own.

Jeff Hentosz Friday, December 4, 2009 at 9:42:00 AM EST  

Have you ever written an official beer post? Some people might be interested in knowing your preferences ... whether or not you like porter ... that kind of thing. Some people might.

Mrs. Bitch Friday, December 4, 2009 at 11:09:00 AM EST  

I know you're busy with your job and probably trying to finish the Nanookie book in a manner much like pulling a bandaid off - just do it as quickly as possible with a short screech of pain. BUT, could you save me searching through back comments and say what this was about? Was the challenge to read the book supposed to change your mind about the beloved Sarah and make you a fan, or at least garner her some small measure of your respect? Make your eyes bleed and drive you insane? What?

PS- next time you let someone torture you, hold out for the 27% alcohol, $150 a bottle stuff.

Eric Friday, December 4, 2009 at 11:58:00 AM EST  

Mrs. Bitch, this tragedy started with a tongue-in-cheek post about the Going Rogue price war between Amazon and Wal-Mart, which can be read here if you're really interested. In the post, I suggested that if the price-slashing went to it's logical conclusion and resulted in the retailers giving away money with copies of the book, I wasn't so proud as to say "I wouldn't read it if you paid me," but would indeed read it if you paid me.

Whereupon regular reader Dave, who goes by the nom de plume "Leanright," took me up on it. Dammit.

His offer of Ruination IPA as a suitable portion of the payment was based on his knowing that I enjoy IPAs (a partial answer to Jeff's question, by the way). This was acceptable to me, partly because I erroneously assumed Going Rogue would be bad but not awful--I expected a mediocre campaign memoir with a bit of self-righteous whining and a lot of repeated conservative cliches, but I expected it to be better written than, say for instance, a rather bad R.A. Salvatore Star Wars novel I downloaded to my PDA a couple of years ago. I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. How could I have known?

I don't know if Dave really thought I'd change my mind, or if he figured he was wreaking vengeance upon me, or if he merely decided that the results would probably be more entertaining than dinner and a movie with his wife. I suppose he can chime in and answer for himself, but to the extent he thought he'd torment me, I would guess that he thought it would be Palin's politics that would drive me nuts, not her poorly-placed commas and fractured sentences.

(If so, it's possible he doesn't appreciate that anybody who's been to law school has spent a fair bit of time reading well-written and well thought-out things he disagreed with. E.g. I have all sorts of issues with Richard Posner, one of the foremost proponents of the Law And Economics school of analysis, but the issues are with his premises and conclusions, not his writing style or ability to advance a rational argument, and he's never given me an aneuryism; I actually do respect Judge Posner.)

Believe me, next time I do something like this (if there's a next time), I'm holding out for my real vice, premium anejo tequila, something in the $100 range that isn't one of those ridiculously overpriced Patrons they've been pimping.

Leanright,  Friday, December 4, 2009 at 12:53:00 PM EST  

So, Eric, are you saying that a quality tequila, and say, a copy of Mark Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny" might be a suitable exchange for you?

Mr. Levin is a far more scholarly writer, and he's up on constitutional issues, probably not on the SAME side (actually not at all) asy you are, but he is an attorney, and his latest book is just over 200 pages.

This isn't an offer of a deal, but just throwing the though out there.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A20EEIK4Q9F9T6/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

Eric Friday, December 4, 2009 at 2:02:00 PM EST  

I might have to read an excerpt first, Dave.

I'd also like, once I'm done with Frau Sarah, to have some time to finish this short story I started writing. If you want to refloat your idea in a few months, I'll think about it.

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