Reading Rogue: What I have in common with Sarah Palin; good-for-nothing journalists; Piper; everybody's fault but Sarah's; and other things

>> Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Well, see, here's the benefit of doing something like reading Going Rogue: after 276 pages, I've discovered that Sarah Palin and I do share common ground on an issue:

I was also sweating like crazy and ready for a minute to breathe and drink an icy Diet Dr. Pepper.

Two issues, actually: not only do I drink Diet Dr. Pepper, I also tend to sweat a lot. See, and I would have thought Mrs. Palin and I had absolutely nothing in common.

Well, I suppose there's also the fact that neither one of us is qualified to be President Of The United States....

Chapter four of Going Rogue, "Going Rogue," is the one that's been picked over by everybody else who's written something about the book, and it's also probably the only part that some reviewers and commentators even bothered to read. Lucky, lazy, lame assholes. I'll bet most of them also got paid more than $9.00 and a good beer for it, too. They only read 132 pages of this thing, and they're probably getting at least fifty bucks and a bottle of liquor for it. No wonder Sarah Palin hates journalists so much--when I think about it, I start hating them, too. Oh well. I made my deal, I guess I'm stuck with it and there's no use whining.

Especially since the efforts of those "real" writers saves me quite a lot of trouble: I'm not going to bother pointing out all the inaccuracies and dubious claims in this section of this chapter (which I'm only about halfway finished with), since members of Senator John McCain's former campaign staff can do that for themselves. As the reader has come to expect, the usual patterns of foreshadowing are in full force--people Mrs. Palin wants to hand out some kind of payback to are portrayed unsympathetically as soon as they make a first appearance, while those she doesn't have it in for are all charming and wonderful and sweetness and light as soon as they make a first appearance.

In case you were wondering what went wrong with the McCain campaign, everything was everybody's fault except Mrs. Palin's, the Palin family's, or that of the few staffers she doesn't hate now. And I do mean everybody: the disastrous Katie Couric interview, for instance, was entirely Katie Couric's fault. She asked dumb questions and edited out all the intelligent answers that Sarah Palin gave, and was obsessed with trivial details when she wasn't being condescending. (Also, she works for the lowest-rated news network, which Mrs. Palin makes sure we know almost as soon as Mrs. Couric makes an appearance--that's the kind of thing I'm talking about with the foreshadowing.)

I think the only single likable person in the entire Palinverse is Piper Palin, and I can't tell how much of it is that Piper's actually a real, cool little kid and how much of that is a creation. For somebody who wants her kids off limits, Sarah Palin puts her kids out there with the fervor of Lynne Spears or Tina Simpson--except those mothers at least are promoting the careers of their children and not their own. Campaigning with your kids is nothing new, nor is it confined to Palin; having Piper regularly work rope lines (c.f. p. 267) or routinely addressing the press corps (p. 258) seems a bit much--especially given Frau Palin's conveniently inconsistent attitude about publicity concerning her family--as long as it's favorable and scores points, she'll madam her kids, but the minute it gets even barely ugly, she's all about the privacy and all that. Honestly, I wish she'd leave Piper and the other kids out of it entirely, and I'd be happier not to be mentioning them at all, although I have little doubt that Piper would have been able to tell Katie Couric what she'd been reading lately.

Anyway, on to other things.

One thing I want to mention is that chapter four does have what is probably the most revealingly offensive comment in the entire book thus far. Mrs. Palin attempts, I think, a cheap shot at Mr. Barack Obama, and in the process sums up what is basically, inherently wrong with most of the people who seem to be calling themselves Republicans these days. On page 243, she writes: individual's commitment to his or her own business and family--that is significantly more important than any community leadership role. [emphasis in original]

In other words, as long as I and mine got ours, to hell with all y'all. The ellipses may make it look like I'm hiding context, but I'm not--the context doesn't help, although it does suggest the sentence is a sort of Freudian slip: it's from a passage in which Mrs. Palin is extolling small-town leadership, comparing apples and oranges by attempting to say that the decisions made by "mayors and council members and commissioners and volunteers" are more significant than the decisions made by the "few hundred people in Congress." (The kinds of things dealt with on the Federal and community level are, of course, almost entirely different kinds of things, and which ones are more or less significant will depend on the specific subject at hand and one's perspective.) In her final sentence, Mrs. Palin is surely trying to repeat the usual right-wing mantra of business and family versus community (which sounds suspiciously like "communist"), but in the process instead manages to extol a level of self-centeredness that has been famously repudiated by everyone from Jesus to John F. Kennedy.

There's an absurd bit where Mrs. Palin tries to explain the answers she would have given in the Couric interview if she'd been allowed to, or tried to give but that were edited out, and somehow still manages to fail despite presumably having even more time to prepare for writing her memoir than she had to prepare for softball questions from Ms. Couric (pp. 271-278). Similarly, there's another absurdly funny bit a few pages later wherein Mrs. Palin lists some of the vague stock answers she was given by the McCain campaign as preparation for the Biden debate, then offers what she would have said if she'd been allowed her own way--and offers up a paragraph that is fundamentally indistinguishable from the stock responses (pp. 281-282). It's too late for me to type them all up for you right now, but I may offer these to you, gentle readers, as a kind of fun quiz or game later in the week, giving you a chance to try to pick which one is Sarah Palin and which ones aren't.

In the meantime, being past the halfway point has given me a reason to live. See y'all tomorrow.


Jim Wright Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 11:49:00 PM EST  

Speaking of roguish slips, did you see this.

Oops, that's what happens when you really don't do any actual research and your education and experience are only 2" deep.

Eric Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 12:10:00 AM EST  

I hadn't seen that, thank you for pointing it out!

It actually sort of confirms a suspicion I had with regard to the whole Plato/Phila quote I talked about in an earlier post: Palin's quotes are most likely pulled from internet sites or cursory thumbing through quotations books, reflecting less scholarship than Palin pretends to with her claims of being a nerd. (Yes, the former jock and beauty queen claims she was and is a nerd. Yes, as a nerd I was offended, now that you mention it.)

I won't be surprised if there are more misquotations and misattributions yet to be found in GR.

John the Scientist Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 12:56:00 AM EST  

Actually, I read the community leadership role to be a dig at the Chicago community organizer gig, not Congress. Am I wrong?

Eric Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 10:37:00 AM EST  

You're right, and I'm sorry if that was muddled in the context I put it in.

That line is the last part of a full paragraph I didn't feel like typing and that was sort of asinine anyway, but that I did try to summarize. In it, Palin talks about all the kinds of daily decisions thousands of local officials make about things like potholes and sewer lines, and then compares it to the somehow less-significant decisions that are made by the few hundred people in Congress. The idea she's trying to convey is that small, local government is more important than Federal government.

The main problem is that it's an asinine comparison. A Congressional decision to raise Federal gasoline tax, for instance, is far more important to me than whether they repave a road in Peoria; conversely a Charlotte City Council decision to defund local arts may be far more important to me than a Congressional decision to honor a civic hero in Wasilla. In short, such contrasts between supposedly "important" local decisions and allegedly "minor" Congressional decisions is a matter of perspective and issue, and not a categorical matter as Palin attempts to paint it.

At the end of the paragraph, the portion I quoted, Palin takes a cheap dig at Obama's community organizer gig. It misfires because, as important as family ought to be and as important as small business might be, there is a strong and non-partisan American tradition of community leadership being one of the civic virtues. (I mentioned JFK only because his famous, "Ask not what your country can do for you..." is one of the most succinct contemporary expressions of it. I could have as easily pointed to Herbert Hoover's Red Cross work or the joint efforts of formerly adversarial Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton for Katrina flood relief.) The tradition has its roots in older Western traditions--hence the namechecking of the Jesus, of course. In America, it goes back at least as far as the civic popular mythology surrounding George Washington, who (at least in the public mind) was dragged from retirement to serve as the first President of the United States, or the early American iconography surrounding the Roman dictator Cincinnatus.

As I said, I think there's a revealing slip in her attempt to take a shot at Obama: business (and making a buck) comes before traditional American values like family and public service. It's a distressing mindset when you run into it.

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