going rogue an american life

In case you've been out on the trap line with a busted sat-phone for the last few months, Sarah Palin has published her autobiography.

In case you’ve been out on the trap line with a busted sat-phone for the last few months, Sarah Palin has published her autobiography. The media hype has been spectacular and makes this Yukoner pine for the days of tape-delayed television in the North, back when Palin (it turns out) watched The Brady Bunch and Disney a week late just like we did.

Going Rogue: An American Life is easy to mock. Parodies are already available online. But Sarah Palin continues to fascinate, and people who underestimate her – from the Anchorage Cougars basketball team to former Governor Murkowski – have so far tended to end up face down in the snow with the smell of Palin two-stroke exhaust in the air and her sled tracks on their backs.

The book begins with a series of charming scenes from Palin’s life in Alaska. It is a brisk read. Palin and her ghostwriter Lynn Vincent flit from winning the Alaskan high school basketball championship (on a badly twisted ankle) to Aristotle quotes (on being criticized), and from political philosophy (in favour of allowing Bible study sessions in Wasilla public schools) to personal revelations (“I love meat.”).

At first this makes the book seem more like a concatenation of Twitter posts than a traditional political memoir, turning internet surfing into something heavy enough to hold down the butcher’s paper as you wrap the moose steaks. But the narrative steadies as Palin describes her political path from PTA to vice-presidential candidate.

As literature, Going Rogue doesn’t threaten Winston Churchill’s Nobel Prize-winning memoirs. Nor does it match Alan Clark’s for wit and pure malice, although Palin obviously enjoys recounting how the state senator who complained about her daughter bringing the First Dog to the State House ended up getting “busted by the FBI and convicted on federal corruption charges.”

She also skewers some of her own staff, such as the legislative director she later fired. He is described playing Brickbreaker on his Blackberry during important meetings and wandering the halls with his shirt tail protruding from his fly.

Nor will the reader find deep political thinking in Going Rogue. Palin is passionate about America, Alaska, the “people,” the military, guns, Christianity and small government. She is against “elites” and corruption. But we knew that before reading the book. She seems unable to understand those that disagree with her, tagging them with labels such as “old boy” or “Birkenstock-and-granola.”

But Palin’s account of her Alaskan political career is illuminating, particularly to northern readers familiar with politics in small communities. She describes the body language of the Wasilla city department heads as she takes office as mayor despite their barely concealed campaign against her, and then recounts her now infamous battles with the head librarian and police chief.

She emerges as a courageous politician when she resigns publicly as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, challenging the Republican governor who appointed her and the party establishment over their cozy relationship with Big Oil. She is vindicated when many of her senior Republican critics are caught on FBI surveillance video in Suite 604 at the Westmark Baranof.

Her governorship starts promisingly. She clearly relishes battling Big Oil and the Corrupt Bastards Club, as she calls Alaska’s entrenched lobbyists and self-serving politicians. With bipartisan support, she pushes through the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, ethics reform and even budget cuts. All are major legislative accomplishments and big changes to the status quo, all the more remarkable as she juggles a complex and fast-moving personal life.

Her husband Todd works on the North Slope, her doctor tells her that her child will be born with Down’s syndrome and her sister becomes entangled in Taser-gate. Her children are threatened at school, and have to worry about things like whether they can accept a Gatorade from a soccer teammate’s mother who also happens to be a lobbyist.

Then we get on to the fun of the vice-presidential campaign and hear Palin’s counterattack against the leaks that have kept so many political chat shows in business.

Reaction to the book in Alaska appears to be mixed, at least judging by the amount of eye-rolling this columnist encountered while carrying his copy of Going Rogue around Juneau last weekend.

It started at the cash register in Fred Meyer’s where the clerk, noting the 40 per cent discount, said, “Shows what we think of her.”

Seeking a pro-Palin point of view, we interviewed a Christian Alaskan home-schooling mom who has a signed photo of George Bush in her home. But she just sighed and criticized Palin for charging her children’s travel to the state and for her abrupt mid-term resignation as governor, observing that “she’s probably more popular down south than in Alaska.”

Despite a few entertaining anecdotes, Going Rogue is mediocre even by the low standards of the political memoir. And there are better choices if you’re interested in American politics. The book is unlikely to change any minds among the anti-Palin crowd.

But that’s not the point. Going Rogue is really about Palin’s possible run for the presidency in 2012. It speaks to Palin’s million-plus friends on Facebook and her supporters across the United States.

It slickly lets them into her life and not-so-subtly counterattacks the criticisms that have been showered on her in the media. How could she be accused of misusing government funds when her daughter wouldn’t even accept Gatorade from a lobbyist soccer-mom? How can she be accused of not reading, when she refers to Animal Farm and Robert Service (even if she does refer to him as an “Alaska writer”)?

Will American voters like the book enough to vote for her in 2012? Or will they listen to voices like Newsweek, which called her “Bad news for the GOP – and everybody else, too”?

Going Rogue reveals a politician with courage, energy and a feel for populist hot buttons, but also a long record of questionable judgment and alarming (at least to this columnist) political beliefs.

We have to hope that Providence, which she refers to throughout the book, steers her to her own show on Fox and not the White House.

Going Rogue: An American Lifeby Sarah Palin $34.99 from Harper Collins.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. His latest book, Game On Yukon!, was just launched.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Most Read