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The men though, where was their support coming from? It was surprising. Now, before you get your John Deer logo panties in a bunch, let me state outright that I'm not naive enough to think that all conservative Joe Americas consider a woman's place to be solely in the kitchen. There's also the bedroom. And of course the doctor's office and the veterinary clinic, because let's face it, no college-educated, elitist, possibly Jewish or atheist or heaven forbid animal rights activist is going to be delivering Joe's 16-year-old daughter's soon-to-be-baptized child or his prize hunting dog's 25th litter of 100% pure-bred-with-papers-to-prove-it puppies. And there's also the checkout line at the local Wal-Mart, where Mrs. Joe America can maybe get a discount on that Mojo Mallard duck hunting decoy ($140, you-betcha!) her husband has had his eye on. And, okay, the kids are going to need to get their mullets trimmed before Christmas Mass so there's a place for womenfolk at Great Clips too. Everybody knows the guys who cut hair are all, like, total homos.
But politics? I think it is safe to say that most conservative men wouldn't be caught dead letting their wives take an art history class, let alone make decisions on foreign policy or national security. What could they possibly see in Sarah Palin? Themselves, as the dirty old joke goes. Palin's largest block of support was coming from white males in suburban and rural areas, men who, as Patton Oswalt would say, can't stand fucking that hedgehog of a wife anymore. Those fellers had their eyes trained on Fox News and wanted all they could get of Miss Wasilla fantasy footage for their alone time out in the ice fishing shack. Plain and simple, Palin was (and still is) a sex object, MILF supreme for millions of sexually repressed über-males with frumpy pickup truck driving wives. I would imagine that it was still at least a little bit disappointing how little sense she made when let off the leash for nationally televised debates and broadcast news interviews. But come on, what else were they going to do, vote for the black guy and the douche who rode the train? Get real. Besides, Palin liked to shoot things and, as made obvious by her prolific reproductive output, she also put out.
The thing is that, for such an opportunity to give her some depth as a serious political option, Going Rogue: An American Life, Palin's new memoir, doesn't do much to dispel any of those preconceptions. If you think Sarah Palin isn't a fabricated socio-political commodity marketed first and foremost (and pretty much exclusively) by sex appeal, you needn't judge her or her book by much more than the cover. There she is, her trademark Tina Fey glasses, her trademark American flag pin, and a red fleece jacket zipped down far enough to show the shadow of some cleavage. Apparently she's either shirtless underneath or wearing a half-zipped red fleece jacket over a tube top in the heat of an Alaskan summer.
Other than another reminder for Joe The American to curse all the weight Brenda The Beautician put on after she had Chase and Britney, Going Rogue isn't much more than a couple hundred pages of the same type of Red State/Blue State culture baiting that this review's opening paragraphs spoofed. Aside from being a publicity stunt from someone many consider a textbook narcissist and a lengthy (look at me and) "let me explain" treatise on her disastrous performance in the 2008 election campaign, Going Rogue, is essentially a rehash of the bullet points her publicity handlers have made time and again, with a few more biographical tidbits they hoped would stretch her airbrushed persona into a smarter and more defiant version of the caricature she already is. If you think she's all about being a girly-girl pageant contestant, well, Palin wants you to know that when given an ultimatum in high school, to choose between boys and sports, she chose sports. There's also plenty of outdoorsy hunting recollections in the book, including a bit about how she got lost tracking sheep as an eight-year-old girl and after a couple of hours just curled up on a rock and went to sleep. Which is exactly what I felt like doing when reading through Going Rogue.
For someone who is supposed to be the future of the Republican Party, Sarah Palin spends a lot of time going over well-worn and thoroughly mundane points ad nauseum. Which is precisely what, even if she were worth her salt as a public servant, will ultimately keep Palin from going anywhere in 2012. Sure, we now know about her getting a bill for nearly $50,000 from the McCain campaign for her vetting process, but that's a juicy little tidbit about old news. We already knew that she thought Katie Couric was going to stick to a pre-approved interview script and that she thinks not being able to go off script is an acceptable level of sophistication for the Vice-Leader of the Free World. We already knew that she was a beauty queen. We already knew that she considered the Great White North the center of the world (and to drive the point home, her map of the world is centered on the North Pole). And her kids' names? We already knew they were outlandishly comical, and Palin only reiterates their absurdity; her eldest son Track (you know, the one in the military) is indeed named for the category of running sports, and for no better reason that he was born in spring. Palin jokes that he might have been named "Zamboni" had been born during the hockey months. She also refers to her state of pregnancy as being "porked up" and "ready to calve." There are plenty of references to snow machines too.
Oh, and if you're still snarking about her inability to name any magazines or newspapers or books during that Katie Couric interview, the first 30 pages of the book make a point of listing several titles. Real gems, too, like Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, the Bible, and anything by Christian apologists C.S. Lewis. Take that, Barack Obama's reading list!
One of the weirdest parts of the book is an anecdote-cum-parable about a one-armed dentist, a friend of Palin's father and source of tenacious inspiration. A pit bull minus the lipstick, if you will. Another bit that is sure to endear her to the backwoods yokel is the story of how her high school courtship with husband Todd progressed not via telephone but by walkie talkie. Even more seductive for the flannel-clad gomer is her reference to cap-and-trade carbon mitigation plans as an "environmentalist Ponzi scheme." It seems like Glenn Beck denouncing global warming as a hoax perpetrated by Jews is just around the corner, with Palin as an expert guest. Throughout the course of the book Palin also decries experts on anything (her Alaskan town of Wasilla is after all, according to Wal-Mart itself, the Duct Tape Capital of the World by sales statistics), Alec Baldwin, evolutionary scientists, the "falafel lady" Andree McLeod, and pretty much any state with a major city. And of course the media. What would Sarah Palin be without the villainous left-wing media establishment stalking her at every turn? Palin insists she's game for the media spotlight ("I don't like to hear people complain; I am the first to say, 'Buck up or stay in the truck.'," she writes) but continues to go on and on and on about being a victim of her own celebrity. Going Rogue is also another big salvo in the endless tirade against the John McCain campaign. It is hard to see how anyone can imagine Palin going successfully forward when she's so stuck on her past failures. Rogue is about the only direction she's going.
Honestly, Going Rogue was a disappointment. Although I didn't have any delusions that Sarah Palin was going to turn out to be a Condoleeza Rice- or Madeleine Albright-caliber political mind, I did assume that the book would attempt to reshape her as something other than a moose-hunting, god-fearing, sore-losing finger pointer. Or at least give her the sort of likeable personality that makes a guy like Mike Huckabee palatable even if his politics aren't. But it doesn't. I didn't even follow the 2008 elections beyond what was covered by Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert and there were still no real surprises in the book. I'm halfway surprised that the whole Sarah Palin thing is still happening.
But only halfway surprised. The fact of the matter is that Palin is the sexiest hamster in the American media wheel: Going Rogue was published by HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corporation, which is also, notoriously, the parent company of the Fox News network and The Wall Street Journal. By publishing the book News Corp. pushed Palin back into the spotlight, and virtually every media outlet (including this one, yes) took the bait with coverage. Which makes Palin a news item, especially for outlets like Fox, which serves as an echo chamber for her views. Even when Palin hasn't been sitting on her throne at Fox, spoon fed softballs by the network's gaggle of outlandishly right-wing commentators, she has been on Oprah Winfrey's show and any program even remotely related to Barbara Walters, all appearances which Fox and CNN and all of the other "news" programs have covered as well. All of these television appearances and mentions have inevitably driven people to the stops on her book tour, if not to purchase a book or step up for an autograph then to simply watch the circus go round and round. The bigger the tour stop crowds have been, the louder the noise Palin has made, which in turn must again be covered by the media. And of course those book tour stops are selling books, and media outlets would be roundly criticized for not covering the author of the book at the top of Amazon's Bestsellers list. A case in point: a search for "Sarah Palin" at the The Wall Street Journal website leads to more than 30 articles in just the past week, the majority of which have her name in the headline. Rupert Murdoch, founder of News Corp., can watch his finances swell by the day, amassing capital that he will inevitably reinvest in Sarah Palin and other conservative politicians. Which Fox News and The Wall Street Journal will report on. Round and round.
At it's core Going Rogue is a well-played media stunt designed to keep Sarah Palin relevant for the duration of the four years of Barack Obama's first term. In terms of a conservative media strategy, it has been well played. The book itself, however, is a total yawn. My main takeaway from the book is that it is perhaps appropriate that it's biggest irony - that Palin, who has thrived on regurgitating the scripted regressionist nonsense of the Republican Party's old guard, spends a whole lot of venom (and every minute of her life since splitting with the McCain staff in October of last year) trying to drag the spotlight away from the very party that makes her even slightly relevant - will pass completely over the heads of those who read it. SEE ALSO: www.harpercollins.com
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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