Three days after John McCain announced his pick of Sarah Palin as his 2008 running mate, my wife Judy and I were canvassing in Wasilla, Alaska for Barack Obama. We'd been scheduled to do it for a week. Over the weekend since the August 29th announcement, I had been barraged by dozens of phone calls and hundreds of emails from reporters wanting information from a blogging progressive who could almost see Palin's house from my neighborhood.
Judy, who had listened to many of the conversations, and had read most of the emails, kidded me. "I can't believe how much you've forgotten about her over the years, " she laughed.
Three weeks later, after we had assisted scores of journalists from the Lower 48, and had hosted both Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert (two of Going Rouge's contributors) at our house, as the latter two investigated Palin's ties to the John Birch Society, the Alaska Independence Party, Rev. Thomas Muthee, and to eliminationist groups tied to various Christianist sects, Judy admitted, "I can't believe how much I've forgotten about her!"
After Palin abdicated, I really wanted her to disappear from the national stage.
I wasn't alone.
Her facebook ghost writer's "Death Panel" early August post was the first sign that this wouldn't happen. That posting, which was picked up by the national media, and turned out to be the most emblematic midsummer turning point in the health care debate, was the beginning of her
Going Rouge: Sarah Palin - An American Nightmare, is a direct response to the book, Going Rogue, published last month under Palin's name. Going Rouge is a very large collection of short essays examining aspects of Palin's pre-2008 campaign record, the campaign itself, her subsequent activities, and some takes on what this might represent in terms of the current state of American politics.
Like many quickly put together works, there are some textual and editing errors. It is, however, a powerful collection of truthful essays, written from a dynamically progressive perspective. Most have been published elsewhere, but having them under one cover is more important than we might yet realize, especially as Palin's backers hope to catapult her to some next stage in early 2010, after the attention from the book tour starts to die down.
Some events unfolding in Alaska over the last ten days may be eclipsing some of the most dynamic contributions to Going Rouge. One example is John Nichols' contribution, Why Troopergate Matters. Originally published in The Nation on September 24, 2008, under the title McCain's Troopergate Scandal, it describes how the McCain campaign, with the help of national GOP political operatives, took over the front office of Alaska's executive branch, to attempt to change the narrative of what was then Palin's biggest scandal - her and her family's longstanding campaign to get back at her ex-brother-in-law, an Alaska State Trooper. Many wrote about this then, but Nichols' take is compellingly tight and remains a bit shocking.
As authoritative as Nichols' article was, this past week, a huge amount of emails and other internal State of Alaska communications have finally been released by the State of Alaska, in response to two document requests that aren't directly tied to Troopergate. They emphasize what Nichols observed - that Palin is ethically a huge crock of shit - but these new revelations may have far more staying power than "Troopergate." Once again, we'll see.
Thousands of documents have been released by Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell's administration that clearly show how often people working directly under Palin in the executive branch were routinely ordered to violate the same ethics codes Palin complained about being violated by Oil and Gas Commissioner Randy Ruedrich years ago. Palin's complaint at that time, lavishly covered by Alaska media in ways that seemed to praise Palin, were the keys to her political rise beyond the Wasillasphere.
Why is Parnell starting to quickly sign off on the release of these long overdue requests that were made back during the Palin administration? He's holding on to other, more longstanding requests. The Alaska media, by and large, are softballing this, and not consulting with the recipients of the released documents.
The most powerful sections of Going Rouge are two sets of essays written by feminists, Lipstick on a Faux Feminist and A Woman's Right to Lose. Ten women look at at least a score of dimensions to the falsity of Palin's claim to resonance with issues concerning women in America or anywhere.
The weakest aspect of the book's overall structure may be a lack of focus on Palin's rapidly growing role in anti-science iconography. Palin's place there may be the most significant ever for a modern woman. She is the anti-Marie Curie. The DNA of the family charged with keeping the Triceratops off the Ark may be the steering oar of her essence.
Among the essays I hadn't read before is one by Naomi Klein, called Capitalism - Sarah Palin Style. It is a print version of a speech given by Klein last spring, in which she explains that Palin, as with her role among those who mistrust science, is the perfect tool for people who are afraid to face the seriousness of the economic mess we are in:
.....before she came along, the U.S. public, at long last, was starting to come to grips with the urgency of the climate crisis, with the fact that our economic activity is at war with the planet, that radical change is needed immediately. We were actually having that conversation: Polar bears were on the cover of Newsweek magazine. And then in walked Sarah Palin. The core of her message was this: Those environmentalists, those liberals, those do-gooders are all wrong. You don't have to change anything. You don’t have to rethink anything. Keep driving your gas-guzzling car, keep going to Wal-Mart and shop all you want. The reason for that is a magical place called Alaska. Just come up here and take all you want. "Americans," she said at the Republican National Convention, "we need to produce more of our own oil and gas. Take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska, we’ve got lots of both."
And the crowd at the convention responded by chanting and chanting: "Drill, baby, drill."
Watching that scene on television, with that weird creepy mixture of sex and oil and jingoism, I remember thinking: "Wow, the RNC has turned into a rally in favor of screwing Planet Earth." Literally.
Going Rouge is the most important book yet that focuses on Palin's shortcomings, past and present. Anyone wanting a slam dunk chunk of solid facts on Palin, doesn't need to hunt further.
As to the book's relevance in the immediate future, the collection concludes with four recently written quick takes on Palin's prospects, called What is Sarah Palin's Future in American Politics. The authors are Jane Hamsher, Christopher Hayes, Amanda Marcotte and Michael Tomasky. Their essays observe that though Palin's capabilities are certainly limited, the power she has over her base is continuing to be quite phenomenal. Hamsher says the GOP for 2012 is stuck with Palin, Huckabee or Romney. Since she wrote that, Huckabee has been Willie Hortoned out, and one of Romney's key people has popped his green balloons all over the national press.
As much as we’d all like to forget about Palin, it is still important to be well informed about what she really is and what she represents. Going Rouge, which is already available on the web, will soon be available in book stores.