Politics & Government

Dissection of Palin's 'Going Rogue' begins

Sarah Palin's book, "Going Rogue," came out Tuesday, a best-selling compilation of anecdotes, political prescriptions and score settling.

The former Alaska governor's 413-page book caused a media sensation, with exhaustive coverage and friends and foes scrutinizing every word.

Palin writes about her Wasilla upbringing, her marriage and children, and how her early aspirations to be a television sports reporter turned into a life of politics. She describes her trajectory from Wasilla city politics to governor; from the vice presidential campaign trail to her resignation this summer, when she decided it was time to "pass the ball."

Palin, who has not given interviews to Alaska news media since leaving office, describes her decision to step down, a move that shocked even some of Palin's closest supporters.

In the wake of the presidential campaign, her administration was besieged by public records requests and ridiculous ethics complaints designed to bankrupt her, she writes. Her approval ratings in Alaska plunged from almost 90 percent to 56 percent amid a "one-sided public discourse" over the ethics claims, she writes.

"Slowly and steadily, my record, my administration's efforts, and my family's reputation were shot to hell," Palin writes.

Clarity came in a telephone call from Iraq with her enlisted son, Track, she writes. Her son urged her not to let the criticism get to her, she writes, that she shouldn't take a "dishonorable discharge," and should only leave office if it was to move up to something more worthy. Palin described asking if it was worthy to protect her family, to fight for Alaska and the nation, and to break the "bureaucratic shackles" paralyzing the state.

"I'm not a quitter, Track ... I'm going to fight."

Palin writes that the "sheer volume of paperwork and legally required responses brought the business of governing the State of Alaska to a grinding halt. Eventually it overwhelmed us - and was obviously meant to."

Andrew Halcro, a former Republican state legislator and frequent Palin critic, said she could have pushed to change how Alaska deals with ethics complaints, and it's "asinine" to say Alaska governing came to a standstill because of them.

"I mean, really, was the commissioner of education working on complaints? Did you have (resources commissioner) Tom Irwin in there instead of working on the gas line, digging through FOIA requests?" said Halcro, who lost to Palin for governor in 2006 and is preparing a campaign for Congress against Rep. Don Young.

Halcro said what he's seen so far of Palin's book is an exercise in blaming others. "She's accepted very little responsibility for pretty much anything that's gone wrong in her life," Halcro said.

Palin's lawyer, Tom Van Flein, said Tuesday that those who claim that Palin is using the book to blame others are the same people who have unfairly criticized her and failed to take responsibility themselves.

"All Sarah Palin is doing is pointing out what really happened, and there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with the truth of what occurred," he said.

Palin described Halcro in the book as a "wealthy, effete young chap who had taken over his father's local Avis Rent A Car, and he starred in his own car commercials."

Some of Palin's sharpest criticism is aimed at top aides on Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. She writes that the campaign muzzled her and failed to stop anonymous staffers from making vicious claims about her to the press.

The book is "total fiction," the Arizona senator's former campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, told CNN. Palin paints him as a screaming, back-biting political operative. Throughout the book, Palin doesn't name some people she disparages, including many from Alaska. One is Anne Kilkenny of Wasilla, who wrote a long e-mail warning of Palin's small-town leadership, ultimately forwarded around the country. Kilkenny is referred to in the book as both "the town crank" and a "Birkenstock-and-granola Berkeley grad who wore her gray hair long and flowing."

Palin's former legislative director, John Bitney, also doesn't get named, although Palin criticized him for, among other things, turning "out to be a Blackberry games addict who couldn't seem to keep the lunch off his tie." Bitney, who was a high school classmate of Palin and worked on her campaign for governor, said he was hurt by it. "On the Blackberry, it takes one to know one, as far as Blackberry etiquette, and I guess I don't have her clothing budget to be as GQ as she wanted."

Much of the national media coverage has focused on Palin's criticism of the McCain campaign staffers, as well as her recounting that the McCain campaign forced her to pay $50,000 in legal bills for the cost of vetting her as a vice presidential candidate. The campaign's general counsel told the Associated Press that was untrue, and McCain told a Capitol Hill publication, The Hill, the expenses were instead related to the "Troopergate" investigation.

McCain told The Hill that he nevertheless enjoyed the signed book that Palin gave him and wishes her well. "I hope she sells lots of them," he said.

Fact-checking and debates over the book's worth raged on Tuesday. Palin makes much in her book of her admiration for President Ronald Reagan. His "sense of national purpose resonated with me," Palin wrote of Reagan, who took office when she was in high school. "I liked him, and I liked the fact that he was never afraid to call it as he saw it."

The fact-checking Web site Politifact.com on Tuesday disputed some of Palin's claims, including that Reagan led the nation out of a recession that is worse than the one it currently faces.

The New York Times book review described "Going Rogue" as "part cagey spin, part earnest autobiography, part payback hit job." National Republican strategist Mary Matalin said in an interview she was saddened by Palin's fight with McCain campaign strategists, but said Palin is good at defending herself. Matalin described the book as eloquently laying out conservative principles.

"She's a unique voice, and she's a clear voice for common-sense conservatism," Matalin said.

Palin will now embark on a nationwide book tour, starting today in Grand Rapids, Mich., and continuing by bus to other small cities across the country. Writing in the final paragraph of the epilogue, she says she has often been asked, "Where are you going next?"

"Good question! I'll be heading home to Alaska, of course. Back to that kitchen table. We'll discuss the day's news and the next stop. I always tell my kids that God doesn't drive parked cars, so we'll talk about getting on the next road and gearing up for hard work to travel down it to reach new goals."

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