Book review: Palin goes rogue on the facts

Having filled her book with complaints about all the people who lifted her from obscurity and brought her into the national spotlight, Palin nonetheless writes, “I don't like to hear people complain.”

By Max Blumenthal

In August 2008, when then-senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the media had held her under a “sharper microscope” because she was a woman, Sarah Palin rose to condemn her, accusing Clinton of a “perceived whine” that would harm other female political candidates. “I mean, work harder, prove yourself to an even greater degree that you're capable, that you're going to be the best candidate,” Palin instructed Clinton.

Almost a year later, Palin quit her job as Alaska governor without any advance warning, blaming her snap decision on “Washington and the media,” along with a nebulous band of political operatives who had filed “all sorts of frivolous ethics violations.” She added, with no sense of irony, that media double standards had cast a dark cloud over her career. “Though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term,” Palin claimed in a July statement, “of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make.”

Two months before her resignation, the nature of Palin's “higher calling” was becoming evident: a reported multi-million dollar book deal. Now that Going Rogue: An American Life has been released, she will be heading out on a bus tour of midsize cities throughout “Real America.”

Going Rogue is an autobiographical account of her political life that culminates with a revisionist history of the 2008 presidential campaign. According to Palin, her most embarrassing moments on the campaign trail, from her disastrous interview with CBS anchor Katie Couric to her expensive shopping sprees, were really the fault of her running mate, Sen. John McCain, his staffers, and her favorite whipping post, the national press corps. Having filled her book with complaints about all the people who lifted her from obscurity and brought her into the national spotlight, Palin nonetheless writes, “I don't like to hear people complain.”

Palin's accusations have prompted dismissive responses from former top McCain aides including Steve Schmidt, who slammed her account of the campaign as “total fiction.” Though Schmidt was referring specifically to Palin's criticisms of his behavior, like her allegation that he used profane language in the presence of her youngest daughter, he appears to be onto something. (Schmidt should be grateful Palin did not characterize him as harshly as she did Alaska state Sen. Bert Stedman, a rock-ribbed Republican, who she wrongly labeled in Going Rogue as a “Democratic lawmaker.”)

Indeed, scoring a kill in an aerial wolf hunt with a helicopter full of cluster munitions would be more challenging than finding the errors, baseless accusations and paranoid statements that riddle the pages of Going Rogue. While politicians routinely resort to spin when the truth becomes inconvenient, Palin has taken misleading to new heights, crafting an autobiography that reads like the literary version of the Balloon Boy hoax. But unlike the boy's publicity starved parents, who momentarily duped America, Palin can't fool anyone. Beginning with her specious claim that Alaskans “don't do” hunts by helicopter, Palin's deceptions were instantly debunked by the crack researchers of Right-Wing Book Watch, a joint project of Media Matters for America and the Progressive Book Club.

During the 2008 presidential campaign Palin, through a scattershot of accusations, sought to convince voters that Democratic candidate Barack Obama was a leftist radical who did not share their values. In one instance, during her October 2008 interview with Couric, Palin alleged that Obama believed children born alive after botched abortions should “not receive medical help to save that child's life.” The claim, which referred to Obama's vote in the Illinois Senate against a bill to amend the state's abortion law, was, as Palin likes to say, bogus.

As Obama and other opponents of the bill pointed out at the time, Illinois law already unequivocally prohibited the killing of children. Nevertheless, Palin repeats the discredited charge in Going Rogue, flatly asserting that “Obama opposed laws that would protect babies born alive after botched abortions.” By supposedly allowing babies to die slowly on cold slabs, Obama revealed his “real extremism,” Palin declared. Even after Time magazine and The Washington Post debunked her claim, Palin saw no need to retract or even modify it. The press holds her to “a different standard,” after all, so why bother?

While Palin heaped resentment on Obama, who she accused misleadingly of “palling around with terrorists” like the former Weather Underground leader William Ayers, she apparently brimmed with frustration at McCain and his campaign staff for failing to orchestrate more negative attacks. Her anger boiled over in the pages of Going Rogue, as she accused the McCain camp of a failure to go after Obama for his “close relationship with ACORN, the voter-fraud specialists.”

“We did not elaborate on any of that [Obama's ACORN connections] during the campaign,” Palin claimed in her memoir.

In fact, McCain leveled conspiracy theories about ACORN against Obama for extended periods of a nationally televised October 15, 2008, presidential debate. Two days later, McCain's then-campaign manager Rick Davis hosted a conference call with reporters about Obama's supposed ties to ACORN. Davis arranged another call on October 30 to allege an “ongoing scandal ... related to ACORN and the Obama campaign.” Where was Palin while McCain and Davis lashed out the Democratic nominee on his alleged ACORN ties? Unless she had entered an Iditarod race that took her across the frozen tundra during the last month of the campaign, Palin has no excuse.

Palin's interest in helping the McCain campaign paled in comparison to her concern for her own image. In Going Rogue, Palin bristles at the media's scrutiny of the Republican National Committee's spending of $150,000 to “clothe and accessorize” her and her family -- including hundreds of dollars for a single pair of Naughty Monkey heels. Alleging once again an unfair double standard, Palin makes the remarkable claim that “no other candidates or their spouses were being asked a thing about their hair, makeup, or clothes.”

So what about candidate John Edwards, who was scrutinized almost obsessively by the national press corps, ridiculed by late night talk show hosts and interrogated by debate moderators for paying $400 for haircuts? What about candidate Hillary Clinton, whose neckline, “bright colors” and choice of jewelry were the source of intense debate among cable news pundits? And what of the photograph planted on the Drudge Report depicting Obama in traditional Somali garb, an image that prompted Rush Limbaugh to compare the candidate to Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri? Candidates' looks have figured centrally in campaigns since the days when Richard Nixon pointed to his wife's “respectable Republican cloth coat” in his 1952 Checkers speech. Is Palin oblivious to the historical trend, or was she too busy looking north to the future?

The factual errors larding Going Rogue do not end with Palin's recollection of the 2008 campaign. Instead, they extend into her critique of the Obama presidency, as she claims that those who will be “hit hardest” by the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill will be “those who are already struggling to make ends meet.” Palin makes no mention, however, of a non-partisan Congressional Budget Office study that shows the cap and trade bill that passed the House with the support of the Obama administration would result in over $100 in benefits to low-income households by 2020.

The media's intense scrutiny of Palin's autobiography is already beginning to rankle her. On her Facebook page, Palin took aim at the Associated Press reporters assigned to fact-check her book before its publication. “Imagine that,” she declared, “11 AP reporters dedicating time and resources to tearing up the book, instead of using the time and resources to 'fact check' what's going on with Sheik Mohammed's [sic] trial, Pelosi's health care takeover costs, [accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal] Hasan's associations, etc. Amazing.”

Never mind the AP's non-stop coverage of Khalid Shaikh Muhammad's trial arrangements or the organization's reporting on Hasan's alleged sympathy for radical Islamist causes.

In Palin's world, the terrorists win every time her claims are discredited.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and blogger whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Huffington Post,, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. He is a senior writer for The Daily Beast and a writing fellow for the Nation Institute. He is the author of recently released Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party.