Going Rogue, Part II: Politics of Personal Destruction

The Palin Family Became a Target

Some reports on Palin’s book made it seem as if she spent the majority of the time complaining about the treatment she received from the press, the Democrats, and operatives within the McCain campaign. In fact, all she did was chronicle what actually took place during the campaign and afterwards. She points to actions that she considers unfair, foolish, and indefensible, yet she doesn’t turn it into a diatribe against her opponents. She is analytical about it, not resentful.

It was Bill Clinton’s apologists who originally coined the term “politics of personal destruction,” accusing Republicans of trying to oust him by pointing out his moral failings. Well, in his case, there was a case.

Until Sarah Palin got the nod for vice president, she was admired by nearly everyone. No one accused her of any wrongdoing. Democrats in Alaska appreciated that she took on corruption within her own party. But once she was on the ticket, all that changed.

The Accusations Even Focused on Baby Trig

Her family was a target; some even fantasized that newborn Trig, the Down Syndrome baby, was actually her daughter Bristol’s child, and that Palin was lying about being his mom.

Suddenly, she was no longer the efficient administrator, but a dumb “Caribou Barbie,” according to some commentators. Her first interview, with Charlie Gibson of ABC, took on the nature of a stern civics teacher challenging her knowledge of the world.

All of that is well known. How does Palin handle it in the book?

While she doesn’t pull any punches about her feelings over the maltreatment, her faith shines through. There is an inherent optimism in Palin that mirrors Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Reagan suffered through many of the same accusations: he’s dumb, he’s lazy, he’s a simpleton. He refused to respond in kind; Palin follows in his footsteps.

She quotes David Horowitz, a former radical-turned-conservative, who notes that the political left uses the rules enunciated by activist Saul Alinsky—make accusation after accusation until something sticks; overwhelm the target with so many accusations that he/she gives up. That is how Palin was treated after the campaign. She hoped to return to her gubernatorial duties as before, but opponents without any credibility raised ethics issues one after the other, overwhelming her staff with all the paperwork needed to answer them. Every one was debunked, but the Palins were left with $500,000 in legal expenses because of this onslaught.

Incidentally, Saul Alinsky was a big influence on two prominent politicians: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They have used his techniques as a foundation for their political success.

I can hardly imagine the stress all of this placed on her family, and on her personally. Yet her attitude in the book is that you cannot expect to escape such trials. It’s the nature of politics, so you simply must face it and move forward. Even as she eventually decided to resign the governorship [because no real work could be done due to these tactics], it was not a retreat in her mind; it was, instead, a “reloading.” She was eager to see what new doors God might open.

Many commentators wrote her political obituary after her resignation. She acknowledges that, and even says it may preclude her from further political office, but she took that action believing it was right, regardless of the political consequences.

Sarah Palin’s persona in Going Rogue is that of an open, honest, down-to-earth woman with whom everyday Americans would feel comfortable. Her responses to the personal attacks are admirable. That is one of the key things I look for in a potential leader. It goes back once again to character. And she has it.

Well, it’s one thing to possess an enviable character and to be able to handle whatever life throws at you, but anyone who harbors the least ambition for higher political office must also have a clear philosophy of government. What is Palin’s philosophy? How is it revealed in the book? That will be the subject of my third, and final, part of this review.