Book Reviews


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

It is finally publication day for Sarah Palin's much-hyped memoir "Going Rogue," and we have a review. It comes from Rod Dreher, a conservative columnist for The Dallas Morning News. He's the author of "Crunchy Cons," which gets a brief mention in Palin's book.

Here are his thoughts.

Mr. ROD DREHER (Columnist, The Dallas Morning News; Author, "Crunchy Cons"): Sarah Palin is back to tell us that she loves Alaska and America and Todd, the first dude. She loves God, Ronald Reagan, cutting taxes and serving those she calls ordinary, hardworking people. Who's on Sarah's enemies list? The media, good ol' boys who condescend to her, elites like the Alaskan gadfly she describes as a Birkenstock-and-granola Berkeley grad. Oh, and she really hates cynical McCain campaign staffers who, in her view, sabotaged her vice presidential campaign.

That's pretty much everything you need to know about "Going Rogue," the former Alaska governor's breezy new memoir. There's more about the intricacies of Alaskan politics than most readers could possibly care about. There are also familiar stories of life on the campaign trail, including plenty of petty score-settling. But "Going Rogue" is a book designed to reintroduce Palin as a national political force, and though she's coy about this to lay the groundwork for a 2012 presidential run.

The rap on Palin is that she's too shallow and inexperienced for the presidency, a conclusion that early Palin supporters like me came to during the 2008 campaign. There's nothing in "Going Rogue" to challenge that conclusion. It's like this: Palin spends seven pages dishing about her appearance on "Saturday Night Live," but just over one page discussing her national security views.

Palin positions herself as a populist, but her populism is entirely cultural. She fires the governor's mansion chef, who is bored because her kids won't eat his fancy-pants food. She swoons over a meal of homemade blueberry pie from hardworking, unpretentious, patriotic Alaskans unlike, one presumes, those uppity Berkeley snobs who prefer tarte tatin at Chez Panisse. A little of that goes a long way, and I wouldn't begrudge Palin a bit of it if her populism had any economic substance.

Early in "Going Rogue," she talks in detail about how Exxon exploited the people of Alaska in the Exxon Valdez disaster, and her experience tangling with oil companies taught Palin about how big business colludes with government to create a crony capitalism that harms the common good. And yet, she's incapable of understanding how the uncritically pro-business economic agenda she touts makes all this possible.

In national politics, some feel that big business is always opposed to the little guy, she writes. Some people seem to think a profit motive is inherently greedy and evil and that what's good for business is bad for people. That's what Karl Marx thought, too.

Karl Marx? Well, say no more. Along these lines, Palin's economic program amounts to nothing more than tax cutting, deregulating and the endless repetition of shopworn GOP talking points. This is the Republican Party's great populist hope?

She quotes her father's line upon her resignation this summer as Alaska's governor: Sarah's not retreating, she's reloading. On evidence of this book, Sarah Palin is charging toward 2012 shooting blanks.

BLOCK: Rod Dreher is a conservative columnist for The Dallas Morning News. As for Sarah Palin's future political aspirations, our senior Washington editor Ron Elving also has some thoughts on that. You'll find his column Watching Washington at

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