Well, all-righty then. I've now read Sarah Palin's book.
Tore through it, more truthfully, highlighter in one hand, flipping with the other, looking for the meat of the thing.
Actually, self-serving, mid-career political memoirs aren't my type of leisure reading. I wouldn't have downloaded it to my Kindle.
But then, the very fact that I own a Kindle means this book was not meant for me. Palin would probably describe the electronic reader as one of those dang contraptions that just take the bookiness out of a good, decent American book.
Plus, I'm a suit-wearing, big-city-dwelling, wine-drinking, Japanese-car-driving type who wears the sort of pricey ties Palin sneers at.
And while I could probably match her in a competition over which of us held the crappiest jobs as teenagers (she waitressed and gutted fish, but I worked in a dim sweatshop breaking open truck rims with a sledgehammer and swabbed cattle stables and — whoops, never mind, went Palin myself there for a second), I do now belong to a profession she regards as "ninety per cent liberal."
Worse yet, I'm a foreigner — one who actually likes the United States a great deal, but doesn't normally gravitate to books that go on and on and on about how "America is the best country on Earth."
So, some disclosure: Here I am, a card-carrying member of a cohort Palin clearly holds in utter contempt, reviewing her book.
Life under the crabapple tree
My literary tastes aside, nothing changes the fact that Going Rogue is 413 pages of religious homilies, cheery bromides, clichés and hackneyed froth.
As in its first page: "I breathed in an autumn bouquet that combined everything small-town America with rugged splashes of the Last Frontier."
As in Palin's Alaska, a place where girls played dress-up under a wild crabapple tree, where good people didn't cuss, where Dad wisely limited access to "what he called the boob tube," making his kids watch it outside in a shed in minus-30-degree cold (that must have been some TV set).
She describes a place where churches offered "what people used to call 'good clean fun,'" and where even children appreciated the value and necessity of work.
After a Palin-family supper, she writes, the routine was always the same.
"I'm washing!" Heather would say. "I'm rinsing!" said Molly. "I'm singing!" I said.
And so on. A Norman Rockwell painting, in print. Actually, this book makes Rockwell look like a nihilist.
Anyway, about the meat of the thing. It isn't there.
Nowhere, beyond a few general references to belief in fiscal prudence, a strong military and low taxes (she would actually solve the current economic crisis by cutting taxes), could I find Sarah Palin's take on the many serious domestic and foreign policy issues facing this country at the moment.
Instead, she actually uses the book to hold up her lack of policy knowledge as some sort of credential.
About the conflict in the Middle East, for example, she says she entered the campaign for the White House knowing the history of the conflict "to the extent that most Americans did."
Which of course means she knew practically nothing about it at all.
Remember, this is a country where Jay Leno gets big laughs strolling around with a camera, stumping people with questions such as "Where's the Panama Canal?"
In Going Rogue, Palin is harnessing the anti-elitism that so often fuels populism.
She refers to the governing elite as loons, people utterly unconnected with what she likes to call "the Real America," the place where people "grow our food, run our factories and fight our wars," working hard and sending their kids off to battle with a patriotic salute and a prayer, the way she did.
People in cities, apparently, don't do that.
This is all a treasured theme in the so-called flyover states, the vast stretches between the big urban centres where Palin finds her most fevered supporters.
And she does have fevered supporters, millions of them, as well as millions more, many of them women, who loathe her with every fibre of their beings.
None of them, though, can look away from her. Which is why this book is such a news event.
She complains a lot in the book, but sweetly, breezily. She denounces "so-called women's groups" as wallowing in victimhood and self-pity, then wallows right along herself, talking about all the lies and distortions by liberal, unpatriotic reporters that she has had to put up with.
(Speaking of which, I should note here that I once broadcast a story, during the Republican convention, on the widespread, and ultimately false, speculation in the U.S. media about whether Palin had actually given birth to her disabled son, Trig; or whether her daughter Bristol was actually the mother. The story prompted complaints and a report by the CBC Ombudsman.)
Breaking with McCain
Palin also expends lots of ink lambasting the presidential campaign of John McCain, which elevated her from Alaskan obscurity to national fame, but which she says muzzled her fresh, honest, from-the-heart views.
She also writes about the discrimination women face in politics, and those complaints actually have a loud ring of truth about them.
Palin writes about being labelled "a cheerleader" and a "Spice Girl" by an opponent in Alaska; about the constant jibes at her "up-do" hair arrangement; about the questions over how she could manage in office while rearing young children; and about the uproar over the expensive clothes she wore that were paid for by the McCain campaign.
None of those are questions her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, with his hair plugs and his gaffes, ever had to really face. (It's a safe bet Biden had a clothing allowance, too).
But in the same pages, Palin offers the opinion that the best credential a politician can bring to office is, um, motherhood.
In one section, she compares political opponents to immature, tussling boys, and herself to a cool-headed mother, stepping in and quelling the spat.
She approvingly quotes the famous Margaret Thatcher utterance: "If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman." Imagine if Biden had said something like that in reverse.
Fox News lady?
To read this book, Sarah Palin is not ambitious. In fact, ambition is not a word I was able to find in its pages.
The closest allusion was her declaration that, as every sled musher in Alaska knows, "If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes."
Otherwise, her intentions are always couched in terms of service.
"All I wanted," she wrote of her time as Alaska governor, "was the chance to work as hard as I could, serve the people honourably — and I figured that maybe between changing state government and changing diapers, we'd help our corner of the world."
Uh-huh. Remember, this is from a woman who, a few months ago, halfway through her first term as governor, abruptly quit and collected what's reported to be a multimillion-dollar advance for this book.
"In politics," she declares, "You're either eating well or sleeping well. I wanted to sleep well."
At a guess, Sarah Palin is eating very well right now, too. But of course the question on everyone's minds is whether this book is actually a platform for a run at the White House.
Perhaps. She's only 45. But it's hard to imagine unless the electorate changes its view of her competence. Polls suggest a big majority here don't think she's fit to be president.
Personally, I leaned in and listened closely when Oprah Winfrey told Palin she'd heard a new Sarah talk show was in the works. Palin just giggled.
My guess is Rush Limbaugh will soon have some competition. Stay tuned to Fox News.