Dispatches from the Creation Wars

A Fan Reviews Palin’s Book

Evangelical scholar John Mark Reynolds has a review of Sarah Palin’s book Going Rogue in First Things and the results are not pretty (from Palin’s perspective). Reynolds is a fan of Palin’s, yet he absolutely blisters the book and finds that it rather dramatically diminished his ability to support her in the future.

He gives a list of ten things he learned from the book. Here are some samples:

Her publisher did not fact check this book well (if at all). She was badly served by her publisher and editor. People who criticize me for nit-picking her use of quotations miss the point. I am a fan . . . though now a weary one . . . and I found the errors. The publisher had to know that her critics would check every fact.

How can I in a single day with no help find error after error when I am no writer, no editor (as this blog post indicates), and no specialist?

Second, Sarah Palin has not grown in the year since the election. Those of us who hoped that Palin had been “hidden” by the campaign know the truth now. She still is what she was.

She is smart, but not book-smart. She has common sense, but not practical wisdom. These are not fatal flaws, but she shows no signs of changing or recognizing them…

Fourth, Palin has the makings of a splendid executive and is a gifted speaker. She could learn what she needs to know, but my fear after reading this book is that she does not care to learn it

Sixth, Palin is most effective in new media because the way it is typically used plays to her strengths. However, it also encourages her weaknesses as it tends to build a like minded community with too little criticism and allows her to stick to sound bites and generalities.

Seventh, Palin uses books as entertainment, to get information, and to confirm beliefs. I see no evidence she reads as an intellectual adventure or to change her mind. This is dangerous in a political leader as it tends to make leadership personality driven rather than idea driven.

Eighth, Palin is sensitive to the charge she is “dumb,” but has not been given the tools or the teachers who can help her. (Has she sought them out?) She needs teachers who assume her intelligence, who challenge her, and speak her Evangelical language. Such teachers (see Moreland, J.P.) exist and she should seek them out…

Sadly, I now believe the burden of proof has shifted. While an excellent chief executive in Alaska, there is reason to believe that Palin lacks the intellectual skills needed to be an effective President. Most important, she does not seem to recognize this and shows no sign of getting them.

I think that last point, expressed several different ways, is the key to the whole thing. Palin has internalized and firmly believes all those stupid misological platitudes about “common sense” being more important than deep knowledge and the ability to reason about it in a meaningful way. What choice does she have but to internalize such cliches? It’s not as though she has an option of being anything other than what she is.

That’s the source of her endless bleatings about the enlightened virtues of the “Joe Six Packs” of the world, as opposed to those arugula-eating and book-reading “elitists” and “pointy headed intellectuals.” This is a very deep strain in American culture and Palin is not only the president of the anti-intellectual club, she’s also a client. She is a victim of it just as surely as she is its more prominent advocate.

George W. Bush was virtually identical in his approach to such issues. He was absolutely convinced that he had some special insight, some mystical ability based on prayer, to reach the right conclusion and to hell with those high-fallutin “experts.” His self-confidence in that regard was virtually supernatural. Palin is his doppelganger in this respect. And those are very, very dangerous people to have in power.