John Mark Reynolds on Sarah Palin

John Mark Reynolds of the conservative First Things blog has written a detailed chapter by chapter review of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue. His conclusions, which he summarizes here are similar to mine, an interesting result given that both of us were initially sympathetic to Palin, albeit for partially different reasons:

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….

Palin uses four hundred pages to give her side of things, but I am still at a loss to describe her political or governing philosophy in any detail …

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 have not given up on Palin and find much in her to admire, but she would not get my primary vote based on this book and what I know about her to date. I hope I am wrong and am open to changing my mind.

Ultimately, the problem with Palin is not that she is folksy, that she is religious, that she didn’t attend a prestigious university, or that she dislikes “East Coast elites.” These are all side issues. Like Reynolds, I also don’t believe that she is stupid. The problem is that she is ignorant about major national political issues, and has made no apparent effort to remedy that ignorance. That might be perfectly fine if she limited her ambitions to Alaska (she does seem to be knowledgeable about Alaska issues) or decided to be just a pop culture figure or activist. It is far more problematic if she intends to run for president.

Of course, there is always the outside chance that Palin is deliberately pretending to be much more ignorant than she actually is, as Dwight D. Eisenhower did when he was president; perhaps for the purpose of getting her political enemies to underestimate her (which was one of Eisenhower’s motives). However, there are many obvious differences between Palin’s situation and Ike’s, such as the fact that only one of them had already proven his competence beyond reasonable doubt by successfully commanding the Allied forces Europe during World War II (a feat that required considerable policy knowledge and intellectual ability, among other things). If Palin really is copying Ike’s strategy (which I highly doubt), it is long past time for her to try a different approach. People aren’t going to like Sarah in the same way that an earlier generation liked Ike.