"Going Rogue," the title of Sarah Palin's autobiography, refers to the snide remark of an anonymous McCain aide late in last year's presidential campaign. It was used to describe the vice-presidential candidate's move to break free of her media handlers and speak out against the campaign's decision to pull out of Michigan, a state that, in Mrs. Palin's view, was well worth contesting. The "word came hurtling down that I had been 'off-script,' " she writes. The campaign hadn't bothered to inform her of the Michigan decision, which she learned of from a reporter. "Of course," she adds drily, "it's pretty easy to issue candid, off-script messages when there is no script to begin with."
One of the biggest mistakes of the failed McCain campaign—and there was no shortage of them—was its handling of Mrs. Palin. Her criticisms of the campaign's treatment of her appear prominently in "Going Rogue." But the book contains self-criticisms too, if not as many as there ought to be for a candidate who was ultimately responsible for her own uneven performance.
That said, "Going Rogue" is more a personal memoir than a political one. More than half the book is about Mrs. Palin's life before the 2008 campaign. She discusses her coming of age in the "new frontier" state of Alaska; her personal faith journey; her experiences with marriage and motherhood, including two miscarriages, a special-needs child and a pregnant teenage daughter; and the free-market convictions that have guided her political career. As a politician, she comes across as a prodigious worker capable of mastering complicated issues—not least the energy policies that matter so much to Alaska's economy—and of building bridges to Democrats.
Through it all, Mrs. Palin emerges as a new style of feminist: a politician who took on the Ole Boy network and won; a wife with a supportive husband whose career takes second place to hers; and a mother who, unlike working women of an earlier age, isn't shy about showcasing her family responsibilities. She writes with sensitivity and affection about her gay college roommate, and she confesses her anguish when she found out that she was carrying a baby with Down syndrome. That experience, she says, helped her to understand why a woman might be tempted to have an abortion. This is not the prejudiced, dim-witted ideologue of the popular liberal imagination.
Melanie Kirkpatrick is a former deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. Click here to read her complete review of "Going Rogue."