Palin Had Image of 'Easily Caricatured Ignoramus,' No Political Experience (But Obama Did?)

In her rush to discredit Sarah Palin's memoir "Going Rogue," the Times' chief book critic Michiko Kakutani unwittingly stumbles into an anti-Obama argument.

Times lead book critic (and avowed political liberal) Michiko Kakutani does the expected demolition job on Sarah Palin's new memoir, "Going Rogue." But in her rush to bash Palin as having an image of "an easily caricatured ignoramus" (a caricature in itself), Kakutani unwittingly made an anti-Obama argument.

"Going Rogue," the title of Sarah Palin's erratic new memoir, comes from a phrase used by a disgruntled McCain aide to describe her going off-message during the campaign: among other things, for breaking with the campaign over its media strategy and its decision to pull out of Michigan, and for speaking out about reports that the Republican Party had spent more than $150,000 on fancy designer duds for her and her family. In fact, the most sustained and vehement barbs in this book are directed not at Democrats or liberals or the press, but at the McCain campaign. The very campaign that plucked her out of Alaska, anointed her the Republican vice-presidential nominee and made her one of the most talked about women on the planet - someone who could command a reported $5 million for writing this book.

Kakutani took a questionable angle of attack on Palin, mocking her supposed lack of experience:

A CNN poll taken last month indicates that 7 out of 10 Americans now think Ms. Palin is not qualified to be president, and even as ardent a conservative as Charles Krauthammer lamented in September 2008 "the paucity of any Palin record or expressed conviction on the major issues of our time."

Yet, Mr. McCain's astonishing decision to pick someone with so little experience (less than two years as the governor of Alaska, and before that, two terms as mayor of Wasilla, a town with fewer than 7,000 residents) as his running mate and Ms. Palin's own surprisingly nonchalant reaction to Mr. McCain's initial phone call about the vice president's slot (she writes that it felt "like a natural progression") underscore just how alarmingly expertise is discounted - or equated with elitism - in our increasingly democratized era, and just how thoroughly colorful personal narratives overshadow policy arguments and actual knowledge.

Hmm. Barack Obama was sworn in as a U.S. Senator in January 2005. In February 2007 he announced his candidacy for president of the United States. If Kakutani thinks two years as an Alaska governor is "little experience," what does she make of Obama's two years as a U.S. Senator, a job that entails far less executive decision-making? And what "expertise" did Obama's previous seven years as an Illinois state legislator give him that Palin's six years as a mayor did not?

She talks about being "a Commonsense Conservative" and worrying about the national deficit. And she attempts to explain, rationalize or refute controversial incidents and allegations that emerged during the 2008 race.

She says she "never sought to ban any books" as mayor of Wasilla, and in fact has always had a "special passion for reading." She suggests that the $150,000-plus designer clothes were the campaign's idea, that she and her family are actually frugal coupon clippers who shop at Costco. And she says she was manipulated into doing that famous series of Katie Couric interviews (which would do much to cement an image of her as an easily caricatured ignoramus) by Nicolle Wallace, a communications aide for the campaign, and that Ms. Couric just seemed to want "to frame a 'gotcha' moment."