Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Fact-checking new claims in the Sarah Palin book

Sarah Palin's new book, Going Rogue: An American Life
Sarah Palin's new book, Going Rogue: An American Life

When Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska before her first term was over, her father said she wasn’t quitting the public stage. “Sarah’s not retreating,” he said. “She’s reloading!”

Her new book Going Rogue: An American Lif e shows she has plenty of ammunition. Palin settles scores with the media and Republican political operatives, resets her public image as a devoted mom and gutsy politician, and attacks Democrats and Barack Obama for taking the country in the wrong direction.

Palin takes sharpest aim at the staffers who ran John McCain’s campaign, providing an inside view of a highly choreographed operation. McCain selected Palin as a way to shake up the race, but Palin says she was muzzled and micromanaged by Washington insiders.

Palin says her interview with Katie Couric — seen by many analysts as a key setback for the McCain-Palin campaign — was set up by a staff member with ties to CBS as a favor to Couric. A shopping spree of expensive clothes for her family was also the staff’s idea; Palin said she was shocked by the huge bill. She accuses the media of having a liberal bias and an insatiable appetite for details, mostly fabricated, about her personal and professional life.

The book starts, though, with vivid descriptions of Palin’s growing up in Alaska. She dwells on the state’s natural beauty and its unique sporting and hunting traditions. She describes meeting her husband, Todd, in high school, and the warmth and friendship of their marriage. She has an early career as a TV sports reporter, but soon settles down to have children and run for city council in Wasilla, Alaska, and then statewide office.

She turns introspective when discussing her pregnancy as governor and receiving the news that the baby had Down syndrome. The Palins kept the news to themselves for months: “It was such a tough thing to explain, and I just wasn’t ready to grapple with it yet or answer any questions. I had always faced life head-on, but here was something that had humbled me into silence.”

Though the book is first a personal biography and then an insider’s account of the campaign, Palin does spend the final chapters addressing why she believes the Democrats are taking the country in the wrong direction. PolitiFact examined some of her statements and found that Palin at times shades the facts to present herself in the best possible light. Occasionally, she crosses the line into outright distortion.

• Palin attacks Democratic plans for a cap-and-trade policy to address climate change. Palin said Obama himself admitted electricity rates would “skyrocket,”   a claim we rated True. But we found she was exaggerating when she said that electricity hikes caused by cap and trade would hit “ those already struggling to make ends meet ” the hardest. Actually, a federal study found that the poorest of the poor might see a net gain. So we rated that Half True.

• Palin said we should look to Ronald Reagan as a model for handling the economy. “Our nation is facing great challenges, but I’m optimistic — and I know there is a way forward,” she writes. “ Ronald Reagan faced an even worse recession. He showed us how to get out of one.” We wondered if Reagan’s recession was worse and looked into the historical record. A number of indicators — long-term unemployment, personal income, industrial production, the stock market, housing prices, foreclosures and bankruptcies — are clearly worse now than they were during the recession of the early 1980s. So we rated that False.

• During the 2008 campaign, Palin said the McCain camp should have emphasized ties between Barack Obama and the community group ACORN. “I wish we had talked more about them, and about Obama’s close relationship with ACORN , the voter-fraud specialists,” she wrote. “But we did not elaborate on any of that during the campaign.” In fact, the McCain campaign attacked Obama for links to ACORN many times, producing a Web ad, holding conference calls for reporters and issuing a lengthy campaign memo on the matter. John McCain mentioned the group during a debate and said it was “maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” So we rated Palin’s statement False.

• She says that when she was governor, she turned down federal stimulus money in 2009 because it required states to adopt universal building codes. “The documents clearly stated that acceptance of the funds required the adoption and enforcement of energy building codes ,” she wrote. “Universal building codes — in Alaska! A practical, libertarian haven full of independent Americans who did not desire ‘help’ from government busybodies. A state full of hardy pioneers who did not like taking orders from the feds telling us to change our laws. A state so geographically diverse that one-size-fits-all codes simply wouldn’t work.” But the Department of Energy made clear that universal building codes were not going to be forced upon state and local governments as a condition for accepting the federal money. So we rated this statement False.

Palin’s overall political philosphy is a rock-ribbed, Reagan-era conservatism. “Encourage the free market. Lower taxes. Get government out of the way,” she writes. She’s openly critical of Republicans who supported more government spending during George W. Bush’s presidency. She says being out of power is “liberating,” and that she’s gratified her Facebook posts have had an effect on public debate.

Palin does not mention whether she will run for president in 2012. But she sees herself as a leader for conservatives, especially those disaffected with the Republican establishment. She ends her book urging her supporters onward. “The enlightened elites want to tell you to sit down and shut up. But the way forward is to stand and fight. Throw tea parties. March on Capitol Hill. Write letters to the editor. Run for local office — you never know where it may lead.”