Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Lazy Writer's Guide to Sarah Palin: A Review of Joe Hilley's New Book

Having written What Does Sarah Palin Believe? I have a certain sympathy for Joe Hilley's efforts with his new book, Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader. It's a challenge to create a good book on an important political figure in a short period of time.

Mr. Hilley's book is a disappointing read, however, filled with factual errors and broad generalizations about Sarah Palin, all of which leads me to the conclusion that Mr. Hilley knows very little about Sarah Palin.

The slim volume of only 129 pages of actual text draws almost exclusively on secondary sources found through Google searches. Mr. Hilley conducted only four primary source interviews, and those interviews were with people only tangentially connected to Governor Palin (The Lt. Governor candidate who beat her in 2002, the wife of the man she filed an ethics complaint against, the pastor at the Wasilla, Alaska church she has attended a few times, the mayor who succeeded her).

Mr. Hilley's account of Sarah Palin's career is filled with factual errors, which is not surprising, given that one of his most significant and often cited sources was a September 4, 2008 broadcast of the Inside Edition television program.

Had Mr. Hilley taken the time to speak with her basketball coaches, her teammates, her pastors, and her mother, father, sister, and other family members, as I did, he would have discovered and corrected the long series of errors he made in his book.

I won't detail all the factual errors in his book, but as an example offer five specific inaccuracies related to his description of her basketball career:

1. He states incorrectly that the 1982 Alaska Girls High School Championship Game was held in Wasilla, Alaska. It was not. It was held in Anchorage, Alaska, about an hour's drive away.

2. He states incorrectly that Sarah Palin came into the 1982 State Championship game between Wasilla and Service High School in the second half when the score was tied. This is not factually true. Sarah's Wasilla team always had the lead in the second half.

3. He implies that the score was tied when Sarah stepped to the line with a few seconds remaining in the game. This is not true. The score was Wasilla 57, Service 53. The final score of the game was Wasilla 58, Service 53.

4. He describes Sarah's first foul shot as a swish. It was not. The ball hit the rim and bounced around the edge, then dropped through.

5. He inaccurately states that Sarah made the second foul shot. She did not. She missed it.

Like many of Governor Palin's critics on the left wing, Mr. Hilley attributes thoughts and feelings to Governor Palin without even the slightest clue as to whether or not they really are her thoughts or feelings.

Specifically, Mr. Hilley concludes that based on her worldview, Governor Palin believes in his trite "leadership principles" such as ... defeat means victory and less is more.

Based on my extensive research, which included over fifty interviews of people who actually know Sarah Palin well, this is not Sarah Palin's point of view.

Sarah Palin is a competitor, who always competes, and always tries to win, but accepts defeat graciously when it comes.

Finally, Mr. Hilley pontificates incorrectly that Governor Palin represents a new kind of leader, one who lacks experience but "connects with voters".

This is a back-handed compliment, at best, and quite frankly ignores her very strong record for six years as Mayor of Wasilla, her one year as a whistle blower as a member of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and her year and a half as Governor of Alaska.

Mr. Hilley is a good writer, with a record of success writing novels. My suggestion is that he stick to fiction, at which he excels, and leave the arena of non-fiction to people who actually check the facts.

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