Sarah Palin’s new book, America by Heart, goes after President Obama’s insufficient patriotism, his health-care bill, and Hillary Clinton’s “bra-burning militancy.” Shushannah Walshe says it’s an early look at Palin’s messaging for the 2012 campaign.
Sarah Palin’s new book, America by Heart, comes out Tuesday, and she will hit the book tour trail the same day in support of her newest work. If Palin decides to get into the 2012 race for president, America by Heart, which lays out her views of the nation and how to make it better while also going after President Obama, is sure to be her handbook.
Although she praises Obama for parts of the 2008 speech on race he delivered as a candidate for president, she is scathing in her criticism, setting up plenty of future talking points and arguments. “We have a president, perhaps for the first time since the founding of our republic, who expresses his belief that America is not the greatest earthly force for good the world has ever known,” she writes.
Palin adds that the idea may sound “a little jingoistic” to “many educated liberals,” but many Americans like herself think the country is a force for good, and despite the nation’s mistakes, pride in America is “perfectly justified.” Palin then hits Obama hard, writing that he “seems to see nothing uniquely admirable in the American experience.”
“The consequences of this average-to-below-average view of our country are profound, both at home and abroad. Indeed, especially abroad,” she writes.
Palin goes as far as to say the president has “a stark lack of faith in the American people” because of his “rejection of American exceptionalism.”
“There’s no other way to describe a governing philosophy that won’t trust individual Americans to control their own health care, plan for their own retirement, or even spend their own money,” she writes.
Palin also spends pages criticizing Obama for not adhering to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Her harsh words for the president may not be new—she often takes to Facebook to blast Obama over policy decisions—but her book’s highly personal attack is a clear early warning that a Palin campaign would be centered around the message that Obama is not sufficiently patriotic in the way Americans (and Palin) are.
Most of America by Heart is taken up with excerpts from the former Alaska governor’s favorite politicians (Ronald Reagan gets the most space, but there’s also Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and even President Calvin Coolidge); Founding Fathers and mothers (Abigail Adams gets a “You go, girl”); hero stories from several wars in which Americans fought (she even excerpts from John McCain’s Faith of My Fathers, in which he discusses his brutal torture), and many other writers, poets, and musicians. She even mentions her favorite line from a Toby Keith song inspired by the 9/11 attacks, “And you’ll be sorry you messed with the US of A ’cause we’ll put a boot in your ass it’s the American way.”
“We don’t consider the health-care vote a done deal, not by a long shot. Instead, it was a clarion call, a spur to action.”
Unlike Palin’s first book, Going Rogue, released last November, she does not use much of the new book to settle scores or get back at people she feels personally wronged her, as when she wrote about McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt’s “rotund physique” and went after Alaskan rivals for pages. One of the exceptions is Levi Johnston, who she mentions was not at his son’s birth until the end, so she had to “help deliver Tripp.”
• Shushannah Walshe: The Biggest Leaks from Palin’s BookAmerica by Heart opens with Palin’s thoughts on the Tea Party and how she identifies herself with the movement, calling it an “American awakening.” She spends a large part of the book praising and defending the Constitution and the nation’s founders, and in another big change from Going Rogue, she writes about policy. She takes on the president’s health-care legislation, writing that its proponents “seemed to think we could be bought” and that heath-care reform is about “doctors and patients, not the IRS and politicians.” She says it must be repealed, which was a constant talking point for her on the 2010 campaign and one that she will be sure to revive if she runs for president.
“Americans have been reminded many times that elections have consequences, and Obamacare was definitely one of them,” she writes. “But as my father would say, instead of retreating, Americans are reloading. We don’t consider the health-care vote a done deal, not by a long shot. Instead, it was a clarion call, a spur to action.”
Palin also goes after TARP, writing that the government needs to be smaller to be more efficient, and that means not bailing out banks. She backed the initial bailout bill when she was on the vice-presidential trail but now explains she was just following the top of the ticket: “If government exists to protect our God-given rights—and not to bail out big banks, buy car companies, take over our health care, and tell us which light bulbs we can use—then that government does a few things, does them well, and gets out of the way in order to allow its citizens to realize their potential.”
Palin writes about her beloved Mama Grizzlies: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Gov.-elect Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Gov.-elect Susana Martinez of New Mexico, and failed Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.
“No, Mama Grizzlies aren’t a new phenomenon in America. What is new is our determination to rise up and take our country back before it’s too late,” she writes.
And although Palin’s love for her Mama Grizzlies is clear and she describes herself as a “feminist,” there’s one group that she has absolutely no love for: “left-wing feminists and their allies.”
This section is where she alternately praises and attacks Hillary Clinton, saying she is someone Palin likes and “admires personally in many ways” but that she seemed to be “frozen in an attitude of 1960s-era bra-burning militancy” when she spoke about pursuing her career when her husband ran for president instead of “stay[ing] home and bak[ing] cookies and ha[ving] teas.”
“Well Hillary (many of us wanted to say at the time), some of us like to bake cookies. Some of us also think we can do that and still have successful careers. And most of us don’t think we have to run down stay-at-home moms in order to make ourselves feel good about our choices.”
It’s a strange attack, as Palin will surely be courting the Clinton supporters of 2008 if she runs in 2012. She even revived Clinton campaign language when discussing the possibility of a presidential bid this month, saying she would “be in it to win it.”
The full title of Palin’s book, sure to be another instant bestseller, is America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, and at the end she explains that these are the values society should be based on.
“It’s family (when we talk about limited local government, it means the state knows better than the feds, the city knows better than the state, and the family knows better than the city). It’s faith (be it through religion or the moral values transmitted in our secular culture). And it’s flag (the understanding that we are an exceptional nation with an exceptional message for the world),” she writes.
Even without an official declaration for her future plans, she’s already got a political tagline she can put to use.
Shushannah Walshe covers politics for The Daily Beast. She is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.