I don't write about politics very often. Not because I don't follow it (I do), but because there's just so much out there from people vastly more informed than I am (and much from those who are not). But maybe that's why I should write about politics. I don't consider myself a hardcore member of either party (I could be swayed by a great candidate from the GOP or the Dems), and I'm definitely not a member of the 'loony left' or 'nutjob right'. Yet I do read commentary from both sides of the aisle (I have HuffPo and The Fox Nation bookmarked), and think that Keith Olbermann can spout as much bluster as Rush Limbaugh. So with that in mind, here are my thoughts about Sarah Palin:
As I've mentioned before, I was there when Sarah Palin spoke at the opening ceremonies at Bouchercon in Anchorage in 2007. She was sharp and funny --although more than one person remarked how little must be going on in Alaska for the Governor to take time to welcome a bunch of mystery writers. Still, she made such a good impression on me that when McCain announced Palin as his running mate, I thought, "Ooh, that's a game changer." Well, it was and it wasn't.
Palin proved to be an incredibly difficult politician to get a handle on. On one hand, she could deliver a knock-em-dead speech that electrified the G.O.P. faithful (like at the Republican
National Convention). On the other, when forced to speak off the cuff she came across as defensive, combative and uninformed. She redeemed herself slightly during the VP debate, though that was partly because the bar had been set so low due to her previous interviews. When interviewed by friendly hosts (Sean Hannity et al) whose questions seemed to fall into the "Why is Barack Obama so terrible?" and "Why does the mainstream media hate you?" category, Palin thrived. When comfortable, Palin was witty, and could deliver a line with enough bite to make an offhand remark sink in. Yet for those of us who fell more in the middle, we grew increasingly frustrated with Palin's inability to delve beyond talking points and platitudes, and at some point she officially became McCain's hatchet man, throwing about charges of socialism and accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists."
Many on the right, including Palin herself, charged the media with 'elitism.' I always laugh at that, considering Barack Obama is the son of a Kenyan goat herder who made the vast majority of his money off of books he wrote himself, while George W. Bush came from a family of wealthy politicians and John McCain married a young millionaire heiress. No knocks on either, but charges of 'elitism' tend to be driven more by ideology than fact. But I digress.
There were many on the far left who hated Palin simply for her accent and way of life, calling her 'Caribou Barbie'. But for most of us, we took what she had to say at face value. I grew tired of the 'pro-America areas of this great nation' speeches, and how she seemed to view New York and California as though they were Sodom and Gomorrah. If you govern a country, you govern each and every one of its citizens--even in states that tend to vote blue. Yet I always felt like Palin openly believed every New Yorker/Californian had the exact same temperament as David Letterman, Maureen Dowd, or even Satan himself.
Eventually Palin played the sexism card, which she had a right to do, though it came off as somewhat hypocritical considering she had previously knocked Hillary Clinton's similar views. To some extent, the sexism/elitism charges were warranted. There were attacks on Palin and her family that neither Obama or McCain (or even the Bushes) ever saw. She was right in confronting David Letterman, whose joke about her 14-year old daughter was tasteless and defenseless. But then she crossed the line as well. Palin put out a statement condemning Letterman's remarks, the final paragraph of which stated, "Willow, no doubt, would want to stay away from David Letterman." The insinuation being that Letterman was either a child molester or someone who could not be trusted around a 14-year old girl.
Palin had the high road. And with this remark she took the low, low road. On the Today Show, Palin said of the comment, "Take it however you want." As though the comment might have numerous meanings. It did not. As a public figure you have every right to protect your family, but her comment was simply put, messed up. And very, very unbecoming of someone who might seek the highest office in the land.
After the election, Palin's star seemed to rise as McCain's dimmed. Her name was included in every discussion about the future of the G.O.P., and she was immediately considered a frontrunner for the 2012 presidential nomination.
And then she resigned.
Now as many have pointed out, there are four possible reasons for Palin's departure:
Palin and her family have been dragged through the mud, and face half a million dollars in legal bills. She's tired of the public scrutiny, tired of her children being in the spotlight, and she wants to lead a (relatively) normal life. Noble, if that's the case, but I don't really buy it. Everything Palin has said since her resignation has led us to believe she plans to stay in the public eye, even mentioning (on her Facebook page, of all things) that she has a 'higher calling' and still intends to work for change.
2) She wants to run for President.
At this point, I have to agree with Charles Krauthammer that Palin is just not a viable candidate. She already had a long way to go to convince anyone outside the far right that she was capable, and with her resignation Palin's Presidential ship has struck an iceberg. She barely made it 2.5 years into a 4-year term, and quit on the very people of Alaska who elected her. Use whatever basketball analogies you want, the bottom line is she quit. I still do not understand how an elected official can simply resign from office without informing her constituents of the reasoning behind it. The bottom line is this: if Palin runs for President, anyone who runs against her, whether it be Republican challengers or the Democratic candidate, can say, "You can't handle being the Governor of Alaska, how the hell can you handle being the President of the country?" And this is one question Palin simply cannot spin.
This ties into #1. Palin has mounting legal bills. But she is also the most recognizable name and brand in the Republican party. It is very possible that Palin knows she is a long shot to win a nomination and/or the presidency, so why not cash it when the chips are high? Between books, speaking engagements and a possible television show, Palin could easily reap in many multiples of the $125,000 she currently earns (or earned) as Governor. By doing this, she could continue to be a prominent right-wing voice without facing the scrutiny of being a national candidate.
It's possible, but I'm not sure I buy it. I just can't believe that after all the scrutiny she faced as a Vice Presidential candidate, somehow investigators (both Federal and in the media) failed to unearth some massive conspiracy up that would derail her career. I can't say it's impossible, but why would something come out now that did not come out during the campaign, when she was under a far more powerful microscope?
If I had to guess, Palin's resignation is a combination of 1 and 3. Mounting debts combined with massive earning power convinced Palin that the best thing for her would be to work from outside the Governor's office. We'll see if that holds water.
Sarah Palin remains one of the most interesting politicians of our age. She is without a doubt the most ring-wing politician on the national stage in some time, yet she does not look or act like a typical politician. But as John Green pointed out in this funny video
, Chewbacca is not a typical politician either. This is not to compare Sarah Palin to a hairy wookie, but to say that she is simply not cut from the same cloth at Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. If you're on the far right, this is a blessing. If you're on the far left, it's a curse. If you're like me and fall more in the middle, you simply interpret the facts as they come. And from my perspective, I cannot see Sarah Palin competing again on the national stage. I would not vote for someone who resigned from their elected position without having the decency to inform their constituents as to the reasons for their decision. Say what you want about 'politics as usual', but I would want my candidate to stand firm in harsh wind.