Sunday, July 12, 2009

If You Can't Stand the Heat

The best description of what former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin did, by announcing

her resignation, was that it is a political Rorschach test for all who view it. Depending on what

you think of her, it was a brilliant move to cut her losses as she positions herself to run for

President in 2012; or she is a nut case who quit her job when the heat got too intense.

When Richard Nixon lost to Pat Brown in the 1962 California governor's race, he

famously declared the end of his political life with the now famous sign off, " won't

have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore". Journalists, pundits, and his own party

believed he was done as a politician. Instead, he arose like a phoenix, and when Lyndon

Johnson didn't run for another term and the Democratic Party was fractured; Nixon was

in a perfect position to win the Presidency in 1968. He hadn't been tarred by the disaster

which was Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat in 1964, and back he came.

Sarah Palin looked ahead, and this may be what she saw. Her popularity in the

state was dropping. She faced a veto override by a Republican controlled legislature. She

had little chance of getting much done over the next year and a half; which could be used

against her as proof that she wasn't an effective administrator. She faces numerous ethics

investigations and if she waited to announce a decision not to run again, it might look like

she was driven out of office. On top of all that, her star is high now. She may get $5-7 million

dollars to write a book. She will also claim Bill Clinton-like numbers to make speeches

($1000,000+ per speech). She will be free to spend as much time crisscrossing the country,

raising money for local Republicans and banking IOU's for support to run in 2012. There

is also the possibility that Fox News could give Sarah her own show, and thus a national

platform for her ideas and image; or someone could syndicate her for a national radio

talk show.

If you are not a Sarah Palin fan, this decision is flaky and makes little sense at all.

When John McCain picked her as his running mate, he touted her experience as governor

as one of her most attractive features. She was sold as someone who took on her own party

in Alaska to fight for a principle. She was popular, a shining example of family values, a

hockey mom and a rock-ribbed conservative Republican. She benefitted from a lack of

scrutiny by the national media, and was someone who "...could get things done in her state

and thus in the nation too". The resulting media attention definitely did not benefit her.

From her "not ready for prime time" interview with Katie Couric, to her $100,000 plus

wardrobe, to ethics questions about how she ran Alaska; these things made her a liability

for McCain. However, at the end of the day, it was McCain who was blamed for picking her

and running a poor campaign at the end. Now, Palin announces she is quitting. Why?

No one knows. Her speech was a rambling, disjointed combination of sports metaphors

and cliches. She was quitting because the media was beating her up too much. (When

Hillary Clinton complained about media coverage, Palin criticized her for whining, and

said it made women candidates look weak.) She said the media had picked on her family.

(She is the one who preaches abstinence rather than sex education for teens, and then

has a pregnant teen daughter. She creates the image of a happy couple getting married

and settling down, only to find out that was a myth too.) She said she had to quit so that

Alaska could move forward. (?) She was quitting to preserve American values. She was

the point guard of a basketball team; and as such,she knows when to pass the ball and

whom to pass it to. (Maybe not being governor anymore lets her play more pick-up games

with her political team.) In all, she appeared to give at least five different reasons for

quitting. As you parsed her speech, it seemed rambling and incoherent at times, and flaky

and ditzy at other points.

So what do all these ink blots look like to you? First and foremost, this appears

to be a decision about money. If she strikes while the iron is hot, she makes millions. Her

brand is still popular among conservatives, and that could change rapidly. That kind of

money can sustain her for four years of unemployment, as well as pay for her travel and

expenses as she attempts to stay visible and relevant on the national scene. She also quit

because things were not going well in Alaska. The old saying is that if you are going to be

run out of town, get to the front and make it look like you are leading the parade. Palin

had no guarantee she could win re-election, and a defeat would end her political career;

so she got out now rather than wait. In other words, she is willing to break her commitment

to Alaska's voters because things were getting tough and she got a better offer.

Is her bid for the White House over? Yes. She was never going to be President

before this latest stunt. What she has done is to take advantage of the times, and take

the money and run. She quit for her own personal self interest at the expense of her

constituents. She quit and she didn't look good doing it. Her political life is not over.

She will cover the nation in a book tour next year. She will be ll over Fox News and

Hannity/Limbaugh will have her as a guest constantly. She will campaign for Republicans

in the midterm election and raise money for them. Hers will be an endorsement sought

by early contenders for 2012, but she will get no closer to the White House than a visitor's

pass allows her. Between her, Mark Sanford, and John Ensign, the party of family values

is taking on some serious water. Her brand may still be popular, but she exploits it at her

own party's expense; and that doesn't seem to trouble her at all. For Democrats, her

presence on the national scene will only reinforce the clear differences in both talent

and ideas between the two parties; and that will be to their benefit. What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


  1. Bernie, you brought up Nixon and how everyone thought that his political career was finished. Yet he rose from the ashes to claim the presidency. But at the same time, you do not offer that same possibility for Sarah Palin.

    I agree that she won't get the nomination in 2012. But that nomination to go up against a popular Barack Obama will probably be useless anyway. I can't even remember, and I'm too lazy to look it up, when a general election loser went on to win a subsequent election. But lately at least, losing a general election has been a kiss of death politically. So Palin would probably be wise to look beyond 2012 and bide her time.

    Who knows what the situation will be in 2016? By then, Palin's present predicament will be ancient history. She will have had plenty of time to rehabilitate herself in the mean time.

    It is always hard for a party to win three consecutive presidential elections. If Palin plays her cards right, perhaps she will be a contender in 2016 when after all, she will only be 51 years old. Or who knows, perhaps she could be a factor in 2020 or beyond.

    So I wouldn't totally write off her presidential chances just yet.

  2. I was reading your blog, I could actually hear your voice! Such passion. I went to St. Anthony's today to do a radio obit on Fr. Floyd who passed away Tuesday night. What great work he did. I thought of you and figured you must have known him. Thinking good thoughts for you. Margie Shafer

  3. Hi Bernie... I think Palin's bottom line is monetary profit for her and her family. She would make more by deserting her post and taking her book on tour and doing it sooner than later. I will be happy when she fades from view.

  4. I think palin is showing her self to be lacking intellect, even having negative thoughts of intellect, she embraces not being a reader and being ill informed, she is showing she is the perky dumb chick at the PTA,,,,,,....brilliant, they said the samething about bush and he got elected....twice.