It’s Monday afternoon, and every single possible analysis that could have been made about Sarah Palin’s stunning announcement on Friday has already been made. And if I said that I’ve read them all, I’d be lying.
Truth be told, I’ve been as curious as the rest of ‘em. I’ve gone from thinking that there’s another shoe left to drop (hopefully not an Argentinian loafer), to wondering whether she was looking at a possible Senate run (turns out that neither of the seats in Alaska are up for re-election in 2010), to believing that this was a likely sign that she’ll definitely be running for president (and that she knows of the significant ground, in terms of policy, that she must cover), to feeling as though she may actually be done, completely, with regard to political office.
As it is, however, I am no prognosticator. But I have had a weekend to think about it.
Barring any sort of unforeseen disclosures–”I’m going hiking in the Yukons, I swear”–I do believe it likely that she has stepped down so as to avoid the kind of absent leadership seen when Barack Obama left his Senate seat, or when John McCain missed nearly a record number of votes, or when George W. Bush essentially turned Texas over to his lieutenant governor in pursuit of the presidency. Unfortunately, unlike Texas or Arizona or Illinois, Alaska’s geographical location does not allow for the same sort of commuting governance that Palin would have liked. Whether or not this was a good move, politically, is the question of the day.
On one hand, being free of her everyday duties as Alaska’s governor–regardless of how well she could prosecute them considering the increased scrutiny and distraction following last year’s candidacy for VP–would permit Palin to use her on private, personal time much in the way another prominent governor, Ronald Reagan, used his in 1977 and 1978: traveling the country, speaking about core conservative values, and being free to criticize and praise as necessary. Undoubtedly, Palin has taken notice of how former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been free to curry favor among GOP candidates, raise money, boost his own political profile, sharpen his questionable conservative bona fides, and become an outspoken, informed critic of the Obama administration — and she feels as though she can do the same thing.
On the other hand, given her age, Palin could have stuck around for the end of her term and then dealt with the political realities at that time. Yes, it would have made a presidential run in 2012 darned near impossible, but it could have afforded her some time afterward–AFTER she fulfilled her obligation–to focus on the briefings and the policy and the intricasies with which she needs to become more and more familiar, to do then what Reagan did in 1977 and 1978. Doing so would have avoided the liberal stigma of “quitter,” and would have left her poised to tout her experience as Alaska’s chief executive as she lobbied America for a larger, more oval, office; because she has left her office ahead of schedule, however, when in the future she cites her many accomplishments in Alaska, such experience could always be received with an asterisk — much like baseball historians look at the records set by Barry Bonds and question the purity with which he obtained them, many could look at her experience in dealing with energy and fiscal issues and never be able to part with the nagging reality that she stepped down before her term was done.
Furthermore, it could be argued that, by stepping down as she has and criticizing the mainstream press as she continues to do, Sarah Palin is emboldening the left’s pattern and tactic of using the Politics of Personal Destruction to eliminate or undermine desirable candidates on the right or their candidacies before the first vote is even cast. Right now, knowing full well that Palin may have capitulated and broken under the intense scrutiny, it’s fair to say that every move, speech, and association made and held by people like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan aren’t being examined with a microscope by operatives on the left, and that those operatives have a new sense of purpose. It’s also enough to make people like myself, considering a future in politics, think again despite having led a relatively clean and scandal-free life.
Regardless, I continue to like Sarah Palin. I’m not sold on this particular move, but the world of politics, like Monty Python’s Camelot, ’tis certainly a silly place. As we move closer and closer to the midterm elections in 2010 and the presidential election two years later, I’ll be interested in seeing how she handles her new-found freedom, and if the gamble pays off. Too many times, like in Rudy Giuliani’s Sunshine State gamble in 2008, we find that traditional discourse is certainly the best course — in the case of this Den Mother on Steroids, however, I hope I’m wrong.