Sarah Palin’s surreal resignation has sparked considerable debate and speculation. Is she preparing for another scandal, perhaps one involving her house in Wasilla? Rumors have been flying around the internet about a possible state or federal investigation. Palin only made it worse by threatening to sue major media outlets and bloggers who mention that speculation. I don’t think she realizes that the media relishes the chance to stand up to such a threat, especially when it is as impotent as that one, and serves only to make her look silly.
Perhaps a scandal is afoot, perhaps she was too thin skinned to simply accept that she’d get some negative media and couldn’t take the heat, perhaps she had some wild fantasy that this could launch a national campaign, but the fact of the matter is Sarah Palin’s chance for the political limelight is over. She’s committed the crime of hypocrisy (quitting after earlier condemning quitters), poor planning (an impulsive resignation combined with a rambly, even pathetic speech), no follow through (she disappeared on July 4th — though at least she made no claim to be hiking the Appalachian trail), and pouting. She whined about negative media, played the victim, and seemed to think that the only legitimate coverage of her was that from the fawning activist right wing (by that I do not mean Republicans and average conservatives, most of whom were not wowed by her at all — instead I mean the Limbaugh ‘all Liberals are evil’ minority who have tried to hijack the GOP) who ignored her short comings. Some say that the neo-cons were trying to groom her to be a pro-Israel hawk that they could control, others think she was simply in over her head. I believe she is just a shooting star who is starting to fade.
Most will read the 300 words of this post until this point to be very negative, and even mean. Yet look at what was written about Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and other big name politicians by those who opposed them. Clinton was a draft dodging traitor who sold out to Red China, Obama a radical socialist Muslim who wasn’t really born in Hawaii, W. Bush a boozing frat boy who can’t think straight and is driven by some kind of belief in his holy mission, Hillary a lesbian power hungry unethical she-wolf who devours opponents whole and had a close associate killed in 1993…well, you get the picture. Anyone who is anything in politics gets a huge dose of unfair criticism, often over the top.
The criticism of Palin is minor compared to the examples listed above, yet it stung more, in part because it seemed to fit. Palin did not seem ready for the big leagues, and the fact that John McCain chose her in his first “Presidential” decision is a big reason why he had no real shot at winning the election. It’s not that Palin is uniquely bad or inept as a person; rather, she is bad and inept at being a national politician ready to take control of the country.
So am I. If I were suddenly in the limelight, scrutinized by the media and having everything I do and have done under investigation, I’d be a failure. I’d commit gaffes, have to defend outlandish things I’ve said from time to time, and would not be careful about what I said or when I said it. It takes a special kind of person who can handle the pressure of being on the national stage and being effective. Obama has what it takes. Even Bush the Younger, despite failings as a President, could handle that national stage. Sarah Palin, like me and probably 98% of the rest of the country, just doesn’t have what it takes.
It’s as if a football fan were suddenly to don a jersey and be given the handoff in a pro game, with the defense thinking they’re going after a top notch running back. Without the proper training and preparation not only would the fan be tackled instantly, but probably would be injured badly. Going from small town mayor to Alaskan governor simply was not enough to prepare Palin. She was hit by a media and opposition used to going after the pros. She couldn’t take it and with the help of a few enablers flailed back with self-pitying attacks on those who dared criticize her or her family. It’s sexism! East coast liberal elitism! Media bias! No. It’s just the political game she happened to find herself a part of; after all, within the GOP and even the McCain campaign similar things were being said. It wasn’t all from the Left.
Still, one can see why she caught McCain’s imagination. At first even I thought that it was a smart pick, contradicting myself a couple days later to re-label it a dumb pick. She looked good on paper — mother raising a family, conservative yet young — a woman in the year Hillary lost to the surprising Barack Obama. If she had the acumen to play effectively on the national stage, and the understanding of national politics to jump into a campaign, she’d have been a super star. As it was, she was like most of us — probably smart and reasonably knowledgable, but not ready to be put in the political limelight. She did capture the imagination of some on the right, and for awhile seemed to have the potential to make a dash at the 2012 Republican nomination, especially if other top Republicans feared going against an incumbent Obama.
Now, that lays in shambles. It’s not just what she did, it’s how she did it, and the fact it opens questions about a possible scandal. Even if she just wanted to set herself up for 2012, it did the opposite. It means she ends up with about 17 months of being a Governor atop being mayor of a small town, and leaving that town in debt with a white elephant sports complex as her major “accomplishment.” She looks like an under-accomplished quitter, rather than an up and coming star.
Yet perhaps it’s for the best. She may have realized she was in over her head. Or worse, she may have believed some of the hype and still thinks she can make a splash. If so, she’s setting herself up for disappointment. Assuming I’m right and she ends up fading away, a shooting start that just couldn’t handle the pressure, she’ll end up as one of the strangest side stories of what was an historical and exciting 2008 election.