Column - Don't write off Palin, yet
Just about all the political pundits claim Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has just committed political suicide. To be sure, her odd press conference earlier this week stunned just about everybody, including me. I watched in a kind of morbid fascinat...
Just about all the political pundits claim Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has just committed political suicide.
To be sure, her odd press conference earlier this week stunned just about everybody, including me. I watched in a kind of morbid fascination as torrents of fast phrases spilled from Palin's lips. Her words were rambling, like those of someone about to suffer a nervous collapse. Her press conference was, in fact, frightening because there was a kind of hysteria broiling just beneath the surface of her words.
I watched that press conference several times, in repeat TV clips, trying to make sense of what Palin had said. Her message, apparently, is that she can help the state of Alaska -- as well as the nation at large -- far more effectively by resigning as that state's governor. Well, that's an interesting, noble thought. But how? How will she do that?
The oddest thing about her words is that she lambasted "quitters" when she herself was announcing she was "quitting" her job as governor.
Palin's press conference raised questions and provided no answers. Speculations, naturally, multiplied. Does she expect an indictment for an ethics violation? Does she plan to write a book and make millions to cover her $500,000 in legal debts? Will she spend most of her time in the "lower 48" to prep for a presidential run in 2012? Does she find her governor's job suddenly boring after her big splash as vice presidential candidate? Was she sick-and-tired of vicious criticism by blogging idiots and tasteless jokes from comedians?
After sifting through her press conference several times, I have no idea why Palin is quitting. It's probably a combination of interrelated reasons. The main one is (if I would have to guess) is that she is disgusted by the barrage of ridicule aimed at her family and herself. And who can blame her? It's one thing to criticize - even attack - a person's opinions, policies, actions. That constant tug-of-war is part-and-parcel of the political process. But personal attacks and endless ridicule are just too much, and that's the reason so many excellent people designed for public service will not even consider running for office in this toxic environment in which candidates and their families are ripped to pieces.
John McCain made a drastic mistake in choosing Palin as a vice presidential candidate. She simply wasn't prepared, and she certainly wasn't prepared for the condescension and bossing she took from many high-level McCain aides during the campaign.
Yes, Palin did take more than her share of personal attacks. So many treated her as a mere "bimbo," and she is not.
I don't agree with most of Palin's political opinions, but there is something about her I still like, and it's hard to put a finger on it. She's got a one-of-a-kind personality, for one thing. She's got that quirky combination of feisty energy, can-do optimism and "gosh-golly" expressions. I get the feeling Palin is sometimes on the wrong track, as if she'd just bit off more than she can chew, but I like the way she plunges in and forges ahead. That chipper confidence of hers I find irresistible.
A female neighbor told me during the presidential campaign: "If Palin was running for national Girl Scout president, I'd vote for her for sure because she's got a personality you just can't resist."
That's what I mean. Every time she makes a TV appearance, I'm glued to the TV.
Palin will probably never be presidential material, even after she does her homework, but the pundits had better not write her off as done for. Palin, I think, is one of those people with "nine lives." I predict she will be in the national spotlight, in one form or another, for a very long time.