Quitter. That's what Sarah Palin's enemies, and many of her friends,
are calling her in the wake of her surprise announcement Friday (7/3)
that she'll resign as governor of Alaska.
A big scandal must be looming, some speculate. Sarah or a member of her
family must be seriously ill, speculate others. If either is true, we
should learn more in a few weeks.
Viewed from the perspective that the only thing more important than
holding public office is seeking a higher one, Sarah Palin's decision
makes no sense. But if her priorities are different, it makes perfect
And though her resignation damages a future career in elective politics,
it doesn't preclude it. To run for national office, Ms. Palin must
leave Alaska, because it is logistically impossible to run from there.
And there are arguments for doing so sooner rather than later.
I think protecting her family was foremost on Sarah's mind. By
resigning, she dims the fishbowl in which her children have been living.
And she removes a huge drain on the family finances. Since Sen. John
McCain selected her to be his running mate, 15 ethics complaints have
been filed against her. All have been found to be baseless, but she and
her husband have incurred nearly $600,000 in legal fees defending
against them, a crushing burden for a middle class family.
With her resignation, the ethics complaint harassment goes away. If
former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani can command six figures for a
speech, so can Sarah. A half dozen such speeches, and the legal bills
Sarah has a book coming out early next year. If it sells well, the
Palins will be on easy street. Ms. Palin now will have leisure in which
to write it, and will be able to promote it vigorously in the lower 48,
something that would be impossible to do if she were still governor.
With regard to a possible run for president in 2012, there is one
potential political advantage. Former Vice President Richard Nixon was
given up as politically dead after he lost a race for governor of
California in 1962. He came back from the dead by campaigning for
Republican candidates. Sarah is now free to campaign for Republicans in
2010, which she could not do if she were still governor. If you were a
newly elected GOP congressman, would it matter to you more that Sarah
Palin quit 16 months early as governor, or that she attracted 10,000
people to your rally?
If Ms. Palin nurtures presidential ambitions, her time horizon might be
longer. Incumbent presidents typically are re-elected. It's too early
to tell if the peculiar circumstances required for an incumbent to be
defeated will prevail in 2012. Sarah is young enough to think about
2016 and beyond (when her children will be mostly grown), a luxury
potential 2012 rivals such as former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney
But Ms. Palin may wish to advance her causes in other ways. She was a
television journalist before going into politics. Consider Glenn Beck.
He has the third most popular show on cable television, despite having
an atrocious time slot. He's more responsible than anyone else for the
burgeoning TEA party movement. And he's become a millionaire 20 times
Fox currently has the ten most popular shows on cable. If Fox wants the
top 11, all the network need do is give Sarah the noon time slot.
President Palin may be more the fantasy of her supporters (and the
nightmare of her detractors) than it is her own.
Sarah Palin's been a good governor. I think she'd be a good president.
But that's conjecture, and I understand why so many on the Right as well
as the Left disagree.
But what is beyond conjecture is that Sarah Palin is the best campaigner
in the Republican Party. In a mostly critical open letter to her, Jonah
Goldberg of National Review wrote: "If money could buy what you have,
Romney would have bought it all by now."
Mitt Romney can't buy what Sarah Palin has. Nor can Minnesota Gov. Tim
Pawlenty, or (my current preference) Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. But
they could put it on their ticket.
As a point guard, Sarah Palin was more comfortable attacking her
opponents' basket than defending her own. Becoming a private citizen
makes it easier for Sarah to transition from defense to offense, as
indicated by the shot across the bow her lawyer gave bloggers and news
organizations spreading the false rumor the FBI is investigating her.
This is one "quitter," I suspect, who has just begun to fight.