Palin Is Finished

In the wake of Sarah Palin’s shocking announcement that not only would she not seek re-election as Governor of Alaska, but would also step down from her post, to all appearances, without the prerequisite political or ethical scandal that we have come to expect accompanying such a move, commentators have tried to analyze this in every way possible in order to further their own pre-set storyline of her running for office in 2012 and this being some kind of shrewd political calculation to that end.

Ironically, many of the same people who say that Palin is not sophisticated or smart, also say this is some kind of long term political calculation that mere mortals like us cannot understand and that she will indeed be on the Republican ticket in 2012. Apparently, they don’t appreciate irony.

Let me spell this out. It is not going to happen. Governor Palin is done.
I say that not as someone who has been a critic, but as someone who has long been a Palin booster. Everyone who knows me can attest that early in the Spring of 2008, I picked Governor Palin as a very likely VP pick for whoever gained the Republican nomination. I was just about the only person I am aware of who picked her that early, and was proved right. My mother, upon seeing Sarah Palin appear at the press availability where John McCain announced her as his VP pick, pointed to the screen and said; “Oh look, it’s that Governor of Alaska that Jubal told us about being a good pick for Vice President.” Yes, I had called it, and I supported her for a very long time. Far longer than I supported McCain himself.

Saying that, it pains me to say now that she is done as a contender for the Republican nomination for President following this announcement that she is throwing in the towel and returning to the life of a private citizen. The logic is compelling; she wanted to be Governor, the people trusted her with that position, and she has not yet finished her term. Things are now looking hard and she is dealing with unfair criticism, so she quits, and goes on to better things. Sounds like a great storyline for a Presidential candidate to me… especially that “quitting” part. Yeah, let’s all elect someone to our highest office who will probably stick out her term unless things start to get hard and she is criticized by the domestic press. Can you say Bush, people? Criticism (often very unfair) comes with the territory (unless you are The One, in which case, no rules apply). You must be able to deal with that, and if you have already shown that you can’t take the heat in a Gubernatorial office, you can forget about Washington DC.

The hard core Palin backers are saying that now she is “freed up” to pursue political activity without criticism inside Alaska. She was “constrained” by being Governor. Yeah, like Reagan was constrained by being Governor of California when he very nearly took the nomination away from a sitting President Ford right? The fact is that if she had to, she could have won the Presidency with almost no support at all from Alaska itself, but, without the title of Governor, she is not going to get the support of the rest of the Country.
Domestic criticism of higher ambitions are much less of a threat to her politically than the charge that she didn’t finish her term because the going got too tough. Republicans do not like people who do that kind of thing. Many of us really dislike some of the things that Bush did (like tariffs, increased spending, not vetoing porkulus bills, and his disastrous response to the financial sector crisis) but even his biggest critics in the party have to give him a grudging respect for holding fast in the face of unprecedented character assassination and sometimes despicable “criticism”. See, Republicans respect a politician that toughs it out. Stepping down as Governor most of the way through your first term is many things, toughing it out is certainly not one of them.

Her backers claim that she is now a “movement politician” who is totally identified with a movement like Barry Goldwater. First, both Goldwater and Reagan shot for the Presidency from a position as somebody who had completed at least one term at a high office (Senate or Governor). Secondly, they were “movement politicians” not based only on the personality cult of a charismatic leader figure, but because of a deep and consistent set of ideas. Palin is not an idea based candidate, but a charisma based one. She does not effectively communicate important ideas that interlock into a cohesive platform, but riles up a crowd using charisma and a natural political gift. The only kind of movement she could create would be one like Obama’s, based entirely on image and emotion, with no platform at all beyond some vague slogans. That is not the kind of candidate that the Republican party traditionally favors.

In her speech, she said that the State of Alaska had already spent over 2 million dollars in various costs related to the fraudulent ethics complaints being brought up against her constantly for political reasons. She said that these 15 ethics complaints were taking the majority of her and her staff’s time and hindering her ability to function as Governor. If that is the case, then the State of Alaska has a pressing need to support the office of Governor by continuing to take on these costs, because it has a vested interest in having a Governor who can actually function rather than do nothing but deal with fraudulent claims. So the spending by the State is justified, and serves the need of preserving that necessary office. It basically looks like Alaska needs to reform it’s ethics laws if it is so easy to neutralize the Governor by just filing endless, baseless, complaints.
That is not a good reason for Palin to step down, just for her to admit that the ethics law she pushed for earlier in her term is flawed.

It really reminds me of the “national security” related charges against her during the campaign. She took all kinds of flack for a lack of national security experience (as if Obama had so much), but never hit back by mentioning that the Alaska National Guard is a special unit that requires of it’s Commander In Chief (Palin) a higher security clearance than all other such units because it is the only Guard unit in the nation that operates a critical strategic missile defense early warning station. Hence the pertinence of Alaska’s location near Russia. Instead of going into some of these facts, she and her handlers just retreated in the face of spurious charges, which led to more bold attacks, like the absurd Tina Fey quote that many people actually attribute to Palin herself; “… and I can see Russia from my house.” Similarly, instead of meeting these attacks head on and maintaining her position and stature as one of only 51 Chief executives in the United States Government, she just retreats, and lets all kinds of speculation grow that there must really have been a Federal investigation or something, because people don’t just step down as Governor for no reason… do they?

If she feels that she cannot get an agenda done because of her political stature, she is mistaken to think that her unelected Lieutenant Governor will have better success or legitimacy. She just needs to learn to play Gubernatorial hardball, a skill which would come in very handy in the White House. (“I will veto anything you send me unless you pass what I want.” or just using her media magnetism as a bully pulpit to out-communicate her opponents.) No, her agenda is not extremely likely to be carried forward, and if it is, it will be no thanks to her. Now she will have an unfinished term as Governor hanging around her neck as something to explain away rather than being her chief qualifier and the strongest part of her resume.

Governor Palin says she “passed the ball” so the team can win. From where I’m sitting, it looks more like she dropped it.


~ by Jubal Biggs on July 5, 2009.

One Response to “Palin Is Finished”

  1. She may never be president. But, my take on this is that she knows she’ll make WAY MORE money writing books and having her own FOX news show. Why does she need the money? Who doesn’t? With impending hyperinflation and the fed cranking out dollars like monopoly money she needs to make hay while the sun shines.

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