There are those who wish to bury Sarah Palin, not praise her. Leftist Democrats, their drive-by media assassins and Republican backers of some of her potential opponents for leadership in the Republican Party have been pushing the meme that the former vice presidential candidate no longer has a future in national politics. They want to convince others that the governor’s political career has been ruined by the recent tug of war she has been engaged in with the Alaska legislature and the noisemaker tabloid media’s exploitation of some problems in her family and would-be in-laws.
If the foibles of politicians’ family members were career-killers, then Roger Clinton would have surely been the kiss of death for his brother. But even the millstone of a coke-dealing sibling couldn’t put the brakes on Bill Clinton’s bandwagon. Americans tend to be a forgiving people, and in Bill Clinton’s case, they were even willing to overlook his own sexploits and give him a second term. If having a brother who sells hard drugs doesn’t dim your star, having a cat burglar for a sister-in-law and a loose-lipped almost-son-in-law should not be that much of a long-term problem for Gov. Palin.
For a governor to have issues with a legislature is likewise not necessarily the stuff of ending a political career. Harry Truman won a stunning upset victory in the 1948 presidential election by railing against the “do-nothing” Congress, and sympathetic voters cheered him on, urging Harry to “give ’em hell.” Alaskans may view their state lawmakers in the same light that Americans saw the eightieth Congress. The legislature has little to show for its session – only a handful of bills were passed of the literally hundreds which were introduced. In some respects this could be a good thing, but Alaska has serious intrastate energy issues, and the legislature failed to deal effectively with them.
The Alaska legislature’s rejection of the Palin nominee for Alaska attorney general and its tug of war with the governor over filling a vacant state Senate seat are hardly tantamount to being headed for the political graveyard. Indeed, the politically-motivated “tasergate” investigation of the governor, spearheaded by a state Senator who just happened to be a Democrat supporting Barack Obama and Joe Biden while Gov. Palin was running against that ticket, set a combative tone for the legislative session. That some of the old-boy-network Republicans sided with the Democrats against Palin was likewise no surprise. Some of that crowd had been looking for payback, and what better way to get it than with a trumped-up ethics complaint?
Gov. Palin compromised with the Democrats over the Senate seat before the legislative session ended, and she will simply appoint an attorney general in the interim well before the next one convenes. Though her home state approval ratings are down from their stratospheric highs of earlier days of her term, they remain at 60% or better, a percentage most other governors would consider enviable.
The governor could well borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, for the reports of her political demise are little more than wishful thinking on the part of those who have a vested interest in seeing the GOP foolishly stake its hopes on another McCain-ish opponent for President Obama three and a half years hence… or perhaps one that resembles Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. To illustrate the point, we have the case of a rare breadcrumb of intellectual honesty falling from the media’s table this week. Kenneth T. Walsh, Chief White House correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, reported that Sarah Palin still enjoys strong support among conservatives, and some GOP insiders are saying that her future remains bright. That’s right, Paul Bedard is not the only scribe at U.S. News who can find an anonymous “GOP insider/former Bush advisor” to help support his narrative. Not all party insiders have a dim view of the governor, as writers less biased than Walsh may try to lead us to believe. She still has strong backers, even on the mean streets inside the beltway.
That does not mean that Alaska’s governor can coast to the front of the elephant walk. A “widely-held” belief among those party insiders, according to Walsh’s GOP strategist source, is that Sarah Palin will be just fine if her first term as governor will be regarded as a successful one. She has two more years to polish her record, and the same amount of time to go, as the advisor phrased it, “from sexy to studious”:
He says Palin should concentrate on building a conservative record of success as governor while also gradually placing herself in situations that demonstrate her knowledge of national and international issues.
These could include participating in forums of political leaders or policy experts at prestigious universities or giving a series of speeches at think tanks or conservative gatherings. “She needs to show that she’s more substantive than people think,” the strategist adds.
Gov. Palin is working on it. She speaks with authority on energy issues, and her arguments for saving the nation’s missile defense capabilities are both well-reasoned and compelling, especially considering the military ambitions of North Korea and Iran. She’s also up to speed on trade issues, as Alaska ranks fourth among the states in trade on a per capita basis and eighth in exports as a percentage of gross state product. She has met individually with scores of trade representatives and addressed a number of international trade delegations. While she’s no economist, the governor has rather wisely invested a considerable portion of her state’s oil and gas revenues, enough to give Alaska some breathing room while most other states are feeling much more pain at this point in the recession. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Gov. Palin take the other advice of Walsh’s strategist source and start making the rounds of some of the better-known conservative think tanks.
In fact, she has already been a speaker at the Hoover Institution’s Board of Overseers meeting in Washington, D.C. last year, where she addressed the benefits of her pet project, an Alaskan natural gas pipeline to deliver the clean-burning fuel to the lower 48. The former vice presidential candidate has some admirers at Hoover, including Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson, who has written with his characteristic eloquence in her defense:
“I think Palin can speak, and reason, and navigate with bureaucrats and lawyers as well as can Obama; but he surely cannot understand hunters, and mechanics and carpenters like she can. And a Putin or a Chavez or a Wall-Street speculator that runs a leverage brokerage house is more a hunter than a professor or community organizer.”
She should be welcome also at The Heritage Foundation where Rebecca Hagelin is one of that think tank’s vice presidents. Hagelin has written of Governor Palin:
“What makes her absolutely appealing to ordinary citizens across the country, both young and old, is that she didn’t go looking for greatness somewhere ‘out there.’ Instead, she sought to make a difference in the lives of the people in her path — and in so doing, greatness found her.”
Likewise, the doors of the Hudson Institute should be open for Sarah Palin. Hudson Senior Fellow John O’Sullivan had no qualms at all in connecting the Alaskan and Britain’s Iron Lady:
“I know Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher is a friend of mine. And as a matter of fact, Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin have a great deal in common.”
How about it, Governor? Shouldn’t you visit these good scholars and thank them in person for singing your praises, while at the same time less accomplished beings such as Kathleen Parker, Peggy Noonan and David Frum were haplessly engaged in trying to dig your political grave? Mark Twain once said of critics:
“If a critic should start a religion it would not have any object but to convert angels, and they wouldn’t need it.”
Although the timeless author was speaking of literary critics rather than the political kind, somehow I think he would would still approve of such a tour, if only just to poke a stick in the eyes of the latter.