If Sarah Palin had intended to make media heads collectively explode, she couldn't have planned it better. She called a press conference on short notice, then announced that not only would she not seek a second term as Alaska's governor, but she intended to resign later this month. All that would remain for her to do is pop some Orville's, sit back and enjoy the show as the punditocracy begins wildly speculating about that which it does not know. As crazy as this sounds, consider how crazy the reaction has been so far to her announcement
NBC's Andrea Mitchell, claiming she had been talking to people "very close" to Gov. Palin, reported:
"I have been told that she has told her supporters she is out of politics, period. She is fed up with politics. She doesn't like her life. She feels that she needs to raise her family. She's sick of the commute from Wasilla to the capitol, and she really does not want to run for higher office. This is not the case where she's stepping down in order to clear the way for a presidential run. In fact she has told some of her biggest backers in the national Republican Party that they are free to choose other candidates for 2012."
Sounds very cut and dried.
But wait just a sec. MSNBC's Howard Fineman says he's sure that Sarah Palin is running for president. How does he know this?
"I have covered politics for a long time. I can tell when someone is running for president. Sarah Palin is running for president."
Politico's Jonathan Martin, working on something more than just knowing a presidential candidate when he sees one, talked to a "close friend" of the governor who says Palin plans to stay "extremely visible" and will seriously consider a 2012 run for president, but has not yet decided:
Friends say Palin plans to spend time writing her book, which is due this fall, then promote it heavily when it comes out in spring 2010.
Palin is by far the Republican Party's biggest draw for fund-raisers and conservative events, and the friends say she plans to spend a lot of time traveling in "the lower 48" states, as Alaskans call the continental U.S.
Those friends say she plans to give a series of paid speeches, and will also make free GOP appearances, raising money for the party and for issues. She also plans to help other candidates, collecting political IOUs for herself.
And she'll be very busy as a mother of five, which friends say is her top priority.
At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza has sources "familiar with her decision." He has posted they say Palin is leaving the governors' mansion to free herself "to build a national political team and travel the country in support of an expected 2012 presidential bid."
Which pundit is closest to the truth? I don't honestly know. That's just it. No one knows. They may all be wrong. But that hasn't stopped them from acting like they know.
And speaking of acting, people are throwing fits left and right. On the left the anti-Palinists are mocking and taunting the Palinists. Some of the more cultish Palinists find their undergarmets much more twisted than some more thoughtful conservative observers who are angrily denouncing the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate for "letting us down" after "we defended her." As if she didn't deserve defending regardless of her future political intentions. The same political opponents are denouncing her for quitting her job that were trying to see that she doesn't keep it. That would be the hypocrite wing of the Democrat Party.
From the governor's Blackberry to our screens via Twitter:
"We'll soon attach info on decision to not seek re-election... this is in Alaska's best interest, my family's happy... it is good, stay tuned"
While anger is a stage that is known to follow shock, it might be judicious to keep our condemnation to ourselves until after we see what else Sarah Palin has to say on the matter.
Andrea Mitchell, for all we know, could have her story only half right. Gov. Palin may only be through with politics in Alaska. After some R&R time with her family, she may step back up onto the national stage and make that run for 2012. Or she may wait until 2016, when she will still be a relatively young -- for a presidential candidate -- 52 years of age.
We can speculate too, and it doesn't cost a dime. Perhaps she will take a detour on the road to the White House to challenge Alaska's Democrat junior Senator Mark Begich in 2014. Although not very likely, she could disrupt Don Young's heart rhythm with an announcement that she will fight him for his House seat in 2010. Or she and Todd could buy a schooner, pack up the kids and sail around the world.
Here's something we do know. Alaska is one of the worst possible places from which to run for the White House. Consider just the logistics for a minute. As a presidential candidate, almost all of her internal communications would have to be made electronically. She would also face the difficulty of recruiting campaign staff. Many of them would not want to relocate to Alaska. Most consultants wouldn't even want to travel there. Those who would be willing would quickly tire of the expense and waste of spending hour after hour on airliners between Anchorage and Washington. We have already seen the difficulty the governor's people in Alaska had trying to coordinate and communicate with her staff in the nation's capitol.
Any presidential candidate with a PAC needs to campaign for candidates to pick up support, and she can't do that as governor. The locals piss and moan every time she leaves the state unless it's on official state business. In essence, if she has presidential ambitions, she's a prisoner of the very state she loves so much and promotes at every available opportunity. While Sarah Palin has been tied to Alaska, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have been free to campaign for candidates and make other appearances which keep their profiles above the water line. With all the guns trained on her, they have drawn little, if any, fire. Even Haley Barbour and Mike Pence have appearances scheduled in Iowa. Don't be surprised to see them show up in New Hampshire some time in the not too distant future.
News about Gov. Palin that comes out of the 49th state tends to be the bad, as the media is not very interested in disseminating the good. Her accomplishments tend to go unnoticed or quickly get pushed off of the screen in favor of the sensational. Recall her trip to Texas to conclude the deal which brought ExxonMobil into a cooperative agreement with TransCanada to get Gov. Palin's pet pipeline project off the ground. She granted interviews to CNN's Wolf Blitzer and NBC's Matt Lauer, but both were more interested in getting her to talk about David Letterman's hot air than Alaska's natural gas.
The media has been relentless in its crusade against her, with the exception of a few local radio talk show hosts. There's a coalition of bloggers in AK that do nothing but attack her 24/7. Everything they write is picked up and regurgitated by the nutroots nationally - Kos, HuffPo, C&L, etc. Much of what the nutroots writes is picked up and regurgitated by a national media which rarely even bothers to try to check the facts.
There are other possibilites. Some in the hostile media are speculating that another running shoe is about to fall. They talk wistfully of impending scandal. Some less hostile observers wonder if, God forbid, there is some medical issue either with the governor herself or someone close to her. CNN's Rick Sanchez has even questioned if she may be pregnant with her sixth child. Some have asked if there is some other impending crisis in Gov. Palin's family that she may need to deal with. Others speculate that she just wants to take a time out, spend some time with her family, write her book and return to the political wars with her batteries recharged. Whatever her reason or reasons for resigning her governorship must be good ones. This is not a woman who likes to quit or has shown much propensity to do so in the past.
This speculation business is easy, but unfortunately, it's accomplishes little. It will not stop until Sarah Palin makes it stop by telling us what she plans to do. I'm willing to give her time to do that. I will neither condemn her nor cry in my beer if she decides not to run for president. God knows she has given much and received little reward and much punishment for herself and her family. Gov. Palin saved the GOP and John McCain from an electoral blowout of McGovern proportions, and she made Saxby Chambliss' return to the U.S. Senate a sure thing with a safety margin of 10 insurance points. She's been fighting for missile defense, fiscal restraint and energy security, among other things. She's defended young girls and women of all ages against misogynistic attacks by dirty men both young and old. And she has been a source of encouragement to women everywhere to be all that they can be, and not just in the U.S. Army.
Whatever we have given her, she has repaid with interest. Today, she asked us to trust her decision. Let's give her that much at least, see what her intentions are and keep her and hers in our prayers.
Update: Is Gov. Palin simply following good advice? See Item #1.