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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Sarah Palin

On May 13, 2011, rumors had been swirling around the possible impending announcement of a Presidential candidate who would shake up the entire GOP field. Recent polls had shown this candidate leading Barack Obama in head-to-head matchups, and the GOP electorate was primed for a candidate who would be seen as a palatable alternative to Mitt Romney. Operatives said to be close to the candidate began whispering that the next day, in a nationally televised appearance, the candidate would officially declare for the Presidency. At the appointed time, with national ratings soaring, Mike Huckabee announced on his FoxNews program that… he would not be running for President.

Reaction to Huckabee’s stunt was mixed. While some viewed his gambit for a one-time ratings boost to be clever showmanship and self-promotion, most found it to be a distasteful stunt that smacked of narcissism and disrespect for his loyal followers. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost four months since Huckabee’s announcement – mainly because it has been completely forgotten due to the antics of Sarah Palin, who has been carrying on a more egregious sideshow for attention since well before Huckabee’s stunt, and who still continues it to this day.

I have given up trying to convince Sarah Palin’s supporters that I am not and have never been an enemy of Sarah Palin; no matter how mild of a criticism I offer of her and no matter how liberally sprinkled with praise, her remaining followers will be convinced that I have always been part of a “GOP Establishment” conspiracy to tear Palin down, despite the fact that I have never lived or worked in DC, or worked for a sitting member of Congress, or any national or state party committee. As the kids say these days, “it is whatever”; long-time readers of this blog will know that if Sarah Palin has lost me (and she has), then she is doing it wrong.

Consider that of all the candidates, Sarah Palin has the least excuse for her dithering. Unlike Perry, Bachmann, and Paul, Palin hasn’t had a job with official duties for the last two-plus years. All the other quasi-retired or term-limited candidates have long ago declared. Even Jon Huntsman was serving as ambassador to China as recently as April; and by the way, Huntsman has a larger family than Palin does. I get that deciding whether to run for President is a difficult decision; however, the Presidency is a job of difficult decisions, and if it has legitimately taken Sarah Palin over two years to decide whether to even start the process of becoming President, then she is unfit for the job.

An examination of Palin’s activities over the last couple months shows an almost pathological need to leverage the attention gained by the hard work put in by candidates who are actually running to brighten her own personal spotlight. First she appeared in NH and stepped all over Mitt Romney’s official announcement.

Then, last month at Ames, most of the candidates who intended to contest Iowa had spent months organizing and fundraising for the Ames Straw Poll (whatever one thinks of its overall usefulness, it has long been viewed as a useful proxy for a candidate’s ability to a) fundraise and b) turn out Iowa voters to the caucuses). A day that should have belonged to Michele Bachmann again belonged to Palin titillation. If she had showed up to actually announce, Palin could have been commended for staging a brilliant media coup which stole coverage from her rivals. Instead, she showed up… to announce that she would announce sometime within the next two months. Probably. Subsequently, of course, Palin has decided that “sometime within the next two months” unacceptably constrained her decision-making process, and she accordingly revised her timeline to “whenever.”

Next, of course, she announced that she would again step on a major Romney appearance in New Hampshire, followed by an appearance at a Tea Party rally in Iowa on September 3rd, the anniversary of her electrifying speech at the 2008 convention. When people (including her own supporters) began to (reasonably) speculate that this would be the date and place of her announcement (as she no doubt intended for them to do), she issued one of the most ridiculous, delusions-of-persecution laden statements in the history of politics, declaring herself the victim of “establishment political games” and declaring that such speculation was “more of the ‘politics-as-usual’ that Sarah Palin has fought against throughout her career.”

Perhaps never before has a politician had the chutzpah to claim that excited speculation about her running for President was part of a conspiracy against her that she needed to thwart. Likewise never before have so many of a politician’s followers so eagerly lapped up something so transparently moronic.

Palin’s ridiculous act has worn so thin with the GOP electorate that she now polls roughly equivalent with Ron Paul. Whereas three months ago she would have been in an ideal position to be kingmaker in the Republican primary, given that 71% of Republicans don’t want her to run for President, she might well be in a position that the first person she calls to offer an endorsement will politely turn it down. And nevermind actually running a campaign that could win – in addition to her substantial polling woes, Palin has no national campaign staff, no local staff in any early primary states, no big-donor fundraising network that can match either Perry or Romney, and if her September 3rd speech is any indication, no cohesive and defining issues or policies to run on. The primary calendar has moved earlier and is more heavily frontloaded with major states than ever; a candidate without any of the attributes listed above has never been so far behind the 8-ball as Sarah Palin would be now if she announced tomorrow.

At this point, however, I would not be surprised if Palin does run, if only because she senses that otherwise, the media will eventually start ignoring her. The spectacular mismanagement of Sarah Palin’s fame and political clout has turned what could have been a decades-long career as an influencer of Republican politics into a train wreck that has gone on for so long that even the macabre has become blase and disinteresting. With only a touch more finesse, Palin could have re-emerged periodically again and again; sadly, instead, this seems destined to be her only go-round, which she is milking for every cent it is worth, until the point where almost everyone wishes she would just go away.

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