Sarah Palin is a small town American girl with ambition to spare, energy to burn and naiveté unlike anything Americans have seen in a long time. From the time she burst onto the national scene with her cheerleader-like enthusiasm and her sometimes ill-informed public statements, Palin has always underestimated the electorate. That is condescending at best, and extremely poor judgment at worst. I never really saw Palin as a having political longevity, but I did worry that a certain segment of the population would feel distantly comfy with those folksy winks into the camera and down-home “you betchas” and “say it ain’t so Joes.” In a moment in America when comfort is at a premium, I was concerned that too many voters would opt for comfort over substance and ability. My concerns were fully allayed on July 3, when Sarah Palin delivered a rambling, topic-hopping speech, resigning her post as Governor of Alaska. I will not call it incoherent – but I will go so far as to say her hastily-called press conference was alternately breathless, disjointed, and slightly bitter. Watch:
Palin’s disdain for the American media is palpable. The near-combative relationship she has established with media organizations and even individual reporters is unprecedented in recent American politics. By Sunday, she was even talking of suing a Huffington Post blogger for slander. Who among us will ever forget Palin’s verbal tennis match with CBS anchor Katie Couric? Not only couldn’t she name the newspapers or magazines she reads, but she could not come up with any U.S. Supreme Court decisions that she questioned. Here we had a woman who conceivably could end up being President of the U.S. if aging, cancer-survivor John McCain were to die, and as head of the executive branch of government, she is evidently fully unfamiliar with the decisions of the judicial branch. That should have been our first clue as to Palin’s lack of preparedness for the job, and for her distinct lack of media savvy. By that point, Palin had not only underestimated us, the voters – but she had most definitely underestimated the power, influence and persistence of the American media. Big mistake.
Citing media pressures as part of her decision to step down, Palin sent the worst possible message to voters – When the going gets tough, I just quit. (My first reaction was, If only George Bush had had the same escapist strategy). The truth is that Sarah Palin does not like anyone snooping, investigating, questioning or even wondering about her motives, her behavior or her decisions. Sarah has a secret. No, make that many secrets. Let’s not forget that well into her pregnancy with her youngest child, not one person on her staff knew she was pregnant until her last trimester. And let’s not forget that her husband was a member of an Alaskan secessionist party while she was Governor of one of the United States. Just a gentle reminder that while she was decent enough to let John McCain know her teenage daughter was five months pregnant before signing on to the GOP ticket, she was not forthcoming to the American public about Bristol’s pregnancy until a week after the GOP convention. There have always been rumblings about Palin awarding state jobs to certain individuals for questionable reasons, as well as the high profile “troopergate” scandal in which Alaska’s public safety commissioner claimed he was forced to resign when he refused to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper.
Palin has too many secrets. Reportedly, her own father-in-law did not know of the content of Palin’s press conference until he heard it through media reports. If Palin is this withholding in her own family, why on earth would we, the American voters, believe she would be any more forthcoming with us? I, for one, am waiting for the other shoe to drop. My reporter’s gut tells me there is lots more to the Palin resignation story than her frustration with the media, her desire to save Alaskans the cost of more ethics investigations, and her fear of becoming a sitting duck governor. If she were that fearful of becoming a sitting duck, why did she not simply keep plugging away, and then run for re-election so she could fulfill her agenda? In her breathy resignation schpiel, she more than once reiterated her disdain for “politics as usual.” Yet, by not being fully honest about her reasons for resigning and her plans for the future, she simply played politics, as usual. If she truly sees the American media as the enemy, then why did her husband agree to a full length feature story in a recent issue of Esquire magazine? Why did she allow her daughter, Bristol, to do a media blitz this Spring touting the dangers of teenage sex? It appears Palin will use media when it suits her, and condemn media when we get a little too close to truths that she would prefer to keep…secret.
There are almost 4,000 miles between Wasilla, AK and Washington, D.C. It was way too far, literally and figuratively for a girl from Wasilla, population 7,000, to travel in one broad jump. Sarah Palin made the critical error of trying to go too far too fast without enough information, education and experience. She tried to skip some critical steps in the climb from ambitious local politician to major player on the national stage. Most significantly, Sarah Palin tried to buck a system with deep roots in the American culture. She should have taken a page out of the mid-20th century civil rights movement playbook: The key players learned that if you want to change the world, you do so by working within the existing system. Inventing or even suggesting a whole new system takes up precious time, shakes the foundations that Americans count on and simply paints one in the most unfavorable light possible – that of “rogue.”
So long, Sarah. It feels like we hardly knew you. But then -- you wouldn't have it any other way, right?