Friday, July 3, 2009

Why Sarah Palin Resigned

Sarha Palin just announced that she is going to resign as Governor of Alaska. For those who want her presidential ambitions to be weakened, this is fantastic news. For those who hope that she may decide against running altogether, think again.

For those of you counting, Sarah Palin's resignation (effective as of July 26, 2009) will end a gubernatorial tenure of 966 days. Her reasons for making this rather remarkable decision have been maddeningly (and no doubt intentionally) vague, with statements like "My choice is to take a stand and effect change and not just hit our head against the wall” and that she would take "my fight for what’s right in a new direction" dominating her no-questions press conference. So why is she doing it? The answer, despite incessant media speculation which implies that it is some great mystery, is actually quite obvious:

1) She wants to run for president in 2012. Resigning enables her to devote her energies full-time to the fundraising, grassroots mobilizing, political networking, and publicity grabbing necessary to render feasible such a bid. This, of course, is hardly sufficient reason in its own right for leaving office. Indeed, our nation has had six presidents who were elected while currently serving terms as governors of their respective states (Rutherford Hayes, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, William Clinton, and George W. Bush). That is why this aspect of her rationale, though certainly noteworthy, is hardly the most important.

2) She wants to run for president in 2012. That much is made clear by the constant references to wanting to "take a stand and effect change". Candidates who leave office with the intention of retiring from public life altogether generally speak of spending more time with their families, trying to find themselves, trying to make their peace with God, etc. On the other hand, those who talk about wanting to "effect change", or anything to that effect, are almost always abandoning their current set of priorities because they're bucking for some new ones.

3) She wants to run for president in 2012. Although scant media attention has been paid to this aspect of her career, Palin is actually in a great deal of legal trouble. There was last year's state legislative investigation into her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan for his refusal to punish her ex-brother-in-law, whom she happened to dislike; though the committee ultimately decided that she had not behave illegally in doing this, it did call into serious question the ethics underlying both that decision and her subsequent conduct pertaining to the whole situation. Other questions regarding Palin's actions abound - she is notorious for appointing old high school buddies and other cronies to positions of great power regardless of their qualifications (or lack thereof), for vindictively using her power as governor to take vengeance against those she dislikes, and for misusing state resources (also known as taxpayer dollars) for personal indulgences (such as putting a tanning bed in the Executive Mansion or taking her family on vacations). Considering both her high public profile as a former vice presidential candidate and the fact that no fewer than three governors have been destroyed by scandals in the past eighteen months (Spitzer in New York, Blagojevich in Illinois, and Sanford in South Carolina), it stands to reason that any scandals relating to these three tendencies on her part could arise and cause her great political misfortune, be it in the form of impeachment proceedings or electoral defeat in seeking a second term. Leaving office now spares her those potential (and, let's face it, probable) ordeals.

So why does this work to her detriment? It does for two reasons:

1) Scandal follows Palin around like stink on feces. As more and more former McCain staffers leak to the press their trepidations about and grievances toward Sarah Palin and her family, and as the sexual life of her children continues to force itself into the spotlight (and despite her complaints of excessive media attention, it is quite clear that her children seek it just as much as reporters crave it), it can be expected that negative publicity will continue to plague her. Even more important, though, is the fact that just because a legislative committee or potential gubernatorial adversary doesn't discover the existing scandals DOESN'T mean that the news media, despite its notorious lethargy, won't eventually pick up on them. Removing herself from the governorship delays the inevitable, but by no means removes its inevitability.

2) One of the main criticisms of Sarah Palin in 2008 was her inexperience. Had she been re-elected as governor in 2010, she would have been able to counter that in the upcoming presidential election by arguing that she had been in office for more than six years. By resigning, she now guarantees that her inexperience will not only remain a significant factor of her candidacy, but one with an additional sting: Unlike Obama, who in 2008 was inexperienced but still in office (and could thus argue that his inexperience wasn't necessarily his fault), Palin by 2012 will have put herself in a situation where she COULD HAVE BEEN MORE EXPERIENCED but chose inexperience as a more politically viable alternative.

Personally I never believed that Palin had a strong chance for the 2012 Republican nomination. Should the economy remain center-stage in the political world as of late 2011/early 2012, Mitt Romney will be the nominee; should the emphasis shift to social and cultural issues, or just general hatred of liberals and everything they stand for, Mike Huckabee will be the man; and should things wind up revolving around foreign policy, it's anybody's game. Even so, Palin has effectively placed herself even farther from an equation in which, despite the media's insistence to the contrary, she has never really been a variable.

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