The first chapter in the story of the Wasilla Wildcat has come to a close, and the ending was a far cry from most storybooks featuring princesses, mattress-laden peas, or kisses on frost-rimmed lips.
Having been plucked from the relative obscurity of Alaskan politics, Sarah Palin rode a madcap roller-coaster ride onto the national stage, unaware that her ticket had been stamped with a twelve-week expiration date. Her departure on a leased jet — Alaska One having been nearly, but not quite, sold on eBay — leaves both her adoring acolytes on the right and her gleeful inquisitionists on the left pondering both her political future and whatever lessons we might glean from her short and unhappy life in the Washington limelight.
The fatal fallacy embraced by both tribes during the War of Aught Eight was that Sarah was some sort of political neophyte, unskilled in the chicanery of campaign wizardry. She would, as the conventional wisdom held, be either ripe for exploitation by her nefarious betters or be endearing to an electorate jaded by years of beltway malfeasance. Far from it.
Palin proved a canny provocateur in the political arena with both the skills to confound her opponents and the baggage to dismay her handlers. The former was on full display during the vice-residential debate. Joe Biden found himself on the business end of some very sharp elbows, while the media was forced to concede that her campaign rallies drew masses in the thousands, sopping up her well-practiced talking points of the day with devotional hysteria.
Her supporters may have been equally distraught to find an army of bloggers and media jackals ready, willing, and able to dig up every nugget from her brief tenures as a small town mayor and chief executive of a frontier state. While her advocates clung to debasement of the Troopergate “attacks” with cries of what an awful monster her former brother-in-law had been, they blindly refused to examine the fact that a governor must recuse herself, her staff, and her husband from intervening in an investigation involving family members.
Further digging revealed places and names such as the Mat-Maid Dairy, Franci Havemeister (along with her suspiciously prosperous father-in-law, Bob), Kyle Beus, and Matt Bobbich. These players, among others, took part in an Alaskan sitcom of placing unqualified people in office, disbursement of taxpayer dollars to friends and associates, and cronyism which made the Bush administration’s selection of Harriet Miers look Jeffersonian by comparison. Palin’s chief talent — that of finding precisely the least media savvy answer to any question — was greatly overshadowed by comparison.