By this time everyone in the political arena who doesn’t count themselves among the ranks of the Palinistas is familiar with the routine. Whether you are one of the players on the electoral field or a member of the punditocracy, the rules are clear — there are only certain things which may be said about the ½-term Alaska governor and precise ways in which they may be phrased or thou shalt suffer the wrath of the faithful.
The latest student in this particular school of hard knocks was former First Lady Barbara Bush, who curiously chose to suggest that Ms. Palin should “stay in Alaska.” The response, ranging from bloggers to Beck, was immediate and predictable.
Dear Mrs. Bush: We’ve always admired and respected you. But unfortunately your time is up and under the bus you go.
But that’s the way things work in every hamlet and village of Palinland. You are free to have your own opinions and not support Sarah for anything and everything from president of the United States to the next pope, but if so, do it quietly and keep your mouth shut. Why? Because if you say anything Palin related, running the full range from suggesting that someone else might make a good presidential candidate to wondering if — just possibly — Jennifer and Derek might be slightly better dancers than Bristol and Mark, then you are a hater who seeks to destroy Governor Palin and her beautiful family.
So what brings me to this highly divisive topic today? In the spirit of peace and introspection which accompanies the upcoming holiday season, I could hardly let it pass by without my own dose of hatred and evil plots to destroy the family in question. And with that I present for your inspection and critique the top five reasons Sarah Palin should not run for president.
Your career counselor should be fired
This runs parallel to the same advice I tried to give to both Barack Obama and John McCain in the fall of 2008. Who in the heck would even want the job? Vanity aside, it’s pretty much a losing proposition. Unless the country undergoes an amazing recovery above and beyond the most sunny, pie-in-the-sky estimates, the hoi poloi are in for some tough slogging for several years to come.
And whenever they are unhappy, they tend to react negatively and vote out those currently in power. The federal government has, at best, only a limited ability to force the nation’s economic engine into either higher or lower gears, and even then only over long periods of time. And given the inability of the two warring camps to work together, they’re unlikely to accomplish even the small beneficial effects they might be capable of. Trust me, Sarah … it all ends in tears.
Stick with the Benjamins
Back when you grabbed two beers and headed for the exit slide of the Alaska governor’s mansion, I’ll confess I was taken aback. But at least one part of your explanation eventually made sense to me. You were going broke defending yourself against all of those ethics complaints. And now, to be brutally honest, you’re rolling in dough. You’ve figured out how to cash in big time on everything from reality shows and dashboard bobbleheads to outrageous speaking fees.
You can crank out a book every six months; even if it has nothing in it but pictures of you standing next to a variety of American flags with pithy comments from fortune cookies, you’ll pull down seven or eight figures from it. Next week you could launch a line of Grizzly Bear Jerky Snacks and the poor beasts would probably be on the endangered species list within a month from all the sales. Good for you! This is America and you’re fully entitled to all the success you can manage. But if you get into the election, every dime you make will be scrutinized. And what if you win? Have you seen what that job pays, particularly in light of the hours you have to put in? Stay with your current marketing plan and you should be able to buy your own small country to run before you turn fifty.
If you get into the fight, the other kids will fight back
Let’s face it. Right now you’re perched in the catbird seat. You’ve established yourself as a political king/queen maker. (Even if you did pick a few clunkers in the midterms.) And the beautiful part of this arrangement is that none of the other expected presidential candidates are ever allowed to criticize you while you maintain the role of Interested Private Citizen. If they do they are rapidly beaten down and dragged out to apologize by your minions in the conservative media and the blogs.
But the moment your elk fur-lined ushanka gets tossed into the ring you become a valid target for the rest of the field. Then they’re just going to start pestering you at every turn with questions, questions, and more questions. What specific cuts will you make in the budget? How will you handle Social Security? What will you do about North Korea and Iran and the Russians? And every stumbling response, each three-heartbeat pause before answering, any perceived misstep in your comments will be loudly “refudiated” in the press and run in a non-stop loop on cable television for weeks at a time. And really … who needs that kind of pressure?
You’ll make Tina Fey into a billionaire
You remember Tina, right? And surely you recall how much you secretly despise her. Well, she’s still out there, watching and waiting. Yes, she’s pretty busy with her top rated TV show and all the awards she has to go pick up, but believe me … she’ll make time for you. The moment you officially enter the race she’s not only going to be on Saturday Night Live every week, but she’ll be a regular fixture on MSNBC and all of the late-night comedy gigs. Tina will be showing up on the small screen more often than you do yourself, and once again a large portion of the voting public won’t even be sure which one of you is real. By November of 2012 she’ll be worth more than Oprah and it will all be your doing. Is that what you want? I didn’t think so.
You’re going to lose
Allow me to apologize in advance if that final header is a bit on the blunt side, but it’s time to face up to some harsh realities here. President Obama should be vulnerable in the next election given the current arc of the economy, but his personal popularity and the power of incumbency still make him a formidable opponent. For a Republican to beat him it’s either going to take somebody who already holds enough popularity to finish the march to the finish line or a new face with a lot of room to grow in both name recognition and approval.
Sadly, you don’t fill the bill for either description. You have an impressive army of followers who are loyal to the bitter end, but that’s exactly what the end will be. There is virtually no one left in the country that hasn’t gotten to know you and formed an opinion, and there are no second chances at a first impression in this game. Your disapproval numbers are north of fifty and stubbornly show no signs of budging. If you run you’ll probably come close, but close won’t be good enough. The president knows he is in trouble politically and your best indicator of your prospects should come from looking at a boatload of those less than $200 “anonymous” contributions that have been mailed in to SarahPAC lately. (Hint — they’re coming from Obama.)
And if you lose, what then? You’ve got a great gig going right now, but people may very well stop flocking to the banner of somebody who has either lost or quit three executive level positions in a row. At that point the cash cow may well dry up and the fear factor you now wield will shrink along with it. Is the risk really worth the prize here?
So there you have it — a nickel’s worth of free advice from somebody who may not be one of your supporters, but truly wants to help in the spirit of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Barbara Bush wasn’t trying to insult you, Governor Palin. She was just trying to help.
But I will disagree with Mrs. Bush on one count. I don’t think you should stay in Alaska at all. It’s damned cold and mostly dark for half the year. Save up a bit more of that cash you’ve been stockpiling and buy yourself an island in the Florida Keys. Just be sure to spring for the extra hurricane insurance.