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.
The findings suffused many with the picture of a small town politico who had quickly mastered all of the shadier aspects of political fortune hunting without learning the tough lessons of duck and cover your posterior required for warfare on the Hill. Should she break cover for a future assault on political fame, opposition research teams shall be fully locked and loaded.
So what does the future hold for our intrepid heroine? I have heard the impassioned pleas for her to run for the top spot from my starboard leaning friends. “Sarah Palin 2012” T-shirts are now flying off the shelves like hotcakes even in places bereft of rudimentary flapjack technology. Others are calling for the Great White North Pitbull to appoint herself as a member of the Senate if convicted felon Ted Stevens hangs onto his slim lead and can’t serve due to prior commitments — with the screws in the penitentiary. The more deranged fans in the middle seem to feel she should hover in the governor’s mansion for a time and then charge back for a new strike on Washington, perhaps with Bobby Jindal playing second fiddle to her nouveau Reagan first chair.
To each of these groups I would urge caution. In the short time we’ve known Governor Palin, the media has begun assembling a treasured collection of video and audio gold. Her interviews have been disastrous to all but the most die-hard worshipers. In the inevitable night of the long knives following Big Mac’s concession, the Arizona senator’s senior aides have begun spinning tales out of school regarding diva performances and extravagant luxuries that would make Caligula blush. In a candid moment on the tarmac, awaiting her exit from the field of battle, Palin was asked about her plans for the next election and responded, “2012? That sounds like years from now.” Her ardent fans should step back for a moment and realize that Sarah is the verbal equivalent to Gerald Ford’s golf game.
So let us ask ourselves once again, what should the future hold for Sarah Palin? Perhaps it is best to go back to being a large salmon in a small creek, making the best use of the well-honed skills and pork-gobbling propensities which once vaulted her to a record-setting approval rating. Had she been given more time to fine tune her craft, those weapons may well have been trained on a Washington establishment which would have withered under the tracer fire. The fallout of this election, however, has left the beautiful bird with clipped wings and a load of baggage which would likely trip her up in a terminal fashion at the next dance. Sarah Palin’s moment came too soon and the bright lights of the beltway bandits burned off her plumage.
Best of luck, Governor, but Washington doesn’t suffer electoral losers gladly. Your best future likely lies north of the lower 48.