There have been a number of seminal queries which our elders used to define game-changing moments in America’s cultural evolution. Where were you when JFK was shot? Where were you when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon? For me, although it will likely wind up as a Trivial Pursuit bonus round question, one of the treasured turning points may well be: Where were you when Sarah Palin decided to commit political suicide?
The odd thing is that I was up in the mountains, forcing myself into a period of decompression from the political theater. I likely wouldn’t have even known that Governor Palin had decided to resign her office had I not been taking time out from fruitless bass fishing to moderate the chat for Ed Morrissey’s daily show.
The first questions arose in a predictable pattern, since initial reports were grossly lacking in detail. The most horrific scenarios dominated: Was she sick? Was there some tragedy unfolding with her family? The second, and more likely scenario in my view, was that a clever reporter had finally unearthed a bit of discomfiture and asked the governor for comment. In that case, the pending resignation would prove to be a preemptive move to circle the wagons and prepare for the onslaught to come. When an elected official spends so much time and money fighting allegations of ethical misconduct, it should hardly come as a surprise if one of them stuck to the wall.
The one thing all of our chatizens seemed to agree upon was that it couldn’t possibly have been a calculated move to advance her hopes for a presidential bid. Governor Palin had shortcomings in abundance, but she was most certainly not daft or politically inept. No sane person in her position could possibly think that abandoning their first serious executive term in midstream would serve as a trump card on the national political stage. The most inept neophyte could not imagine that bowing to media and opposition pressure, exiting stage right, would set them up for a seat at the big table. Could she conceivably think that a few years as mayor of Wasilla and half a term in the governor’s mansion would be viewed as a sufficient resume to be president?
The more liberal viewers in our audience had an uncomfortable pause there. The current president’s resume was … well. Best not to dwell on that.
And yet the news unfolded like the dreams of a horse-track addict who still believes that the long shot will come through. I read Sammy “the Lid” Benoit’s accounting of her statement on that momentous day and it seemed that she really believed that this was the path to splendor. She had grown tired of the media’s relentless hounding, accusations of ethical lapses, and demands for repayment of perniciously squandered taxpayer funds. The pressure was too great. It was distracting her from her mission and the good citizens of Alaska deserved a full-time executive.
My vacation had, in an instant, collapsed. Had the governor no grasp on reality? Was she aware of the media blitz which greets Barack Obama each and every time he opens his mouth, makes an impromptu gesture or stray glance? If she was truly unprepared for the scorn of the press and the public in Alaska, how could she hope to survive in the firing range of the Beltway? Was there no person of substance advising her up there in the frozen North? Sad to say, it seemed that there was not, given her parting statement. She chose to spend a fair amount of ink on the various ethics allegations which have been raised.
Every one — all 15 of the ethics complaints have been dismissed. We’ve won! But it hasn’t been cheap — the State has wasted thousands of hours of your time and shelled out some two million of your dollars to respond to “opposition research” — that’s money not going to fund teachers or troopers — or safer roads. And this political absurdity, the “politics of personal destruction.” … Todd and I are looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills in order to set the record straight.
You know, if you’re hoping to set your standard on a hill of quality, you might not want to focus on how much of your time has been spent fighting investigations into your ethical lapses. Given the fact that the media will peer into each and every nook and cranny of your life, a term in the White House might not be your best bet if you choose to cut and run under the pressure of that scrutiny.
As with any tale so bizarre in nature, I suspect that a fair amount of time will pass before we grasp the full backstory and implications of Sarah Palin’s sudden departure. The rumor mill is already beginning to churn, with tales of federal agents seizing the records of one Spenard Building Supplies (SBS) construction company and asking uncomfortable questions about who exactly paid for Sarah and Todd’s fine house on the lake and how SBS got all of those fat government contracts. Among her most fervent supporters, hope springs eternal that this “enormous gamble” may yet turn out to be a “shrewd gambit.”
I’m not an authority on making book, but this looks like one gamble which will wind up just like the fate of the vast majority of people who head to Las Vegas to seek their fortune. But whether it turns out to be scandal and infamy or just the most awful career move in the history of politics, the result will almost certainly be the same. We are witnessing the first flames of reentry as the Alaska governor’s meteoric rise on the national stage heads toward its inevitable impact back on Earth.
Richard Mulligan, playing the role of Felix Farmer in Blake Edwards’ comedy classic S.O.B, had one wry observation for us on career paths which resemble comets. “Ah my friends, and all my foes, they give a lovely light.” Thanks for the show, Sarah. Perhaps our sweet adieu would be better lifted from Douglas Adams:
So long, and thanks for all the fisheries.