Sarah Palin, a modern Cincinnatus?
Like the Denmark of Hamlet's time, the whole kingdom of the fourth estate contracted in one brow of woe at the unexpected news that Sarah Palin was resigning as Governor of Alaska. How could she? And on the day before the 4th of July, when plans to leave town were already set in stone! Not only that, she gave no advance notice of her press conference to the Important People who preside over the fate of nations: the pundits, newsrooms at The New York Times, CNN, etc., etc. -- no one knew, not Maureen Dowd, not Frank Rich, not Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric or even any GOP advisors who certainly ought to have been consulted.
What could it mean? Governor Palin leaving office before the end of her term -- handing over the reins of power to the Lieutenant Governor -- giving us no indication of what she had planned? What Machiavellian strategies were concealed behind that coiffed and smiling countenance? She said that she was sick of the "political bloodsport" that targeted her family, but what did she really mean?
The pundits were full of knowing speculation, though the announcement drove some to syntactical breakdown. Poor John Batchelor at The Daily Beast began his effusion with this train wreck:
The early excuse for the Republican circular firing squad of the holiday weekend is that Weekly Standard editor and party brainiac Bill Kristol claims that pugnacious McCain campaign enforcer Steve Schmidt has been caught gossiping to Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum about Sarah Palin’s rambling and incoherent vice-presidential campaign last September and October. (Now that Palin has announced her resignation from Alaska’s governorship, the late excuse for the fisticuffs will certainly be that the boys smelled a special mom baking an apple pie in the kitchen of the GOP and they got in line early with a plate and appetite.)
The Anchorage Daily News solemnly informed readers that
If Sarah Palin is stepping down as governor because she has national political ambitions -- and she did not say she intends to run for president -- her move did nothing to shake what GOP pollster Whit Ayers called "the 'lightweight' monkey on her back."
Oh, Mr. Ayers: say it ain't so!
"If you're a serious politician and you're seriously interested in higher office, the best thing you can do is as good a job as possible in the current office," Ayers said. "I suppose it frees her from the responsibility of a full-time job. It does nothing to enhance the image she has that she's not material for the president of the United States."
Hmm: "enhance the image she has that she's not material for the president of the United States"? Well, never mind. The crucial thing is that the Democrats were full of glee at this new example of "bizarre behavior."
Jonathan Martin at Politico thought Governor Palin's announcement was positively "jaw-dropping" and told his readers that the announcement "has divided Republican ranks and the wider political community in a very familiar fashion."
Many establishment GOP operatives and political commentators of various stripes were withering, both about the decision and the way she announced it — in a jittery, hyperkinetic news conference that rambled between self-congratulation and bitter accusations at the foes she says are eager to destroy her.
The performance, by these lights, adds credence to the claims of some associates that Palin — burned by the intense scrutiny on her and the crossfire that swirls around her — is so fed up that she's ready to get out of elective politics.