Saturday, July 4, 2009

Trying to Figure Out Palin's Motives

Today is Independence Day.

In some places, there may be writers who are reflecting on the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but it seems that nearly everyone is speculating instead about what Sarah Palin's announcement yesterday that she intends to resign as governor of Alaska really means.

I guess it is inevitable that some people see her decision as a precursor to a presidential campaign in 2012. The arguments, both pro and con, are compelling, but none are persuasive — yet.
  • In Palin's home state, Erika Bolstad of the Anchorage Daily News writes that the announcement "did nothing to shake what GOP pollster Whit Ayers called the 'lightweight' monkey on her back."

  • Be that as it may, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek writes that, in Palin's speech, he heard the opening shots being fired in the 2012 campaign for the presidency.

  • Jay Newton–Small offers, in TIME, some reasons why he believes Palin made this move, but he acknowledges that "[i]f her goal is to position herself for higher office, the stagecraft and timing of her announcement left Republicans scratching their heads."

  • Jim Geraghty of National Review didn't hear the opening shot of the race for the GOP nomination. Geraghty observes that he was skeptical about Palin seeking the presidency in 2012 before yesterday's announcement, and he is even more skeptical now.

    "[T]he moment she expresses an interest in a presidential bid," he writes, "every rival, Republican and Democrat, will uncork the ready–made zinger: 'If elected, would she serve the full four years, or quit sometime in the third year again?' "
That will certainly be an effective argument — assuming Palin does not, as I wrote yesterday, seek another office in Alaska in the interim. But if she does run for the House or the Senate, even if the campaign is unsuccessful, it will, at the very least, give her an opportunity to polish her response to that kind of criticism.
  • And Geraghty is quick to point out that he doesn't think the door to the presidency is completely closed for Palin. He cites three examples from recent history.

    "People thought Richard Nixon was through after the 1960 election. When Ronald Reagan failed to dislodge President Ford in 1976, people thought he had blown his best chance at the presidency. People thought Bill Clinton destroyed his political future with an endlessly long–winded speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention."

    It is worth noting that, in spite of those initial public verdicts, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton each went on to be elected president twice.

  • Ed Morrissey writes, at Hot Air, that it was "easily the most bizarre resignation I've seen, and just about senseless."

    He adds that "[t]he lame–duck explanation was the most incoherent part of the entire statement." In fact, he contends that she "destroyed her own credibiity in a single day."

  • Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times observes that, even for an "unconventional politician" in changing political times, it's a tough move to comprehend. Is it a timeout or a flameout?

    "On the other hand," he writes, "in this political age, 60 months ago who'd have predicted a little–known state senator out of the Chicago political machine with a proclivity to vote 'Present' would be a U.S. senator, let alone the White House occupant?"
But, if some observers are bewildered by Palin's decision, others are not.
  • John Batchelor is certain, in The Daily Beast, that yesterday's announcement makes Palin the front–runner for the 2012 nomination.

  • On the other hand, Jazz Shaw is absolutely convinced, at Pajamas Media, that Palin has committed "political suicide."

  • Dan Balz of the Washington Post sees it as further evidence that "one of America's most unconventional politicians" is "following an unpredictable path to an uncertain future."
Well, truth be told, the future is uncertain for everyone. After all, a year ago on Independence Day, how many people outside of Alaska had ever heard of Sarah Palin? Today, the whole country knows who she is.

For that matter, things are changing rapidly in America, and the conventional wisdom is not proving to be as valid as it once was.

It was once thought that a college education was a ticket to a lifetime of security, but today you will find as many college graduates as high school dropouts seeking employment in low–paying jobs.

It was once thought that newspapers could survive any economic downturn, but today the news business is collapsing before our very eyes, and it is quite likely that, before the year is over, there will be major cities across America that have no newspaper at all.

So who knows what will happen? Who can say, with any certainty, that he or she knows what is going through Palin's mind or whether her strategy (if that is what it is) is correct?

Time will tell. A mere 24 hours after Palin's out–of–the–blue announcement is not enough time. Let's give it more time and see what happens.

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