Rereading Sarah Palin's resignation speech, I realize that it's impossible to exaggerate it to the point of absurdity. It reaches that point on its own. "Our destiny [is] to be reached by responsibly developing our natural resources," she said. "This land, blessed with clean air, water, wildlife, minerals, AND oil and gas. It's energy! God gave us energy." Reading it over, you see it's peppered with exclamation points and odd capitalizations, all while making very little sense. She said that she wasn't going to "appease those who demand: 'Sit down and shut up,'" because that's the "quitter's way out." So it just naturally follows that she had to quit being governor. Only a quitter wouldn't quit.
At first, everyone (myself included) assumed that she was trying to get out in front of some looming scandal. The reasons she gave in her resignation speech were an unfair media and accusations "of all sorts of frivolous ethics violations." But that didn't make a lot of sense -- you don't leave an executive office because the job becomes difficult. If that were the case, no governor or president -- or even mayor -- would ever finish a term.
No. It had to be some sort of damage control. There wasn't any other logical explanation. But in Sarah Palin's world, logic isn't really a consideration.
"There is absolutely no truth to those rumors that we're investigating her or getting ready to indict her," said FBI Special Agent Eric Gonzalez, shooting down the looming scandal scenario. "It's just not true."
Of course, it may be that something is going on, that some sort of investigation is happening, just not by the FBI. But if Palin didn't resign because of some sort of Alaska-gate, then seriously, what the hell's the deal?
What the hell the deal is is that Sarah Palin is just plain odd. While I'm not ruling out the scandal explanation, the statement by the FBI definitely devalues it in my eyes. If she didn't resign to avoid the sort of "will she resign?" talk that follows Mark Sanford everywhere he goes, then she resigned because she's just flighty and bizarre.
Of course, it all depends on who you ask. I always have a little trouble reading right wing pundits; do they seriously believe what they're saying or are they just hoping I'm dumb enough to believe it? I suppose there's always a mix of both; the true-believers and the spin doctors. Some are applying typically stretchy logic, while others are just nuts.
"I think it's brilliant. And I'm baffled by people being baffled by it," said Ann Coulter. "Um, I mean, she's a huge, huge star. And meanwhile she's stuck up in Ulan Bator, she can neither respond to her many admirers who want her to come speak down in the Lower 48, and want her, you know, to be raising money for them, starting PACs, and being the voice of conservatism, which she is. She can't do that, or she'll be neglecting the state."
Coulter told FOX News that Palin is "a huge, huge star" and she had to quit the governorship because she's "too big for the position now."
Also at FOX. former Reaganaut Peter Ferrara writes that "Sarah Palin's resignation as Governor of Alaska is a brilliant liberating move for her career, and a potential turning point for the national conservative movement."
"The biggest problem with her responsibility as Governor of Alaska is that the state is so far away from the rest of America," he argues. "No one hears of the good work she has been doing there, and the left is free to paint their own false caricature of her. And because of the long distance and her family, as well as governing, responsibilities, she can't get down to the lower-48 enough to build her national political presence."
The piece is titled, "Sarah Palin Outsmarts the Left."
"[T]here's a parallel right-wing universe out there in which Palin is a victim not of her own incompetence but of a profoundly corrupt and vicious media, and being governor leaves her unable to defend herself against outrageous innuendos," writes Michelle Goldberg in a great piece at American Prospect. "In this universe, it is Barack Obama who is the shallow intellectual lightweight, helpless without his teleprompter. As he marches America toward socialism, and spineless Republican elites dither, the country cries out for a leader, a cry that sounds a lot like, 'SARAH! SARAH! SARAH!' Plenty of her supporters see her as a hero, a martyr, or both. Maybe she sees herself that way, too."
So my confusion over the right wing punditry may have a solution -- yes, they do believe the crazy stuff they're saying. And so do a significant number of Republican voters. A Rasmussen poll finds that 40% of Republicans believe that Palin's abrupt move doesn't hurt her presidential chances in 2012 and 24% believe it helps.
"In general, the higher a Republican voter’s income level and educational achievement, the more likely he or she is to think Palin’s decision to resign will hurt her bid for the GOP nomination," Rasmussen found. So the poorer and less educated the GOP voter is, the more likely it is that they'll think it was a good move. This is mirrored in the respondents' self-identification as "conservatives" -- 52% of moderates said resigning hurt her chances, while only 37% of conservatives thought the same. So, if you're the stereotypical undereducated, white-trash, talk radio-informed wingnut, the odds are good that you think this was just the smartest thing anyone ever did. Think Sarah Palin's a genius for resigning? Well, you just might be a redneck.
Which, of course, doesn't really explain Coulter or Ferrara. They're both conservative, but neither is hurting for money and neither lacks a scholastic career. I suppose they could be the outliers, the minority that doesn't match the trend. But the safer bet is that they're BS artists and spin doctors. They don't believe what they're saying, but they can't bring themselves to say anything critical of Palin after being such shameless apologists for her during the campaign.
In any case, if Palin does manage to swing the nomination in '12, the people who think this was the best strategy anyone ever came up with are in for a cold shower. The conservative voters aren't all voters. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, they aren't really even that many voters. The average voter will see this move -- and don't think it won't be an issue -- as strange and inexplicable, an example of inconsistency and unreliability. Most people will see Sarah Palin as what she seems to be; someone you can't count on when the chips are down, someone who folds when things get tough. That won't be that easy for the right wing punditry to spin away.
Not that they won't try.
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