By Brian | July 7, 2009 | Share on Facebook
Like many Americans, I was confused about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s sudden resignation last week. Turning to the Internet, my usually dependable series of newsfeeds did little to clarify my confusion. Almost no one linked to the actual statement that she made, choosing instead to quote portions of it, and then use some decidedly subjective terms to describe it. CNN called it “rambling [and ] often-disjointed.” US News & World Report called it “rambling, quirky and quixotic.” And the New York Times went with “breathless.” These are not the kinds of words I’m used to reading in news articles (as opposed to Op-Ed pieces or blog entries).
In any case, I Googled around and finally found the text of her remarks. Now, I think we’ve established a long time ago that Sarah Palin is not a good public speaker. Her statement is 2,546 words long, and“rambling” and “disjointed,” while subjective, are not bad descriptors after all. That said, those who claim to be confused about why she is stepping down either haven’t read it or are intentionally drumming up controversy that just isn’t there. Allow me to strip away as much of the fluff as I can and present her message in just 432 (of her own) words:
Some say things changed for me on August 29th last year – the day John McCain tapped me to be his running-mate – I say others changed. Let me speak to that for a minute.
Political operatives descended on Alaska last August, digging for dirt. The ethics law I championed became their weapon of choice. Over the past nine months I’ve been accused of all sorts of frivolous ethics violations – such as holding a fish in a photograph, wearing a jacket with a logo on it, and answering reporters’ questions. 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. And what about the people who offer up these silly accusations? It doesn’t cost them a dime so they’re not going to stop draining public resources – spending other peoples’ money in their game. It’s pretty insane – my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with this instead of progressing our state now. I know I promised no more “politics as usual,” but this isn’t what anyone had in mind for Alaska.
I will support others who seek to serve, in or out of office, for the right reasons, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all. Inside Alaska – or Outside Alaska. But I won’t do it from the Governor’s desk.
With this announcement that I am not seeking re-election… I’ve determined it’s best to transfer the authority of governor to Lieutenant Governor Parnell; and I am willing to do so, so that this administration – with its positive agenda, its accomplishments, and its successful road to an incredible future – can continue without interruption and with great administrative and legislative success.
My choice is . . . not hit our heads against the wall and watch valuable state time and money, millions of your dollars, go down the drain in this new environment. Rather, we know we can effect positive change outside government at this moment in time, on another scale, and actually make a difference for our priorities – and so we will, for Alaskans and for Americans.
It hurts to make this choice but I am doing what’s best for Alaska.
Now, whether you believe her or not is a separate issue. Personally, I don’t think she’ll run for higher office, and if she does, I think she’ll lose by a significant margin. The left has deemed her a national joke and the right (with the exception of the far right, who are happy to defend anyone who shares their values at this point) sees her as unqualified and/or unprepared.
Nonetheless, when you strip out the constant commercials for Alaska and her needless string of analogies and folksy sayings, the reason she stepped down seems very clear: the celebrity status that the media bestowed upon her when McCain picked her as the VP nominee turned ugly – far uglier than she expected or could handle. It was hurting her and her family personally, and making it impossible to do her job.
Does this speak to her ability to hold national office? Perhaps. It may also speak to our seemingly unabashed willingness to run public officials out of town on a rail if we don’t deem them qualified for office. What does it say about usthat Sarah Palin can’t stand the heat and decided to get out of the (political) kitchen? And if you don’t care, ask yourself this: what about Howard Dean? Colin Powell? CondoleezzaRice? Regardless of our particular political persuasion, I think it should give us pause that we’re willing to pound on our public officials so hard and so often that it literally consumes their worlds, leaving them no (perceived) choice but to resign office and attempt to affect change from the private sector.
Before the last Presidential election, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show asked former President Bill Clinton what he found more effective – working in government or working in private industry. Here is what President Clinton had to say:
I think I’ll have to live a long time before I can do as much good as a former President as I did as a President . . . because, when you’re President, you can get up every day and really do things that affect millions of people. On the other hand, you can also be paralyzed by events. So, when you’re a former President, you can have a bigger impact in a narrower field. You can . . . say, I’m gonna work on these three or four things, and I don’t have to worry about today’s headlines diverting me.
Are we not just getting what we deserve here? Have we turned national politics into ‘just another reality show” to such an extent that capable, qualified people see us (and, by extension, the press) as an obstacle to governing? And if so, is that really what we want?
Barack Obama seems to thrive on media attention in much the same way that Bill Clinton used to. But then again, Clinton’s press went from “celebrity” to “scoundrel” by the end of his second term. How will President Obama react when all the news stories on a given day are about an administration scandal, or a failed policy, or (heaven forbid) an extra-marital affair? Will he turn it to his advantage, as he did in the campaign with Reverend Wright, for example? Or will he conclude, as Gov. Palin did, that spending his time defending every word and action prevents him from governing? Then what?
Look – I enjoy Tina Fey as much as the next guy. She’s hilarious. But when the caricature leaves Saturday Night Live and enters the front page/lead story of our news media, what exactly are the consequences?
After all, you know the old saying, it’s all fun and games until someone loses a governor.