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Sarah Palin: Crazy as a Clinton?

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.

Topics: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “Sarah Palin: Crazy as a Clinton?”

  1. Michael Weinmayr says at July 7th, 2009 at 8:40 am :
    I don’t see how the Clinton quote matches with your comment of “getting what we deserve”. I read his quote to say “An ex-president can focus on a few things. A president has to deal with a thousand things that change every day (Hurricane! Flu! North Korea!)”. How do you see “an obstacle to governing”?

  2. Joe Woods says at July 7th, 2009 at 8:47 am :
    Thank you for this. The real reasons for her turning over the governor’s desk to the Alaska Lt. Governor will probably never be clearly laid out by the media, because they are part of the problem and certainly not part of the solution.
    Just searching “Palin” on Twitter, I mostly saw comments like, “They roasted her on Hardball! I can’t wait for Countdown!”
    The possible consequences of this trend for the media to effectively exercise so much power over such a huge portion of the voting population are staggering. Luckily, there are so many sources for news that people who really want to know can find some of the truth. If the news industry continues to collapse upon itself and go the way of railroads and automobile manufacturers, then there won’t be a lot of little voices to examine and search for the whole truth – only one big Orwellian voice.

  3. Brian says at July 7th, 2009 at 9:47 am :
    @Michael – I don’t think Clinton was referring to natural disasters or global pandemics. I think he was referring to the extra-curricular nonsense that crowded his press conferences and public appearances for most of his presidency, but especially his second term. When he says “worry about today’s headlines diverting me,” I think Monica Lewinsky. Maybe I’m wrong. Regardless, it still raises the question – when does our “right to know” trump our “right to efficient government?”

    @Joe – I’m not so much concerned with the power of the media over the people here. That’s always been the case and always will be. The explosion of news sources doesn’t necessarily amplify their power as much as polarize it – those who truly want to know have easy access to enough sources that they can filter through the trash, but those who casually check-in on events will likely get the tabloid version (see this essay, written four years ago now, particularly the section entitled “Tools in the Toolbox”).

    My bigger concern here is the media’s effect on our leaders. It’s one thing to call a governor (or a president) to task on ethics violations during press conferences and such. It’s quite another to fill his/her daily agenda with the need to respond to salacious allegations or legal proceedings. We should be able to investigate the truth on one matter without excluding all other business for weeks or months…

  4. Jeff Porten says at July 8th, 2009 at 1:42 pm :
    You commit several logical fallacies in this post:

    1. The presumption that the most truthful assessment will be Palin’s own announcement. Seeing as how she flat-out lies about being acquitted on all ethics charges, there’s objective disagreement with that thesis right there. (Beyond that is a subjective question of whether you trust her; personally, I think the reasons not to are extensive, but probably boring to debate.)

    2 The subtext that “all politicians are the same” and “all scandals are the same.” I think this presumption is much more damaging than any scandal coverage could ever be.

    I think the statement that all of Palin’s stems from political backlash is whining about a self-inflicted injury — but is also unfalsifiable as I can’t produce the alternate universe where she didn’t run for national office, and was also pursued on ethics charges. My understanding is that most of the internal Alaskan politics would have proceeded regardless, but we just wouldn’t have cared here in the lower 48.

    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 this is the newsworthy question. Personally, I think Palin’s chances at national office were pretty damned low to begin with, so the news of her resignation is important solely as it pertains to the GOP’s continued self-immolation. Yes, I do think that it’s time for the 24/7 news media to start showing some editorial judgment (especially as that’ll be their sole distinction from Internet news reporting very shortly). But you seem to think that it’s the media’s fault that we all think that Palin is a craven, vain, uneducated idiot.

    My question: whose role is it, then, to present actual craven, vain, uneducated idiots to us in such a way that we can judge them properly?

  5. Brian says at July 9th, 2009 at 10:05 am :
    @Jeff – I’m fine with the media pointing out that Palin is craven, vain and uneducated, if she actually is all those things. It’s then up to us (through our courts, our legislative houses, or our voting booths) to take corrective action.

    What I’m not OK with is the media acting as judge and jury, deciding that because she’s craven, vain and uneducated, her full-time job should be to answer their questions, leaving Alaska without a governor.

    And again, lest you think this is a partisan thing, I said the same thing about the media when they took away our President during Monica-gate.

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