How Not To Play Basketball by Sarah Palin
Death happens in sets of threes. And political careers of Republican conservative politicians appear to be no exception. First we have Nevada Senator John Ensign’s admission of an extramarital affair that turned into something out of a soap opera, with the Senator’s aides accusing the husband of his former mistress of extortion by demanding a substantial cash payout. In order to end his nightmare, Mr. Ensign laid his adultery on the table for the world to see.
Second, we have South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who figuratively and courageously told his constituents to go to hell as he boldly went by his lonesome where no politician has ever gone before, at least while in office and without his entourage, to have a tryst with his mistress way, way, way south of the border in Argentina over the Father’s Day weekend.
And now we have our third. On the eve of Independence Day, traditionally a time when media attention is at a low point, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, with no fanfare, no pre-prepared remarks, and not much of an audience to witness the event, made an announcement that she would be stepping down as Governor. The lipstick wearing doppelganger for a pit bull is calling it quits after just thirty two months in office. And ever since the Republican National Convention when the Republican nominee Alaska Senator John McCain shrewdly bypassed all the politically qualified candidates to the wind and went with his gut to select the charismatic thrilla from Wasilla to be his vice presidential running mate, Ms. Palin’s attention has been on anything but being Governor.
To be fair, the past year has not been kind to Ms. Palin and her family. When she skyrocketed onto the national political stage, it was quickly made painfully obvious that Ms. Palin was not ready for the national spotlight. While it should be noted that no one is immune from making gaffs, Ms. Palin became a walking talking gaff machine. All attempts to keep her from media scrutiny backfired. The only thing she was allowed to say was her convention speech with the well worn and overused line that lipstick was the only distinguishing characteristic between a pit bull and a hockey mom. And when she did manage to break communication silence, the results were less than stellar. The interviews with CBS’s Katie Couric and ABC’s Charlie Gibson were not her shining moments of intellect or political sophistication, And Saturday Night Live comedian Tina Fey used Ms. Palin’s public appearances as inspiration for some of the best comedy on that show in years.
After the election, Ms. Palin’s appears in the news under headlines more suitable for the attention hounds of Hollywood than for a politician of vision. Ms. Palin has allowed herself to fall into heated public battles with Levi Johnston, the father of her grandson, and with late night television comedian David Letterman who crossed the line with a less than entertaining joke mocking her daughter’s appetite for sex. Ms. Palin has accepted two high profile speaking engagements only to bail out and then, on the flip side, she’s passed on Republican dinner invitations only to agree to appear at the last minute but refusing to take a high profile role by declining to give a speech. Even her creator Mr. McCain refuses to give her any thing resembling a political endorsement these days. And Ms. Palin has confessed to becoming increasingly unhappy with the unflattering media scrutiny regarding her battles with her state legislature and all of the ethics complaints filed against her.
Now all of this, and much, much more, would drive anyone to want a timeout to lick their wounds. But politicians, especially the kind that want the national attention of a national office, don’t want to just ride off into the sunset and fade away from existence.
But the timing of Ms. Palin’s retirement announcement only leads to more suspicion. To announce the step down on the Friday before the Independence Day holiday weekend will simply lead to more scrutiny. It leaves her with less than three years as Governor on her resume which is not a very strong argument to run for any national political office. This shoots a huge hole in all of her talk about looking like a pit bull. She doesn’t have the tenacity to run Alaska, how in the world will she convince the people that she has the resolve to run the presidency? It is interesting that the Alaskan Governor quits her job free of scandal and while she was still extremely popular in Republican circles. But South Carolina Mark Sanford, neck deep in scandal and more revolting than Michael Vick, at least for the moment, decides it’s in the best interest of his constituents that he stays in office. Go figure!
During the press conference Ms. Palin used another metaphor and presented herself as a point guard exhausted by the full court press attacking her on the national level. Ms. Palin said that she has driven through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket, and now finds it necessary to pass the ball so that her team can win. Ms. Palin admitted that some are going to question the timing. But after much prayer and consideration she said she asked the people who meant the most to her, her kids. She posed the question whether or not she should be a positive influence and fight for all our children’s futures from outside the Governor’s office? She said it was four yeses and one hell yeah. That one probably came from Bristol tired of being an easy lightning rod for her mother’s controversies.
If the basket in her analogy is indeed a life outside of government then Ms. Palin would probably have a much easier time than staying on as Governor. There is little doubt that her charisma and charm could work wonders as a fund raiser or as a political lobbyist. But if her plan was to for a higher profile political office then her strategy leaves much to be desired. A good basketball player knows when to pass the ball, but they never simply quit in the middle of the game.