There are news graveyards and then there are news graveyards. Friday afternoons are always dumping grounds for bad or embarrassing news, but a press conference at 4 PM EST on a Friday afternoon that happens to be July 3 takes the cake. At that hour, as we were all in traffic or hoarding fireworks, the ridiculous burlesque that is Sarah Palin's career on the national stage may – may – have come to an end.
Certainly Palin knew that the story would have legs, but to hold a press conference that no one would watch suited her interests at this point. For those who watched, the conference did not dissapoint, showcasing the preternatural mastery of rhetoric we've come to love. In other words, the speech went nowhere, took forever to do so, and sounded as if written collaboratively by Ol' Dirty Bastard, Marcel Duchamp, and Wesley Willis. Thus she passes into history.
I took a semi-informed guess a few months ago that Palin was going to go down to defeat in her gubernatorial race in 2010. My rationale was:
People in the sticks love nothing more than when one of their own Makes It. And they hate nothing more than when their Superstar decides she is too good for them anymore.
As everyone scrambles to figure out Palin's grand strategy, this should not be understated. There was a very good chance that she was going to lose in 2010. That humiliation would cripple any chance she would have had to run for office again in the future. So I still believe that the simplest explanation for her decision is the best. She's getting out before something bad happens. No one expects her to disappear, though. What are her options now?
Well, she could set up a 2010 primary challenge for Lisa Murkowski's Senate seat. That strikes me as a horrendous idea with odds of success somewhere between Operation Ten-go and the Powerball lottery. Palin would need to start running, like, tomorrow. I question how she could quit her job, say she's done with politics, and get back into electoral politics in the span of two months. She's not exactly beloved in Alaska at the moment and, while Lisa Murkowski is a complete idiot, she has incumbency, money, and a lot less of a circus surrounding her than Palin.
She could be preparing for a 2012 run. She says she isn't, but everyone says "I'm not running" right up to the moment when they announce their candidacy. Even if Obama fails spectacularly I'm not sure voters would take Palin seriously enough to consider her a viable alternative. First impressions are important and hers could not have been worse if she shit her pants during the Couric interview. There are two enormous obstacles to a 2012 run. First, she quit. Current or former Governors like Jindal, Romney, Pawlenty, and Crist aren't going to have a hard time hammering her in a primary campaign. "Aww, after three whole years the job was too much for her." Second, in her classic Cartmanesque "I do wha I want" style she told no one of her decision in advance and explained herself to no one afterward. A lot of influential Republicans, including talking heads like Will and Rove, have expressed sentiments ranging from confusion to condemnation. Will summed her up as "a quitter."
The most likely option, of course, is that she cashes in. She seems like a complete whore (in the professional sense) who wants nothing more out of public life than money and attention. Talk radio, Fox News, and the winger lecture circuit beckon and they pay well. The book deals pay even better. She may have decided that keeping up the merest pretense of doing her job wasn't worth the effort. Why not just quit and do what she has been doing without being hassled by people who expect her to work? She should be able to milk a very lucrative living out of the irreducible twenty percenters who never abandoned George W. Bush.
Frankly I don't think she has left herself a lot of options. Her persona has become so tabloidy and she's playing up her victimhood to the extent that it has become nigh impossible to take her seriously, even among people who may have taken her seriously in 2008. Less than 24 hours after her Big Announcement she was threatening amateur bloggers with defamation suits (and for the record, said blogger isn't scared of this idiot). If that doesn't epitomize how Mickey Mouse the Palin operation is these days, I hate to see what will. It strains credulity to think that this is supposed to be a segue into a major presidential campaign. If that's what this is, it is a stunningly inept one. Shocking, I know.