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November 3, 2008

Sarah Palin a Disaster, But Who Will Remember?


Did Sarah Palin really say that criticism of her statements constituted an assault on her First Amendment rights?


She did indeed.


It’s a bit late in the campaign to make much of this, and in fact the presidential campaigns have entered for all intents and purposes a period where they are operating on ground game strategy-guided autopilot. The question that looms is what will happen to the everywoman hockey mom who blew onto the national stage in September.


Predicting that she plans to stick around is kind of like predicting that in a couple of months it’ll be colder in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s something that basically everyone expects to happen, because she shows every inclination to try to carve out a national presence rather than returning to Alaska politics.


Historians will probably, unless something dramatic and unexpected happens Tuesday, identify the selection of Sarah Palin as the moment John McCain lost. Although it appeared for a few days that the 2008 campaign might be a repeat of the 2000 and 2004 campaigns and be driven by narratives about things of contemptible unimportance, the economy picked an opportune moment to collapse.


At a time when people were worried about their retirement portfolios, Palin’s candidacy was exposed for the crass political gambit that it was.


The reminders have continued since then. There were the disastrous interviews, which included any time anyone asked her an unscripted question, and there was the debate in which she declared her intention to not answer any questions except those she asked herself.


She then loosed herself on the campaign trail, whipping up rage and hatred at McCain rallies that prompted boos for McCain himself when he tried to simmer it down.


As the dust settled from these, it was revealed that the everywoman hockey mom from rural America was the beneficiary of a donor-funded spending spree to the tune of more than $100,000.


She told a third grader that the vice president runs the Senate, an interpretation that not only defies American history but the analysis of basically every normal constitutional scholar. That brought us to last week’s declaration that criticism that she had made the presidential campaign too personal and negative was an assault on her First Amendment rights.


If you combine those two, in fact, what you come away with is a vice-presidential candidate who believes she should do whatever she wishes to do as vice president and who is not subject to criticism in the nation’s media.


It’s breathtakingly ignorant, arrogant and also dangerous.


The problem is that time has a way of glossing over these things. In fact, this was one of Hillary Clinton’s strengths this year. She’s been in the public eye for so long and absorbed so many hits from her political opponents that it was literally impossible to come up with something that might break through the, “Oh, yes, you hate Hillary Clinton . . . yawn” barrier.


It could be that Palin finds enough support in what remains of the Republican Party to keep her chances limping along, through the years, until people feel charitable enough toward her to forget the horrifying performance she gave this year and she becomes experienced enough not to repeat it. The media’s institutional memory is short enough to forget all by the worst errors.


If rumors are true that Palin is first and foremost about herself, then she already possesses the most important qualification to serve in the presidency – she really, really wants it. The race doesn’t usually go to the smartest or the most experienced, but instead to the one who wants it most. 


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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