Monday, July 6, 2009

Do not underestimate this woman

Soon after John McCain chose Sarah H. Palin as his vice presidential running mate late last summer, my wife and I went to dinner at a long-time friend’s house in Washington. Our host, as he met us at the door, said that he understood I might have a different opinion of Palin than others who were there, which I agreed might be possible. After dinner, he asked for my assessment with obvious anticipation.

Here’s what I remember saying: “Sarah Palin is in charge of a state with several large agencies and departments. She served on one of the most important, the oil and gas commission. She also defeated a much more experienced politician in the Republican gubernatorial primary and got the state legislature to rewrite his agreement backing a huge natural gas pipeline with much more favorable terms. I saw her last winter when she chaired the Natural Resources Committee meeting at the National Governors Association’s winter meeting here. She seemed smart, with a no-nonsense attitude. Do not underestimate this woman.”

It would be an understatement to say that a lively discussion followed. Some of these folks were the very “inside the beltway” types who Palin may have suspected were out to get her. They certainly sounded that way that summer evening last year. A few might be saying now that Palin’s July 3 speech announcing her resignation as governor confirms that she’s not only an intellectual and political lightweight but also a quitter.

I’m not so sure. Her speech, which is posted online at, was not thought out. She obviously did not confer with her staff or others in the state government before delivering it. They expected her to say she would not stand for re-election. They did not anticipate that she would resign by the end of the month.

“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,” she said. “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 . . . 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,” Palin declared.

So she has decided to walk away now and regroup. “My choice is to take a stand and effect change, 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,” she said.

It reminded me of Richard M. Nixon, two years after he lost the presidential election to John F. Kennedy when he ran for California governor in 1962 and lost to Edmund G. “Pat” Brown. Nixon even lashed out at the press in an often quoted statement which was supposed to be his political obituary. But he also started campaigning for other Republican candidates and rebuilt enough political capital that he won the GOP presidential nomination in 1968 and the election itself a few months later.

Palin may be thinking of doing something similar. She will need to develop much more political discipline and learn to stay “on point” when she responds to questions. She also will have to expand her expertise beyond energy and national security. But she already has a loyal group of followers which could grow if she successfully reinvents herself. It’s far from certain that this would be enough to secure her the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. But it could be big enough for her to be a major force in the next Republican administration. I wouldn’t be surprised if she became its Interior secretary.

She may be retreating and regrouping, but she doesn’t plan to go away. Do not underestimate this woman.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Her lack of command of foreign and domestic issues not relating to oil, alaska, or john mccain indicate that she is not suited to hold office at a national level. Much stronger republican candidates exist.

July 9, 2009 at 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Lack of command of foreign and domestic issues is not a major hurdle for someone with adequate intelligence and initiative. The real issue for many is that she didn't attend Harvard or Yale. Which by my yardstick, makes her more acceptable.

July 15, 2009 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger allan said...

Petroleum could have no better friend than Sarah Palin. She is the only credible alternative to Obama in 2012. Let's put our differences aside and support Sarah.

July 16, 2009 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger on-the-rocks said...

We can just look around to see the mayhem that has been caused by elistists and their attitudes and practices.

As she is not an elitist, she is open to learning new things. Hopefully, after the family gets some of those legal bills settled, she will set about "filling in the gaps" in her knowledge.

In contrast to John McCain, she is not caught up in the Anthropogenic Global Warming hysteria.

July 17, 2009 at 4:31 AM  
Anonymous Karl said...

Sarah Palin energized John McCain's campaign because she provided the Republican social conservatives ... who were not very enthusiastic about John ... with a person who they felt represented their interests ... anti-abortion, pro-Evangelical Christianity, anti-Federal government. I believe that a reasoned, fact-based, scientific approach to solving our energy challenges would be better served by a political leader who can articulate the hard truth to both sides (we need oil and gas but it is not the only answer) and a path forward ... than by a divisive personality who knows much less about oil and gas energy than people give her credit for. She is not what we need.

August 10, 2009 at 1:47 PM  

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