This is a few days old, but Sarah Palin is out at Fox News:
“After a three-year run as a paid contributor to the nation’s highest-rated cable news channel, Sarah Palin and Fox News have cut ties, according to a source close to the former Alaska governor.”
It almost seems passe to mock the one-time Alaska governor, but I can’t help but feel a little bad for her.
I actually quite liked Palin when she first entered the national scene. There was something quintessentially human and likeable about her.
I was impressed that she was a reformer. Whatever we might think of how her career progressed from 2009 on, an utterly unqualified dingbat probably would not have beaten the party establishment in a virtually one-party state.
She talked her way out of it, but I was thrilled that she once sported a Pat Buchanan presidential button. Could she be the non-interventionist social conservative the party needs? But what was she doing with John McCain?
In an interview in early 2008, before shooting to stardom, she expressed support for Ron Paul because, like her, he was “independent.” It wasn’t an official endorsement, but surely this was no ordinary politician either.
It is tempting to conclude that the moral of the Sarah Palin story is what could have been.
Palin is not a stupid woman. She did not actually say, “You can see Russia from my house!” but it aptly summarized how unprepared she was for the task given her.
It was not a foregone conclusion that her name would become synonymous with anti-intellectualism. In fact, Palin’s career of the last four and a half years is a testament to her superior political instincts. It’s those instincts that led her down the path she took.
No, the moral of the story is that the conservative movement is so intellectually bankrupt that a relative neophyte could swoop in, appeal to some of the fears of the base, and make millions from it until the cash cow dried up.
Her mid-2009 resignation was baffling, but did not in and of itself end her political career. For the sake of this post, I’ll take her at her word that she had good financial reason to quit a little more than halfway into her first term on account of frivolous lawsuits. But the two autobiographies she released were forgettable and she clearly did not spend any of the rest of her time out of office studying the nuts and bolts of the issues.
Had she emerged at the first candidates’ debate in 2011 knowledgeable and able to defend herself in a relatively uncontrolled environment, she could have gained (re-gained?) credibility. The Smart Politics Blog calculated that during her three years as a contributor at Fox, almost three-quarters of Palin’s infrequent appearances were with softballers Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren.
She was not dumb, but through a combination of intellectual laziness and lowest-common-denominator politics, this was the person Palin chose to be.
If there was a moment that personified this it was the writing on the hand.
It was the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville in early 2010 and it became a mainstream media laughingstock that Palin wrote some crib notes on her hand saying, “Energy,” Tax,” Lift American Spirits,” and “Budget Cuts,” which was crossed out.
This wasn’t much, but it was pretty unusual, especially for one criticizing President Obama for his dependence on teleprompters. But these were also pretty simple Republican talking points including energy, one policy area where, as an Alaskan, she had some authority to speak.
Again, it didn’t make her dumb, but it proved she was content, and well-compensated, to play a part in a political farce that was only talking-points-deep.
The damnable part wasn’t that she was unable to remember some simple Republican talking points. The damnable part is that all she had to do was recite a few simple talking points to be considered a leader of a major political party. Until her particular act wore thin, Palin was a suitable leader for a party now increasingly defined by tax “pledges,” corporatism, and purveyors of Kenyan anti-colonialism.
So the ride is over for Sarah Palin – at least for now. Outside of creating her own Glenn Beck-type internet network, it’s hard to see what sort of platform she could conceivably have. A political comeback could be in the cards someday, perhaps a US Senate seat, but breaking out of the ditzy persona, both given to and embraced by her, will be a long time coming.