For Palin, rules have never applied

July 9, 2009


Palin supporter

politicoMatthew E. Berger covered Palin’s vice presidential campaign as an embedded reporter for NBC News and National Journal. He is the author of a book on Palin’s campaign and political future, scheduled for release in the fall by Wiley.  The article originally appeared on Politico.com. The views expressed are his own.

Standard Washington political rules state that any presidential aspirants must finish out their term, write a book, travel to Iowa and New Hampshire, and start talking policy. Any deviation from the norm suggests political suicide, and many analysts have spent the past few days writing Sarah Palin’s political obituary.

But Palin never learned the rules, and she certainly doesn’t play by them. Palin has her own set of rules, which minimizes the expertise of political veterans and relies almost entirely on her gut. As times got tough during her vice presidential campaign, Palin began to ignore the advice of those around her and started doing the things she relied on to win in Alaska, specifically directly attacking her critics and speaking more to local media. Whether her small-town politics translated well to the national stage didn’t seem to register with her.

And under her personal guidelines, Friday’s announcement makes sense. The timing and her unscripted words — full of metaphors of basketball and fishing — made clear the decision had been reached without full consultation or preparation with political advisers. Palin had decided on a path, consulted few outside her family and moved forward.

Certainly, Palin’s decision to resign stems in large part from frustration over how her identity has changed in the past 11 months. Her allies in Alaska and Washington say she seemed unhappy in recent weeks, exasperated by the negative media attention and her inability to effect change in Juneau. Her combative tone with Levi Johnston and David Letterman suggested a woman thinking more about her family than her political future. Palin’s mother even told friends and neighbors she did not know how much more the governor could stand.

Once Palin chose not to run for reelection, she likely calculated there was no reason to stay. Before she was the darling of social conservatives, Palin was the ethics reformer who beat an incumbent governor of her own party by speaking out against corruption and gubernatorial largesse. That character was who John McCain thought he was getting as a running mate, and Palin never relinquished her title as a reformer. In her mind, lame ducks are bad and prone to malfeasance, and therefore she shouldn’t be one.

Palin has always run toward those who are cheering the loudest for her, ignoring and angering allies and backers who helped her along the way. When she ran for mayor, it was social conservatives. As a gubernatorial candidate, it was those seeking good government. And because the anti-abortion community flocked to her vice presidential rallies, she quickly forgot she had been recruited by McCain to appeal to Hillary Clinton moderates.

Increasingly, Palin’s base of support has been outside Alaska. Republicans never worked well with her because she didn’t court them and often ran against their interests. Democrats who liked her a year ago now see her as the national embodiment of the Republican right. Palin needs to be where they will cheer her name. And that’s why she’s leaving the governor’s mansion. By hosting a talk show or giving speeches, she can surround herself with those who speak her language and she can bask in their support. It will likely be enough to give her a sense of confidence that she can win over the entire Republican Party as a candidate for president in 2012.

Palin earned a public reputation as a fighter, given her bouts with political enemies and media naysayers. But privately, she is quick to retreat when things get tough. On the vice presidential campaign trail, she would lower her head and ignore advisers during the bad days, blaming others for her mistakes. She was also quick to retreat, both in college and as a state oil and gas commissioner, when reality did not meet her expectation. It has worked for her before, positioning her for future, higher office. So why not do it again?

Just because Washington experts don’t see how Palin can go from one shortened term as governor to the White House doesn’t mean she doesn’t see it. Palin’s career has been marked by quick, unorthodox decisions that have often worked out well for her. In her calculations, only when she listened to Washington has she stumbled.

© 2009 Capitol News Company, LLC

(Pictured above: A man holds a guitar with Governor of Alaska, and former Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin’s last name written on it at America’s Tea Party held at Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas July 4, 2009. Organizers say the event is an effort to work against further government expansion, bailouts and irresponsible elected officials. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

24 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

We are about to find out whether, on aggregate, the US is really just another Wasilla, AK.

Posted by spamalot | Report as abusive

The public is tired of hearing so many stories about Mrs. Palin. Let the woman and her family disappear into anonymity in peace.

Posted by Sanna | Report as abusive

Support for Governor Palin scares me because, like George Bush, Governor Palin makes no sense when she talks, and yet, half of America doesn’t seem to notice. If she were coherent and radically conservative, she wouldn’t worry me. But she rambles incoherently and still people think they hear what they want to hear. Does half of America have some sort of audio-processing disability?

Posted by June Wolfman | Report as abusive

“Standard Washington political ‘rules’” are the reason why this government is totally out of control. The rules you refer to are really just accepted standard operating procedure – aka, people pleasing. What is refreshing about Sarah Palin is that she is operating from transparent, personal conviction. She is REAL. What is interesting is that those who disagree with her are scared to death of her! As evidenced by the flagrant bias of their ‘coverage’. You who analyze Palin and see all negatives just don’t seem to get it, do you? You assume she must behave like other politicians. Get a clue – people who are sick of the political people pleasing don’t want her to be like the others! I believe Sarah Palin is going to continue to make a positive difference in America.

Posted by Carl Peklenk | Report as abusive

If we could have passed a hat to raise enough money to get Palin to quit, we could have raised twice as much as she’s getting from National Inquirer or what other pulp fiction publisher she finds. I don’t mind her being a rebel and I even respect her for breaking away from Grandpa Cain. What I don’t like, is her blatant ignorance about the war, her moronic support of Bush politics, and her lack of ideas. Have you been to Alaska? Anyone can run for office in Alaska, and she is proof. Bush and the politicians that condoned his behavior will go down in infamy as the traitors of our generation and Palin would have joined them. OJ is in Prison, Bush is out of office, and Palin is out of politics; things look pretty good.

Posted by John Watson | Report as abusive

sarah palin will be the official mascot/cheerleader for the republican party specifically she will rally the evangelical and extreme right persuasion in the up-coming elections. i see palin’s role to convince the evangelicals and the extreme right to support romney in 2012. i really don’t see palin running for the any office.

Posted by karl w. | Report as abusive

I do find it ironic that many of the very same people who are criticizing her for “abandoning” the state are the people who most venomously wanted her gone.

Posted by Irish Girl | Report as abusive

I understand her when she speaks. I resonate with what she has to say. I wish her well.

Posted by Stephen | Report as abusive

“It’s all for the state. For me personally, it’s extremely tough to make a decision and an announcement like this because I love my job and I love Alaska. This is who I am. This is what I am”…Governor Sarah Palin

Standing in Sarah Palin’s way is political suicide, and you’ll have to forgive me for wishing that fate on the 2010/2012 Democratic ticket.

Posted by LA Firefighter | Report as abusive

If Sarah Palin is the best that the GOP can come up with in 2112,God help the Republican party.

Posted by Dane Rogers | Report as abusive

@ Sanna: we are trying to forget her but she won’t go away.

Posted by Michelle | Report as abusive

I just want to say that I agree with June Wolfman’s comment on Sarah Palin 100%. Every time Sarah Palin talks in public, I feel uneasy for her. I have an “Oh No” feeling – “what is she rambling about” kind of feeling. Her talk seems to beat around the bush and not gets to the point with grace and crisp, even with her nice smile.

Posted by Chhunly Auk | Report as abusive

Dane, it would appear the Republicans are out of luck. Either there is no “God” as I believe or if I’m wrong, “God” is not listening. Perhaps it is the American people who need the help. In my book the Democrats just slipped right of center and are indistinguishable from the old Republicans.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Attack! Attack!

she’s a Woman, she’s a Republican, shes a Conservative,

shes Beautiful, shes got a Family, she’s Pro Life,

she’s got a son in Iraq,and she’s from Alaska,

she’s anti government debt,oh and she’s American.

Attack! Attack!

Right?

Posted by Ian | Report as abusive

Now what we need here in America, is 5000 more citizens like Sarah Palin, whom want to cut gov, cut spending, & cut taxes. The end game, Return America back to the PEOPLE…………..GOD BLESS HER & the USA

Posted by BillW | Report as abusive

Better than the usual slanderous ridicule that mainstream media servers us on Sarah.

Jesus, it is hard to believe the shameless, brazen, corruption of our mainstream media.

Having worked in the legislature as an analyst and a professional and being around these politicians for over 3 years, I can tell you point blank, here is what I see in Palin;

1. She is courageous like no other politician out there with the exception of Ron Paul whom she supported in the primary. But she is even more courageous than he was.

2. She is downright simply brilliant. She cut Joe Biden off at the knees right from the beginning by walking up to him on camera and with full audio and said “Hi, may I call you Joe?” with that sweet grin on her full face…. I almost fell out of my chair…

That stopped Biden in his tracks. He could not say anything untoward about her after that or he would have looked like a smo….

Then, during the debate, when he would attack McCain she would nicely and folksily state the truth and put Biden on the defensive. SHE WAS BRILLIANT. I love how she is being underestimated and will be her strength.

3. Finally, she has integrity. She resigned for the obvious reasons, but I think she knows something that she doesn’t like about the plans these neocons from a foreign country have planned for us that will literally destroy our nation.

Read her speech…. she alludes to it and Alaska’s critical position between the US and Russia and Alaska’s airspace and its importance for US security. She mentions these things several times in her speech.

It tells me she is outside the system because I believe the system is aiding in treason to get us into a money making war that will kill millions of us and cost taxpayers trillions in rebuilding that will go into the pockets of those damn bankers.

I am sick of them and I bet she is too. So, lets see what she has on the agenda. I hope I am right on this as I see her as a true leader/patriot who would give all for her country and her integrity is impressive. She did clean house so far in both the mayors office and as governor. WE NEED THAT HOUSECLEANING IN THIS CORRUPT AND TREASONOUS, DOMESTIC ENEMY GOVERNMENT IN THE WHITE HOUSE RUN BY FOREIGN COUP MAKERS.

Posted by Pepper | Report as abusive

June Wolfman asks:
“Does half of America have some sort of audio-processing disability?” Perhaps June Wolfman is really not as smart as she hopes to be and that is why she is not understanding Sarah Palin? This may also be the explanation why insults half of the American population with her question!

Posted by Christian Konow | Report as abusive

If Palin is any form of politician, good or bad, she would at least be capabile of forming coherent arguments with facts/evidence supporting her causes. However, during the last campaign all that Sarah Palin was capable of doing was rally far right Republics who enjoy being spoonfed politics and idealogies like children. The results of her idiotic ramblings, uneducated estimations, and foolish trust in Bush policies effectively filled over 50% of the country’s population with a resounding sense of disapointment in their nation’s leadership. If the old men who actually call the shots for the Republican party actually think they can win elections by using 1960′s sexual politics with absolutley no legitmate grounds for a particular candidate (Palin) to hold that office, they will surely be proven mistaken. I trust that Americans are smart enough to keep any candidate on par with Palin out of office.

Thank goodness she realized that she is not conditioned/qualified for high government office and stepped down before her rambling and rallying actualy affected any individual’s lives. She stands no chance in the next election, unless June is right and our country does suffer from disalibility.

Posted by Todd | Report as abusive

I watched Joe Scarborough being interview by Peggy Noonan on C-SPAN yesterday. Scarborough, of course, believes the Republican Party as now constituted is not representative of true conservatism. He believes nearly all politicians of both parties follow the party line which leans toward radical change rather than dealing with reality. Sarah Palin has shown that dealing with reality works. She is pragmatic while holding to her fundamental principals. In Alaska if you are not pragmatic mother nature will rise up and bite you!

Posted by Dan Hoadley | Report as abusive

Pepper,
She’s an outspoken Bush supporter, no possible way she’s brilliant. You’re right our gov’t is corrupt and treasonous, is under Obama, was under Bush, so supporting Bush makes her the same slimeball scum that’s everywhere else in Washington.

I’d waive every right I had to voting in our trash democracy if we could make Ron Paul dictator.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

What sara palin thinks, feels or believes is inconsequential. She is in a private world of thought, motivated by forces out of awareness, even to herself, let alone advisors & confidants. Without grounding in mindful awareness, self-reflection and humility, What she does to quote shakesphere in part,” is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets her hour on the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
But at least a third of all Americans love a good drama;
it helps them forget the meaninglessness of their own!

Posted by steve | Report as abusive

On July 10th John Watson posted, in part, “Have you been to Alaska? Anyone can run for office in Alaska, and she is proof.” Yes, John, Mrs. Palin is proof that in Alaska our representative democratic system of government does indeed work. This is still the good old USA and being elected to public office is not restricted to high-browed liberals or to the members of some twisted pseudo-nobility meeting your particular set of standards. Generally speaking, anyone who is old enough and can prove he/she is an American citizen (hmm… can of worms for someone) is eligible to run for elected office. Get used to it.

Posted by Eric Padilla | Report as abusive

Matthew you should used to the fact that Democracy is not about the best choice. Democracy is all about popular choice. I scared of uneducated beauty queen who became governor, ran for VP and suddenly quit public office. I also scared of populist President who throws out $100,000,000,000′s on social programs and gives free ride to banks, corporations and their executives who brought economy on verge of collapse.

Posted by Sergey | Report as abusive