Monday, July 6, 2009

OMG! A Palin-Sanford Ticket For 2012

If I were South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, I would stroll down to the store, select a Hallmark card and mail it to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you for getting me off Page One and the cable news networks."

Or, as Maureen Dowd in her Sunday column in The New York Times wrote:

"As Alaskans settled in to enjoy holiday salmon bakes and the post-solstice thaw, their governor had a solipsistic meltdown so strange it made Sparky Sanford look like a model of stability."

Amazing, isn't it, that Americans facing staggering economic debt, an impossible mission in Afghanistan, tricky diplomacy in Honduras and nuclear showdowns with North Korea and Iran, all we can talk about are two nutty governors.

Here we have one governor who thinks outside the box, if not the universe, and insists she do it her way on a path some think will lead her to the White House. The other governor is remorseful, smitten with puppy love, that betrayed his wife and four sons and practices atonement at the expense of all other 11 steps for recovering addicts.

Both are so narcissistic it would make Oedipus blush.

As for Palin, we have to dig deep into the Republican conservative bowels where we find Weekly Standard editor William Kristol say Sarah is "crazy like a fox." Here's Kristol on Monday's Today show.

What's incredible is that Kristol maintains it doesn't matter what other conservatives think about Palin, "they aren't going to support her anyway." I say: If not them, than who?

On the Sunday talk shows, Karl Rove, President Bush's political advisor, said Palin's decision to quite the governorship was "risky strategy." Former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, said leaving office early doesn't make conventional sense. "She marches to the beat of her own drum, and it's going to be very interesting to see how she pulls this off," Rove said.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa whose state traditionally hosts the first nominating contest of the presidential campaign, called the move "astounding." "I would think that if you want to run for president — and I'm not sure that's got anything to do with what she's doing — that the forum of a governorship would be a better forum than just being a private citizen," Grassley said. "I have no insight into why she did it."

Even her rival during the last election, Vice President Joe Biden, seemed confused by the move. "It maybe had a lot to do with what the state of their life was, and the state of their family, et cetera," Biden said. "So I'm not going to second-guess her."

Here's the guessing game account on Palin, courtesy of MSNBC's First Read:

So much for an uneventful July 4 holiday weekend, huh? The news Friday that Sarah Palin not only won’t run for re-election in 2010 (which wasn’t much of a surprise), but would also be resigning from office later this month (a complete shocker) was the latest drama to surround the former Republican presidential running mate. The questions on everyone’s mind: Does this mean she WON’T be running for president in 2012? Or WILL she be running? And if so, does resigning 2 ½ years into her first statewide political term strengthen her hand or seriously weaken it? Well, in a July 4 posting on her Facebook page, she sure sounded like someone with dreams of the Oval Office dancing in her head. “[T]hough it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make,” she wrote. Palin also fired off this Twitter message yesterday: "Critics are spinning, so hang in there as they feed false info on the right decision made as I enter last yr in office to not run again..."

When she wrote that it’s “honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling,” Palin might very well have been referring to Obama, who began running for president just after two years into his first U.S. Senate term. But there is one big difference between the two: Obama’s national reputation was pristine from the moment he gave that 2004 convention speech to his presidential announcement, while Palin’s image (after the Bristol-Levi breakup, the feud with David Letterman, and that devastating Vanity Fair piece) is more of mixed bag. On Sunday, the New York Times also compared her decision to resign to Richard Nixon’s exodus from politics before winning the ’68 presidential election. But the difference between the two is that Nixon served eight years as vice president, two years as a U.S. senator, and four years as a congressman, while Palin has served in statewide office for just 2 ½ years. Indeed, Palin’s decision to resign might only reinforce the perception that she’s not a serious politician with the policy chops to be president in these serious times.

All that said, the normal political rules don’t seem to apply to Palin. Once removed from office, she will be flooded with requests for speaking engagements, and will turn mundane GOP congressional events into exciting rallies that draw her most ardent supporters (as well as those turning out to see a potential car wreck). In short, Palin's resignation was all about self-interest -- improving her financial standing and her political standing as the Republicans' biggest celebrity. And given her appeal to the GOP base, she knows she can do this her way. Palin definitely has a future as a conservative political celebrity, but does she risk her influence on a presidential run? She could end up having a parallel career to a Pat Buchanan -- active commentator with a loyal following and an occasional (but not successful) presidential candidate. Who has more to fear from Sarah Palin? Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty? Or Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity?

There are two other legitimate reasons for Palin’s resignation, if she’s planning a presidential bid. One is geography. As political analyst Charlie Cook tells First Read, running for president was hard enough for Bill Clinton (in ’92 from Little Rock) and for George W. Bush (in ’00 from Austin), and it’s probably even harder now that campaigns have begun earlier and have become more expensive. So just think about the challenges of running for president in 2012 from Juneau. “Someone might be an effective governor or a serious candidate but not both,” Cook says. Second, Obama launched his presidential bid in Feb. 2007. If she used that same time frame, Palin would announce in Feb. 2011 -- just one month after she would have completed her first term. That's not nearly enough time to make money in the private sector, or build a national campaign team through considerable political travel in the Lower 48. But writing in Slate, Bruce Reed noted that politicians who have quit their day jobs to run for president (Bob Dole, Mitt Romney, Bill Bradley, John Edwards) haven’t been all that successful. Running while still holding office (Clinton, Bush 43, Obama) does still appear to be the better way to go.

Meanwhile, the news out of Alaska is not all that cheery for Palin. To many Alaskans, Palin has been off the job for awhile already, acting as a disengaged presence around the state Capitol since she returned from the presidential campaign trail last year. "She had a surprising amount of disinterest in state government after November," said state Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat from Anchorage. "This state has a lot of problems, and she showed a complete lack of interest in solving them."

Palin has become a polarizing figure and the focus of multiple ethics complaints filed against her with the state personnel board. She has taken a beating from Senate Democrats over many of her recent appointments, including an attorney general candidate who became the first Cabinet appointment ever rejected by the Alaska Legislature.

But with all the thorny issues enveloping her in Alaska, Palin's quitting may be more about something simpler: cutting her losses. Things weren't likely to improve, if she stayed in office. She faces a potential veto override of nearly $29 million in federal stimulus funds for energy efficiency programs, money she had rejected in fear that it could bind the state to federal building mandates.

"The drumbeat of adverse news coverage from Alaska would likely have continued and intensified had she remained governor," said Juneau economist and longtime Alaska political watcher Gregg Erickson. "It would have become an increasing liability to her national campaign."

It's easier to govern in Alaska when oil prices are high, but they are down from last year's historic highs and the budget is much tighter. And this year, Palin's signature project, getting a natural gas pipeline, moves into a critical phase: whether North Slope leaseholders will commit to shipping gas in the pipeline, which is still at least a decade away.

Palin no longer delivered bagels to lawmakers. She limited her access to the media, and when she did hold news conferences, she relied on notes and her commissioners for backup. One legislator quipped after her state of the state address in January that the only eye contact she made in the legislative chamber was with the television camera.

State Sen. Gene Therriault, a Republican, says it's an unfair rap on Palin, one that was used by critics against her two predecessors. "The detractors will always use that as a criticism because it's hard to evaluate. It's not surprising it's being used against the governor," he said. "It's an easy criticism to level, because you're never asked, 'Where's the proof?'"

As for Mark Sanford, Newsweek's Rebecca Shabad pulled off the sleaziest trick in the game by finding a clinical counselor rhapsodising the mental anguish Sanford is facing. Dr. Mira Kirshenbaum is clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute in Boston and author of When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts and Minds of People in Two Relationships. Kirshenbaum has never treated Sanford in a professional capacity, so is only basing her responses on years of experience and what she's seen of Sanford on TV and read in the news. Excerpts:

-- He’s probably nuts, but only in the sense that right now, he’s very emotional, and very confused, and in a panic, which is what all the people in his situation feel.

-- Acknowledging your guilt is a good step, but saving a marriage needs a lot more. It needs two people who want to be together. First, you have to stop contact with Maria." He has to regret-proof his decision. And for a certain amount of time, he has to do everything possible, including going to a therapist, including listening to Jenny and doing whatever she needs.

-- You wouldn’t believe the stupid things the smartest men and women in the world have done in the name of love. Things happen in our lives much more often because we’re confused and stupid rather than because it’s what our unconscious really wants. He doesn’t know what he’s doing and why.

-- People like Sanford just don’t confess to having an affair because you think that you’ll make yourself feel better or you think that you’ll make your marriage stronger. They think that they’re going to get it off their chest, they think everything is going to be better, but it just makes things worse.

Columnist Maureen Dowd offers the most provacative prospect for the Republican 2012 presidential ticket -- Palin and Sanford. A nutty pair for a town already gone crazy.

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