Don't Do It, Sarah

One headline reads, Palin Considering A Run For President In 2012. Another one says, I can beat Obama. The defibrillator paddles haven't even cooled off yet, and the conservative movement has a potential situation that could nullify all the gains it has made over the last eighteen months with this ironic wrinkle.

After watching an episode of the much-hyped TV series "Sarah Palin's Alaska," I arrived at two conclusions. First, it convinced me that I'd rather have Rick Steves guide me through Alaska when he decides he's seen enough of Europe. Secondly, it knocked me off the fence as to whether Sarah Palin is up for the task of commander in chief.

Don't do it, Sarah. It would destroy any notion conservatives have that they certainly couldn't do any worse than what we currently have.

I genuinely liked Palin when she broke on the scene. She proved she had stamina, energy, charisma, and a message that resonated with conservatives. But somewhere along the line, Gov. Palin unknowingly traded being a serious politician for being a celebrity. Much like Barack Obama in his early days in the White House, she has been overexposed. From Fox News pundit, Dancing with the Stars proud mother, and Alaskan travel guide to touring with the Tea Party Express from state to state during the midterms, Ms. Palin has been omnipresent. That new face and air of common sense that I felt two years ago has gotten stale. The message still resonates, but I want it to come from somebody with a voice of depth not cultivated from briefing sheets and talking points.. 

I haven't seen anything in Sarah Palin that suggests strength, gravity, and that edgy ability to craft strategies to dispatch opponents. Dare I say she's too nice? If so, she is not the person who should direct bare-knuckled negotiations with Abbas, Putin, Netanyahu, or Ahmadinejad. If Americans cannot realistically picture Sarah Palin as the strongest person in the room -- intellectually, ideologically, politically, and militarily -- they will hesitate to make her the most powerful person in the world, and rightly so. She's a long way from that point in anyone's imagination.

By comparison, Margaret Thatcher had a sense of presence that commanded respect. The Iron Lady made you comfortable with the fact that she wouldn't disappoint -- intellectually, politically, or socially -- no matter whom she was dealing with. 

Maybe it's something as superficial as Sarah's whiny voice, the irritating momma grizzly shtick, or that "aw golly shucks" demeanor that makes her an improbable choice to be taken seriously behind the presidential seal while answering tough questions across the spectrum of global importance. Maybe it's the idea that I don't feel disrespectful at all calling her Sarah. This is tough to admit as someone who saw her as a breath of fresh air when John McCain initially brought her to the national spotlight in 2008.

In the world of "what ifs," it becomes doubtful that we would be having this discussion if it weren't for an unfortunate twist of political timing. John McCain announced Palin as his running mate on 29 August 2008. Two weeks later, Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the U.S. economy began its meltdown. Conventional wisdom says that McCain would have opted for a more apropos VP candidate by selecting Mitt Romney, with his expertise in financial circles, especially in light of McCain's self-avowed lack of it.

That would have left Gov. Palin in Alaska, out of the national spotlight and media firestorm that surrounds her every move today. 

The Tea Party movement has grown exponentially since Rick Santelli fired the first salvo. As a result of her newfound celebrity in the lower 48, Ms. Palin kicked open the door as a national figure unafraid to be associated with this upstart group destined to bookmark political history. She has a passionate and loyal following as a result, but ironically, she has also been an uncommonly effective unifier of the opposition. 

Whether Palin would have grown into a prime Tea Party spokesperson under differently timed circumstances is left to conjecture. However, it is certain that there would not be talk of a 2012 presidential bid. None of this diminishes her value to the conservative renaissance. My hope is that she will remain a strong and fearless voice willing to keep that perspective alive at the table of debate.

I continue to stand by my assertion that female candidates will figure prominently in 2012 presidential politics. As President Obama continues his downward spiral, it is still not beyond the bounds of reason to see a draft Hillary movement gain steam. She's been the patient good soldier of the left who has the name recognition, moxie, and résumé to credibly take on all comers, including Obama. Certainly a Clinton-Palin match-up cannot be perceived as good for the GOP.

Gov. Palin's prominence is not an indictment of the Tea Party philosophy of smaller, less intrusive government, lower taxes, and constitutional discipline. It is simply that she is not the person who will garner wide enough appeal of that philosophy to take it to the presidential level. As long as she is the face of the Tea Party movement, it will struggle to elevate itself past being a political sect or a rogue offshoot of the GOP. The person who takes the baton from her will be the center of the biggest political story of the next eighteen months.

Gosh darn it, Sarah. You're just not ready to be the flippin' president of the United States. Washington is a long way from Wasilla on many levels. You'll be over your head too fast with way too many people counting on you. Someone should have told Senator Obama the same thing.

See also: Holding Sarah Palin to Her Promise, The Palin Factor: Even Republican Elites Don't Get It
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