WASHINGTON DC, United States — Every self-respecting citizen of democratic nations around the world is taught that free, meaningful elections is one of the great pillars of democracy. Once elected democratically, free from corruption and any taint of anomaly, the elected leader should serve out his or her term. Perhaps run for another term, if the people are willing. But how come Alaskan Governor and losing vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is resigning 1.5 years before her term is over?
The timing of Gov. Palin’s bombshell resignation announcement is skewed, if not suspicious. It was made on July 3, a day before one of the most celebrated American holidays—the July 4th Independence Day. It was ominous and made in the midst of the hype surrounding Michael Jackson’s sudden and tragic death. People should worry why it was timed this way.
It seems like it was so timed to be a second topic to be discussed during the nationwide outdoor barbecue events, open air concerts, and fireworks displays; second to the King of Pop’s passing. But just a mere two hours after her announcement, I immediately got an e-mail from an unknown source saying that the “Palin for President in 2012” website was suddenly overwhelmed by a deluge of web traffic expressing support. Imagine the chances of that.
If one listens intently to Gov. Palin’s reasons for resigning a good 18 months before her term officially ends in December 2010, you wouldn’t understand why. It was so vague, so cryptic, so indirect that even news anchors and Republican leaders cannot understand what message she wanted to convey or the specific reasons prompting her to resign. She appears to be ducking, again. The justifications she gave—Alaskan politics is in a standstill because of ethics complaints against her, channeling of public funds for hearings on these complaints, family and personal affairs, being a lame duck Governor 18 months before the term ends—are simply unbelievable. It seems she and her staff are hiding something.
But there is no large-scale federal investigation or litigation coming her way, so that’s out. There’s no big family emergency that she should respond to such as another pregnancy in the family. Her recent feud with late night comedian David Lettermen ended with both parties winning (Letterman having a higher TV rating; Palin getting back into the spotlight she momentarily lost). In short, there is no family, medical, truly political, or genuinely personal reason why she should resign just past midway her term.
Wasn’t she elected for four years and ought to serve all of those years? If the Alaskan voters only knew in 2006 that Gov. Palin might abandon the post for no valid excuse, she may not have been elected at all.
The situation would have been different if Gov. Palin was appointed, not directly elected, to a post. If she is dissatisfied with how things are run or if there are irreconcilable differences of opinion with the person-in-charge, then perhaps the best resolution to the dispute would be to resign. But not when you were voted for by a large segment of the electorate. That is simply a slap on the voter’s face. Hindsight may be telling Alaskans someone else may have deserved their vote in 2006.
Why McCain is ultimately to blame
Some pundits would immediately exclaim that people shouldn’t blame Republican Senator and losing Presidential candidate John McCain for the fiasco surrounding Palin and Alaska. Palin has always been independent, a lone wolf. Why blame him when he already lost the November elections, graciously accepted defeat, and still continuing with his purportedly maverick role.
Here’s why. John McCain was the one who chose, handpicked, and endorsed Palin to be his second in command. He was the one who plucked her from obscurity, placed her in a position of great prominence, but glaringly failed to discern that she was a person with uncontrollably growing political ambitions. Gov. Palin even admitted very recently to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the beginning of the end of her term as governor took place on Aug. 29, 2008, when Sen. McCain announced that he has chosen her as Vice Presidential running mate. That’s when “everything changed”.
Senator McCain didn’t vet her enough to understand that she has the proclivity to resign at a moment’s notice for something better and greater. He and his staff should have been wary of Palin’s 2004 protest resignation from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC), a move which gave her a so-called maverick image and catapulted her into the limelight. She criticized a fellow board member for holding AOGCC directorship and still being the Alaskan Republican chair. It gave her a platform, good enough that it enabled her to become Alaska’s governor two years later. According to Time Magazine, the protest resignation worked then, it may work now.
When Senator McCain was recruiting for a VP from a vast pool of eligibles, he was actually recommending someone to the American people. As in any job recommendation, the recommender should know the person well or at least have studied meticulously his or her background and fitness for the position. McCain didn’t do this well enough. He didn’t know her too well and was just enamored by the potential votes she could get from the Hillary Clinton windfall as well as from her own unique charm. Had McCain studied her well enough, he would’ve noted that if there are better things out there, she may dramatically resign in a heartbeat. He wasn’t a very good recruiter.
If she remained merely as a commissioner in an Alaskan board, would she have had the chance to run and win the governorship of the state in 2006? Most likely not. She needed a major campaign issue to run with. She needed to criticize somebody or some group to launch her candidacy and demonstrate her unconventionalism.
Does Sen. McCain know what would have happened had he won and Gov. Palin got promoted as Vice President? Once he commits mistakes, VP Palin will most likely pounce hard, exaggerate those mistakes, maybe break ties with him, and probably resign dramatically as VP, all in line with her 2012 presidential bid. She who may have helped him in the campaign will be the one to prevent him from seeking a second term.
Sen. McCain is a great war veteran. He is also a highly regarded political veteran. He should have predicted, given his experience and knowledge, that giving Gov. Palin this kind of platform may not be the best, especially for Alaskans. The bigger the platform, the easier it is for her to resign from and abandon whatever position she is currently holding.
Perhaps he should have recommended to the American voter someone else as Vice President. The way Palin is conducting herself now, she’s like saying that the Republicans lost the November elections because it was McCain who ran as president and not her. That 2012 will be different as she would be a more formidable candidate than McCain ever was.
Possible reasons for her premature exit
There are many reasons swirling around as to why she is exiting too soon. Perhaps Gov. Palin saw herself outgrowing Alaska despite that state having the largest land size in the country. Maybe she felt bored and restricted in her job as the governor in the faraway state. Maybe she missed the glitz and glamour of constant media spotlight. Some say that her mounting legal defense bills is a critical reason.
Probably she is withdrawing from being the governor because she is tempted by what she can do when she is not governor. She obviously cannot wait for December 2010 to finish her term and move on. Hence, she is moving on now.
Whatever are the real reasons for her premature exit, the fact remains that there is still considerable time left in her term. Noticeably, after John McCain lost the elections, she has not been in the news as she frequently was from August to November 2008. She didn’t lose her magic or charm; she was just confined in Alaska performing gubernatorial work. Since she is the type who clamors for more constant media blitz, she may have been restless these past few months as she is slowly losing media ground. She is more noticed because of her public spat with Levi Johnson and David Letterman than anything that has to do with being governor.
Here’s a hypothesis. If there is a charming, young governor from Hawaii (doesn’t matter which party) who intermittently captures media coverage in the lower 48 states, will that person have the chance to constantly be in the news? Maybe, but most likely not. It’s not just about pure charm or magnetic appeal; it’s also about geographic location and proximity to the news centers of the country. That said, being far from the central nerve centers of media does not justify quitting an elected post.
The grander stage of Hollywood and mainstream media
It’s not hard to imagine that soon-to-be ex-Governor Palin was lured by the limelight of mainstream media in the lower 48 states. Admittedly, it’s hard to get a lot of attention if you’re busy with work as Alaska’s governor. She may be attractive, commands the spotlight, and regularly tweet stuff about her state and family, but it’s going to be a difficult climb to be nominated by the GOP as President in 2012 if she stays there. She knows this only too well. If she remains as Alaska’s governor until the end of 2010, without intending to run for a second term, she may lose her edge.
So if she resigns now, a whole new world of opportunities abound. She can easily get into multimillion dollar book deals, the lecture circuit, appear in many political and family shows, guest or co-host TV segments, and earn $50,000 per speaking engagement. She can probably get her entire family on Family Feud or similar TV family game shows. Maybe she can even have her own talk show. If Mike Huckabee can have his own talk show on Fox, she can also have hers. With her signature Alaskan tone and media-friendly smile, she can have a sizeable following. There is a grander stage in Hollywood, New York, and elsewhere so why box herself in on being governor?
It’s simple. It’s because people voted for her for a four-year term from December 2006 to December 2010. It’s a contract with the people. Absent any justifiable reason to resign, it’s rude to the Alaskan populace to abandon the post. The lure of traveling and speaking to groups and associations in the lower 48 may be there, but there is also a greater responsibility in her home state. Being governor is not “just some title” as her supporters claim. It is the highest position in the state and she ought to fully perform her responsibilities. She says she’s not a quitter but a fighter, but that’s a bit hard to believe.
Eighteen months is a long time. She could have still made a lot of difference in Alaska even though she didn’t want to run for a second term. Her excuse that she doesn’t want to be a lame duck governor is easily dismissible and simply that—lame.
I wonder what John McCain is thinking now. Maybe he’s thinking it was foolish to nominate her for Vice President last year. Maybe he’s thinking that he picked someone whom he didn’t really know and thus didn’t predict this would ever happen.
Last August 29, 2008, McCain rubbed the magic lamp three times and out came Palin, his genie, hoping that she’d make up for everything he falls short of. The problem is, the genie will never want to go back inside the lamp. By now, neither he nor the GOP leadership can trap the genie inside a bottle.