I Was Wrong About Sarah Palin

The Palin moratorium’s been lifted, yes? With a new article by Joshua Green in the Atlantic and putting on my Iowa caucus-goer hat, it seems like a good time to admit the wrongness of my post-2008 assessment of Sarah Palin’s future prospects in national politics.

As I say, this isn’t a question of whether I ever found Palin’s message appealing or even palatable. The caucus process gives Iowans an up-close look at presidential candidates, an early glimpse of their campaigns, and a confidence (sometimes misplaced) in our intuition about which stars will rise and which flame out. Green’s article looks at how Palin shook up Alaska politics and cunningly thwarted Big Oil’s dominance of fiscal policy — a record that makes him muse about the reformist, pragmatic, bipartisan Sarah Palin that might’ve been. For my part, I made a wrong guess about what lessons an ambitious newcomer to national politics would draw from 2008 and apply to 2012.

Let’s stipulate that the former vice presidential nominee was woefully unprepared for a national campaign, and voters were treated to the spectacle of her winging it. The poll numbers in 2008 and after reflect that. But there’s also formidable political talent there, and a high dose of ambition. I was intrigued to wonder what she’d do with that experience — particularly what lessons she’d learn.

Foolish me, I thought Palin really wanted to win the presidency and realized that she’d have to bring her game up in a number of ways: making a play for swing voters by staking out some moderate positions; taking the details of policy more seriously (rather than winging it); and widening her circle of advisors to break out of an insular bubble of cronies. As I say, just plain wrong.

In a way, the issue is a basic level of respect for what running for president entails. And I don’t think of the question of basic seriousness a partisan thing. If Donald Trump answers Jon Stewart’s prayers and actually gets into the race, his hubris and unseriousness is going to collide with this reality like walking into a buzz saw. His experience in recent weeks was barely a foretaste. 

Of course the other requirement for a candidate is total commitment and discipline. Any politician who brings ambivalence or half-heartedness will inevitably fizzle (see Fred Thompson or Rudy Giuliani).

Going back to Sarah Palin, the point might be that ultimately she doesn’t want to run for president. Really she’d rather just make a lot of money.  Sure enough, she’s made a lot of hay. We’ll see how much longer the sun shines.

Photo credit: Bill Morrow


Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI2 years ago

I do not like that kind of women.

Hugh W.
.6 years ago

What baffles me is that anyone listens to her and even more scary that some actually believe her. Where are these people from? They really need to leave those sheep alone and pick up a book and try to read once in a while. Palin knows less about this country than most non-English speaking illegal immigrants or people that live in other countries. She needs to go back to her "mama grizzly" cave and hibernate for the next 20-30 years.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y6 years ago

Palin and Trump are as verbally challenged as GW, if not more. I'd LOVE to see them run!

Dandelions vs lawnmower of the national election process. Esp. for Trump with his female issues.

On policy, both of them are walking basketcases. Honestly Mr. Shorr, I cannot remember a single coherent, intelligent statement either of them have made about foreign policy. Besides tired platitudes, I mean.

Colleen S.
Colleen S6 years ago

Sarah Palin is pure evil. She has a horrible aura all around her... i just wish she'd go away.

Camila K.
Kamila A6 years ago

She is the anti-christ, anti-goddess.

Robert B.
Robert B6 years ago

Sarah who?!

Laura Hulin
Laura Wopp6 years ago

Palin is still for killling the Artic; removing women's reproductive choices/rights; playing out a cute, "oh gosh", I believe in America being free. The woman is "gifted" in a way that cannot be posted. She's 2-faced & loves to get the Tea Party's money (whether THEY realize she's doing it) This woman is very dangerous black-widow in politics. Please do not nauseate me by trying to frame her as anything but a killer on 2 legs.

Michael MacDonald

*is a little different than yours.

Michael MacDonald

@Robin M.
Countries are a lot better off run by people who believe in scientific facts rather than "opinions".
I agree with you on one end.
Sarah palin is definitely gifted,
but my definition of gifted if a little different than yours.

Michael MacDonald

plus, what happened with giffords was inexcusable.
That kind of violent political rhetoric is the problem with america.
To even allow someone to run after being responsible for provoking an attack on someone else would be very irresponsible.
I don't even think she should be allowed to run after that.
I don't care what anybody says.
She went way too far and look what happened.