Despite It All, Palin’s Got “It”

Photo courtesy: Julie Smith of Sarah’s Full-Court Press

We have another article to add to the “buy your own damn bagels” file.

Michael Leahy of the Washington Post reports that Gov. Palin’s job is challenging. I know. That’s quite a shocking revelation. We all thought it was a walk in the park to run the largest state in the union. Who would have imagined that it’s stressful at times?

After watching the second part of the Greta interview last night, Mel and I noted that Gov. Palin must be exhausted living in a house with two infants, one of whom is up crying half the night. Despite all the fun “Sarah Palin Facts”, she is only human after all.

Leahy reports:

A couple of weeks before the Alaska legislature began this year’s session, a bipartisan group of state senators on a retreat a few hours from here invited Gov. Sarah Palin to join them. Accompanied by a retinue of advisers, she took a seat at one end of a conference table and listened passively as Gary Stevens, the president of the Alaska Senate, a former college history professor and a low-key Republican with a reputation for congeniality, expressed delight at her presence.

Would the governor, a smiling Stevens asked, like to share some of her plans and proposals for the coming legislative session?

Palin looked around the room and paused, according to several senators present. “I feel like you guys are always trying to put me on the spot,” she said finally, as the room became silent.

Hmm… Why would she think that? Maybe because partisan goat ropes, theatrical fundraising antics, and self-serving political grandstanding has become the order of the day.

Leahy is amazed that the Guv is suddenly cautious about her every move:

Gone was the self-assurance that Alaska had come to know in its young Republican governor, well before her life and career were transformed by Sen. John McCain’s selection of her as his vice presidential running mate. “She looked ill at ease, more defensive than we’ve been accustomed to seeing her,” said one legislator who was there and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said he might need to work with Palin.

A number of factors seem to have contributed to the bumpy homecoming: a residual anger among Democrats for the attack-dog role Palin assumed in the McCain campaign, lingering resentment from Republicans for the part she may have played in McCain’s defeat, and a suspicion crossing party lines that the concerns of Alaska, at a time of economic crisis, will now be secondary to her future in national politics.

Nearly every move that Palin makes or does not make, acknowledges Joe Balash, one of her closest aides, is analyzed through a new political prism, scrutinized for its effect on a possible 2012 presidential candidacy. “There’s nothing we can do to stop it,” he said. “People wonder why she’s doing something or not doing something.”

The result of all this scrutiny and second-guessing, says one Republican ally, is that “the governor has been feeling beaten up.”

Of course she feels beaten up. She has been beaten up. As I’ve noted before, the Guv can’t go back to August 29, 2008, even though her beloved Alaskans wish she could, and perhaps she sometimes wishes she could as well.

The Alaska she left on August 29th no longer exists. She could never go home after the election. Home isn’t the same any more. Gov. Palin worked hard to earn her reputation as “a pragmatic, bipartisan-minded reformer,” to use the WaPost’s own description of the pre-campaign Palin.

During the election she behaved as the quintessential happy warrior dutifully playing the traditional vp candidate’s role of partisan attack dog. The veeps always play this part in order to allow the top of the ticket to appear “above it all.” If Palin had really “gone rogue” as she was accused, she would have eschewed this thankless role and sailed above it all herself. Instead she tossed her hard-earned bipartisan capital away the moment she became McCain’s partisan pitbull.

But she really loved the crusty old bastard, so she gave him her all. She ran to win. She campaigned harder than anyone we’ve ever seen. And let’s be frank: McCain didn’t.

Just days before the election, as Palin criss-crossed the battleground states from one rally to another, McCain held a self-serving nostalgic town hall meeting in New Hampshire. What the hell was he doing there? I was half expecting him to sing “Thanks for the Memories.”

And then there was his final Saturday Night Live appearance in which he silently stood by as Tina Fey viciously parodied his running mate as a stupid rube with an Evita complex who refuses to return to the backwoods. He validated the caricature of her. Imagine if he had acted in a sketch portraying his wife as a pill-popping Princess Di wanna be. That would have been the caricature of Cindy McCain. Would he have been comfortable with that? Would he have been comfortable if Palin had agreed to be in a sketch that depicted him as a senile warmonger?

Meanwhile Sarah Palin was functioning on four hours of sleep, losing weight at an alarming rate and making herself hoarse giving countless stump speeches — all in an effort to get McCain’s ancient ass elected, and this was the thanks she got? Part of me really wanted her to flip him the bird and head back to her oil fiefdom in the wild North.

But she could never go back.

She never left the campaign. The campaign continues because she is rightly seen as Obama’s de facto 2012 opponent. It seemed perfectly natural that on the eve of Obama’s defining act as president, it was Sarah Palin who sounded the opposition’s final warning: “Mr. President, veto that bill!”

The sophisticates can play their little games, but we all know who the uncrowned leader of the opposition is. When we think seriously about who could defeat Obama — who could inspire the public and galvanize a grassroots army — we know it’s Sarah Palin.

We know it. And so do the Dems. And so do the crackbrained weirdies of the leftwing fruitlooposphere. That’s why the campaign has never ended.

Leahy notes:

Early in her term, her staunchest allies on state ethics reform and pivotal energy issues included several liberal Democrats. Alaska’s current House Democratic leader, Beth Kerttula, joined Palin in successfully arguing for the adoption of a controversial oil tax increase that the industry resisted. “She was… completely a pragmatist,” Kerttula recalls. “She knew she had to work with Democrats.”

Now, two abortion-related bills that Palin had made little effort to promote have been reintroduced, and another Republican legislator has pushed for the state’s adoption of a death penalty, something last seen in Alaska during its territorial days. Palin has voiced support for all three bills, but there have been no signs yet of any hard push from the governor’s office.

Some Alaska Democrats and Republicans wonder whether Palin, given her new stature among social conservatives who are urging her to run for president, will feel compelled to invest more political capital in the two abortion-related measures.

Balash indicates that this is unlikely. “It’d be great if we could consider every issue in a vacuum, but we can’t. That doesn’t please everyone.”

I predict that she’ll steer clear of these contentious issues. Smart leaders pick their battles. Palin wants her in-state bullet gas line. She wants her joint electric utilities corporation. She doesn’t want to get sidetracked with capital punishment and abortion bills that stir up partisan rancor and have uncertain legislative support.

With the Palin family drama being rehashed in the latest “On the Record” interviews, the pending release of the Ziegler documentary and the new “intimate” unauthorized biography, Palin is still a fixture in the national news. A 1000+ comment thread at Hot Air on the same day that Obama signed our future away testifies to the power and lure of Palin-mania.

What other conservative politician inspired such loyalty and loathing?

Ronald Reagan comes to mind.

And Reagan comes to mind in something I read in Leahy’s article:

Many legislators believe that the only lasting intimate in her inner circle is an adviser without an official title — her husband, Todd. “She keeps all of us at arm’s length because she’s not afraid to drop the hammer on any of us and hold us accountable,” said Balash, an unabashed admirer of her leadership style.

It was the same way with the Reagans. The Gipper trusted his Nancy implicitly — just as the ‘Cuda trusts her Todd.

Leahy discusses Palin’s decision to stay close to home and stay out of the media limelight. They include advice from an anonymous GOP strategist:

“There are few political performers in her league, in her ability to draw crowds and stand in front of 10,000, 20,000 people and excite them,” said one prominent GOP strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “But the campaign also demonstrated that there is a lack of gravity to her that has hurt. She needs to mitigate her weaknesses. She needs to prepare more, know more. She should try to disappear for a while and be an indisputably effective governor.”

Good advice, but…

Palin’s greatest problems in Alaska, as in the rest of the country, seem to be with her fellow Republicans. “What did I say about her during the campaign when somebody asked me if she was qualified?” asked state Rep. John Harris, taking a moment to ponder his own question, smiling. “Oh, I said something like ‘She’s old enough and a registered voter.’ ” Another smile.

A former speaker of the state House, Harris believes that Palin and her team need to improve relationships with legislators.

“A lot of people around here see it as the Eva Peron syndrome — Sarah being Evita,” said Larry Persily, a top aide to Mike Hawker (R), co-chairman of the state House’s Finance Committee. “She doesn’t care about the political establishment, but the people in the streets love her.”

Ah, yes… the good ole Republican boys of Alaska… We know how much they love her.

The Jerk from Fairbanks’ first reaction to the news of her vp candidacy was to make a statement implying that she’s Alaska’s answer to Madame Mao, and now we have Hawker’s top aide comparing her to Eva Peron. Nice. Any other evil female leader these latent-misogynists would like to compare her to? Why not call her Jezebel and be done with it?

Leahy buys into the bull:

Yet some Republican observers privately wonder whether Palin will be burdened by her divisive impact on people — and possibly dismissed as someone with a formidable base who is too polarizing and parodied to win nationally.

Ah, yes, the “polarizing and parodied” figure… Sort of like “Ronald Ray-gun” that crazy b-rate actor, “Drugstore Truck Drivin’ Man,” rightwing commie-hating nut who would nuke the planet the moment he got his hands on the launch codes. He could never win a general election. He was too old and too fringe.

But maybe Palin is not so fringe after all…

Asked how Palin deals with the perception that months of ridicule have irreversibly turned her into what one Alaskan GOP legislator calls “Dan Quayle with a ponytail,” Balash confidently responds that she displays political skills that no other Republican on the national scene has shown an ability to match. “She walks into a room, and things change,” he said. “She just has that ‘it’ — whatever that ‘it’ is.”

The “it” was on display one night last month when Palin appeared inside the modest chamber of the Alaska House of Representatives to deliver her annual State of the State address. An audible buzz served as a reminder of the asset that Malek believes will keep her at least on Republicans’ minds for elections to come.

Yeah, she’s got “it” alright.

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