Tuesday, September 16, 2008

7 weeks or less

Sarah Palin's relationship to the Alaska GOP establishment and state government has precisely mirrored her relationship to the Wassila town government: take people's support on her way up, then discard them as soon as politically convenient to do so. Her lasting friendships were formed in high school: she has appointed numerous high school classmates to top positions in Alaska's government. But she has hung onto her resentments from that time as well, and it's not clear that she ever matured beyond high school. A consistent theme of her public life has been loyalty to nobody outside her immediate family, demands for fealty from those under her authority, and a fervent pursuit of vendettas. As mayor and later as governor, she fired everyone who crossed her.

Palin has always campaigned on a platform of clean government and ethics reform. She filed ethics complaints against those above her while she was on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. She publicly scolded Ted Stevens for ethical violations when it became expedient to do so, after knowingly depending on those suddenly unethical tactics for years. Advocating for ethics is admirable, but it's clearly just a hunting blind for political attacks when her own ethics are so lacking. Long before the numerous lies she has been telling as a candidate for vice president, she was claiming per diem travel pay for hundreds of nights spent at home, doing something on her tax returns that she's now hiding, appointing utterly unqualified friends to overpaid government posts, and being so vicious in attacking her sister's ex-husband while child custody was being worked out that the judge described her actions as child abuse.

All of this suggests that Sarah Palin's exit from the 2008 presidential campaign, whether it is before or after Election Day in November, is likely to be spectacularly nasty. She has a long potential future in politics, while John McCain does not, so she doesn't need him any longer. Once she leaves the campaign, she will be casting blame in any direction but her own. Campaign managers put words in her mouth. The media was unfair. Bloggers were unfair. The campaign didn't listen to her ideas for campaign strategy. And John McCain lied to her or to the public, whether it was about the vetting process, his campaign positions, her campaign positions. We're already seeing the groundwork laid for a scorched earth exit, as Sarah Palin's husband drops new hints that the vetting process by the McCain campaign was incomplete and rushed. All we need to do is convince Sarah Palin that her political future will be brighter if she leaves before the election, citing ethical problems with the McCain campaign that she is unwilling to tolerate. If she believes that McCain will lose the election anyway, she will certainly get far more press by leaving early. Electus interruptus may not be a foolproof strategy, but it's been so much more fun than abstaining from the race to start with.

No comments: