The End of Whatever That Was

It’s a list of those who returned to the obscurity they so richly deserved – the complete list of losing vice-presidential candidates – with names like William Edward Miller of New York, the 1964 Republican candidate, the only practicing Catholic ever to have been nominated for national office by the Republican Party. He went down with Goldwater and was never heard from again. Others on the list had other careers, and John Edwards, who went down with John Kerry in 2004, attained fame in his own odd way – by turning out to be a philandering jerk. But the strange case of Dick Cheney aside, the office of vice president is thankless enough, a business where you’re a second-string bench-warmer at best. Yeah, every president says he includes his vice president in everything, seeking his advice and wise council – but then sends him to that state funeral in Finland or has him greet that visiting trade delegation from Tonga. It’s a difficult business – you keep smiling and pretend you’re important. (At least Joe Biden has a great smile.) But to be the man or woman – see Geraldine Ferraro – who ran for that bench-warmer office, and never made it, is worse. You become an instant obscure footnote.

But things were going to be different for Sarah Palin. She wasn’t just anyone. She was a phenomenon – a force of nature, catnip to the national press, the biblical Esther to her followers, infuriating to those even a millimeter to the left, a star on Fox News and simply one of a kind. She would never become an obscure footnote. That wasn’t going to happen. She had a reality show. She was on Facebook and Twitter. If she didn’t like the weather in Omaha one day it made the national news. And as the Republican field this year narrowed to difficult and unpalatable choices for key blocks of the party faithful, she was going to swoop in late, and dramatically – and save the day. All issues would be resolved and the party would rally around her, and nominate her as their candidate for president, and she’d win.

And then Sarah Palin said she wouldn’t run – on Fox News she had told Greta Van Susteren that a presidential title might be too “shackle-y” on her. She’d love the title, but she’d have to, you know, do things. That’s too confining. So now we know why she quit less than halfway through her first term as governor up there in Alaska. You have to do things. She can’t stand that. But that was a little too candid. Her announcement, that she wasn’t running, was all about how her family came first – or maybe it was God and then family and then country. But she wasn’t running.

So now what? Is it Miller Time for her? Bush’s former speechwriter, the disgruntled conservative and apostate Republican, David Frum, sees the coming inevitable and rapid decline of Sarah Palin:

Palin will never become a party elder stateswoman. Over the past three years, it became apparent to all but a handful of cultists that her only interests were money and celebrity. She had no concept of public service, and no capacity to serve even if she had wished to do so. Soon even those last cultists will quietly abandon the argument. We talk often these days about makers and takers. Sarah Palin was the ultimate taker. She abandoned her post as governor of Alaska to cash in on lectures and TV. She squeezed her supporters for political donations and spent the money on herself. To adapt an old phrase, she seen her opportunities and she took ’em.

This woman burned her bridges:

In the end, she exploited, abused, or embarrassed almost everyone who had believed in her. Most embarrassing of all: she was never even a very good con artist. Everything that was false and petty and unqualified in her was visible within the first minutes of encountering her. The people she fooled were people who passionately wished to be fooled. To that extent, what was important in her story was not the faults and failings of Sarah Palin. There have always been grifters in politics. What was important in her story was the revelation of conservatism’s lack of antibodies against somebody with the faults and failings of Sarah Palin. That’s the story that should trouble us still.

Frum is appalled that this could have happened on his conservative side of the fence, and one of the Atlantic’s senior editors, Ta-Nehisi Coates, adds a bit more:

I was thinking this morning about how she’ll likely have a long a career in media somewhere. Maybe so. But people don’t seem to like Sarah Palin, very much – and I don’t mean “people like me.” A few years ago it was pretty common to hear folks like Fred Barnes gleefully noting how much Palin annoys liberals. Now you have people like Ann Coulter saying “no conservative on TV will criticize her because they don’t want to deal with the hate mail.”

So most everyone on the right has come over to where this black man was in the first place. And the rest is history:

Perhaps she’ll do the work to reinvent herself into a Rush Limbaugh, or some such. More likely, I think she’ll hit the speaking circuit, working the marks who so “passionately want to be fooled,” and then make another reality show. It will be a perfectly fine life. Meanwhile, I’m left to wonder how in the world people ever saw in Sarah Palin, who showed no willingness to work, the makings of a gifted politician.

That is an interesting question. What did people see in her? After all, Richard Adams in the Guardian (UK) can see what was there for everyone to see:

In reality Palin’s career was effectively killed off when she decided to quit midway through her term as governor of Alaska back in 2009. From that moment on her unfavorability ratings climbed to toxic levels. When the Tea Party movement arose she quickly embraced it, backing herself further into a shrill corner of the Republican Party, speaking in the code of talk radio and appealing to an ever-shrinking fan base.

What beckons instead is a career as a political quasi-celebrity on the conservative right, alongside the Oliver Norths, Ann Coulters and J Gordon Liddys. But without the attraction of being a potential presidential candidate, Palin will find the spotlight and the crowds have moved on.

Over on her supporters’ websites, there is much gnashing of teeth and a good deal of denial. No wonder, because only a week ago her supporters were being solicited for donations to help convince Sarah to run.

So Frum was right, she exploited, abused, or embarrassed almost everyone who had believed in her. But Adams, not a liberal by any means, is a bit put off by her new “perky plans for helping elect conservatives” in the upcoming elections:

Like a Broadway show that lost an audience, she plans a tour of the provinces.

That is a bit pathetic, and Adams notes that many Republicans will be glad to see her go – to see her just go away actually – “since she drives away the moderates and independents that the GOP needs to win over to hold the White House.” And he cites what he calls a memorable recent blog from Erick Erickson at RedState describing Palin’s almost cult-like supporters as “unhinged” and saying of Palin’s maybe-I-will-run-and-maybe-I-won’t crap, “Enough is enough.” And Adams notes, finally, it was.

And the anonymous Democracy in America at the Economist is just puzzled by it all:

When a candidate who has little shot of being president announces she’s not running for president, it really shouldn’t be treated as big news. Sarah Palin’s decision not to run for the White House is sort of like my decision, announced this morning in the shower, not to run for Apple’s chairmanship.

But he is worried that she’s really not gone yet:

Many now expect Mrs. Palin to fade away, which is something we’ve heard before. But is our collective fascination with her really dependent on her potential to run for office? Liberals love to hate Mrs. Palin because they believe she’s a divisive, know-nothing windbag. And conservatives love to hate the liberals she so effectively pisses off. She will no doubt continue to cater to the needs of both groups. And our TMZ-inspired political media can hardly turn away from her family drama and experiments with the English language.

I’ll celebrate the death of Mrs. Palin’s political celebrity if she ever starts making sense or develops the wherewithal to string two coherent sentences together. That is when she will be forgotten, when she is no longer a spectacle.

And that is the problem. We need the spectacle. In fact, Ben Smith in Politico has the bad news on that front, with Sarah Palin Industry Faces Depression – and Smith gets specific:

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, whose husband John Coale backed a Palin campaign and helped Palin set up some political infrastructure, at times seemed to act as a Palin surrogate. When The Daily Caller published prurient quotes from boxer Mike Tyson about Palin, Van Susteren crusaded against its editor, Tucker Carlson, calling him “a pig” and a “purveyor of smut” and labeling the article he published an instance of “violence against women.”

And Van Susteren also at times blended admiration and prediction.

“First, I have absolutely no inside track (despite what some may think) but I am guessing Gov. Sarah Palin is running for president in 2012,” she wrote in July after privately celebrating the July 4 holiday with Palin.

Coale didn’t respond to inquiries after Palin dropped out, but Coale, a trial lawyer who typically supports Democratic causes, told Politico’s Alexander Burns earlier this week that he was prepared to switch his allegiance to pizza executive and talk radio host Herman Cain. …

Van Susteren’s consolation prize: The first Palin interview after her Fox colleague chose to break the news in an interview with radio host Mark Levin.

And what is Greta going to do now? And her husband, John Coale, needs a new hobby.

And as for Palin herself, Smith notes this:

She spawned an industry not just of click-driven online news, but of books. She wrote two; her daughter Bristol wrote one. Estranged former aides and family members cashed in, too, with the father of Bristol’s son penning, “Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs.”

The legendary nonfiction writer Joe McGinnis moved in next door for a critically panned long-form evisceration, but any number of lesser-known writers also took their cracks at it. Conroy and Walshe came out with the first and perhaps most straightforward attempt at a biography. They were followed by an array of admiring tomes – Matthew Continetti’s “The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star” and Stephen Mansfield’s “The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin” – and ones warning of her danger, such as Geoffrey Dunn’s “The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power,” and “Going Rouge: An American Nightmare,” by Richard Kim.

And there were the frankly commercial quote books: “You Betcha!: The Witless Wisdom of Sarah Palin” designed for the haters, and “The Quotable Rogue” for her admirers.

Amazon.com lists more than 200 Palin books in all, many self-published.

And now an entire segment of the economy has been devastated. And Smith notes that even that pro-Palin film, “The Undefeated,” closed after a short and modest run. Sarah Palin now faces ever-increasing insignificance, followed by relative obscurity, followed by total obscurity. She will be, eventually, an obscure footnote. For the great masses of us who won’t ever even rate a footnote of any kind at all, that might be okay. For her it must be a worry. But it was her choice.

But she still has her fans that were with her from the first, like Adam Brickley, offering in The Daily Caller this item – The Palin Movement Isn’t Retreating, It’s Reloading – seconded by Stacy Drake at Conservatives4Palin here – with Brickley saying this:

Anyone who thinks Gov. Palin or any of us “cultists” are going to go away has another thing coming – in fact, a reinvigorated Palin movement is already coalescing. The people who would have been the core supporters of a Palin campaign are now the biggest and most powerful bloc of free agents in the 2012 primary, and I’m practically salivating at the idea of watching the establishment candidates trek up to Wasilla to genuflect and beg for an endorsement.

And in what alternative universe will that happen? But of course one would expect this. In the Anchorage Daily News see Among Palin’s Most Intense Supporters, Acceptance and Anger – or Scott Olson of ABC News with Sarah Palin’s Die Hard Supporters ‘Stunned,’ ‘Disappointed’ – or Noreen Malone in New York Magazine with an item on Post-Palin Traumatic Syndrome.

But the man who was on Sarah Plain’s case from the get-go, Andrew Sullivan, is rejoicing:

It is hard to describe the relief of this awful person finally going away. (And who cares what she says if she has no “title”? There are RedState comment threads more coherent and persuasive than her deranged delusions.) All I can say now is that a) I was wrong about her intentions and b) I am so so so relieved to be wrong. She will now face the oblivion she deserves, and I sincerely hope I never have to write about this farce again.

And he notes she was all bullshit even at the end:

The idea that this person is protecting her family – after putting them all on a reality show, after deploying an infant with Down Syndrome as a book-selling prop, after pushing her son into the military, after sending her elderly dad headfirst into a ravine for a reality TV shot, and after using another young daughter as a campaign press bouncer … well, it’s as ludicrous as almost everything she says.

I suspect she knows somewhere that the truth about her will eventually come out in full – as it has already in part, culminating with Joe McGinnis’ devastating and exhaustively reported book, The Rogue. And the sheer craziness of this clinically disturbed person would bring it all crashing down. So she’s bowing out.

Call it cowardice; call it a rare example of sanity; call it a bizarre end to an even weirder game of hide-and-seek for the past few months. But the bottom line is: we can stop worrying about the threat she posed to this country. That is all I really cared about: the insane gamble with the world that John McCain foisted on us, with no vetting and no reason but desperation and cynicism.

Well, it’s over. If she ever starts making sense or develops the wherewithal to string two coherent sentences together her party, and maybe the rest of America will – maybe – reconsider. But that seems unlikely, and the Republicans are stuck with what must seem to some of them to be Larry, Moe and Curly. That would be Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Herman Cain. And they’re stuck with a set of notions about and prescriptions for the economy that most of America and almost every single economist who isn’t Arthur Laffer thinks is nutty. And as David Frum notes in this item “on the most urgent economic issue of the day – recovery from the Great Recession – the Republican consensus is seriously wrong.”

And he has a list:

It is wrong in its call for monetary tightening.

It is wrong to demand immediate debt reduction rather than wait until after the economy recovers.

It is wrong to deny that “we have a revenue problem.”

It is wrong in worrying too much about (non-existent) inflation and disregarding the (very real) threat of a second slump into recession and deflation.

It is wrong to blame government regulation and (as yet unimposed) tax increases for the severity of the recession.

It is wrong to oppose job-creating infrastructure programs.

It is wrong to hesitate to provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other forms of income maintenance to the unemployed.

It is wrong to fetishize the exchange value of the dollar against other currencies.

It is wrong to believe that cuts in marginal tax rates will suffice to generate job growth in today’s circumstance.

It is wrong to blame minor and marginal government policies like the Community Reinvestment Act for the financial crisis while ignoring the much more important role of government inaction to police overall levels of leverage within the financial system.

It is wrong to dismiss the Euro crisis as something remote from American concerns.

It is wrong to resist US cooperation with European authorities in organizing a work-out of the debt problems of the Eurozone countries.

It is wrong above all in its dangerous combination of apocalyptic pessimism about the long-term future of the country with aloof indifference to unemployment.

Yes, Sarah Palin is gone, but these thirteen items are now the problem. And he thinks Mitt Romney may be the closest thing to a sane person in dealing with them:

Sometimes he shows that skepticism by refusing to join the criticism of the Federal Reserve. Sometimes he says things that reveal a truer understanding of today’s problem – when he cites poor sales, not lack of confidence, as the reason businesses do not hire. On rare occasions, he will affirmatively defy the consensus, for example, in his willingness to challenge China on its currency manipulation – a challenge that the dollar’s exchange rate against the Chinese currency should be lower, not higher.

Am I satisfied with Romney’s position on these issues? No. Do I worry that he’ll fear to deviate from party orthodoxy even after he is elected? Yes.

But he does have some hope, albeit thin:

(1) Romney is not only very intelligent, but he also has demonstrated through his career a devotion to facts over ideology. (2) Romney has visibly not been caught up in the panic and rage against President Obama that has done so much to distort Republican thinking since 2009. (3) Romney has not signed up for the kind of ultra-deluded tax-cutting as solution to all ills program advocated by Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. His unwillingness to over-commit himself during the Republican primaries signals an openness to future contingencies should he be elected president.

That’s about it, but Frum argues that no other Republican offers any hope at all. But at least Sarah Palin is gone.

And Kevin Drum comments on Frum’s rant:

I have to say, once people break with the Republican Party these days, they really break. They don’t become Democrats or anything, but if anything, they actually savage their former comrades more than Democrats do. I’d love to see something this pithy from, say, Barack Obama. It’s inspiring.

Drum may get his wish with Obama, who is getting feisty these days. But Frum may not get his wish – his party turning to Romney. But at least they won’t be turning to Sarah Palin. For her it’s Miller Time.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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