WASHINGTON -- When you're up to your waders in barracuda, blame the media.
And quit your job.
And say you did it for the people.
And hire an agent.
And try to keep a straight face.
On your way to the bank.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, H.L. Mencken once said. Terribly elitist fellow, that Mencken. If only he were alive to witness the phenomenon of Sarah Palin, whose biography validates every cynical thought that ever found expression in his prolific prose.
Let's just say, Palin is in no danger of going broke. From her book contract alone, she never has to worry about money again, according to one close insider.
She may be politically dead -- "If I die, I die. So be it," as Palin recently put it -- but that likelihood depends on how one defines politics. In fact, adding mystery to confoundedness, Palin has enough supporters and fundraising potential to put a ground game in play in a matter of seconds. Just to toss in a sports metaphor, if I may.
Meanwhile, getting real, can we stop pretending that Palin is interested in anything other than her own ambition?
Can we also stop nodding assent every time she says the media are to blame for her self-inflicted wounds? The media invented Sarah Palin. Before the media shone their light on those no-place-like-home slippers, does anyone recall ever wondering what a governor of Alaska was up to?
Not that Alaska isn't a beautiful, wildlife- and resource-rich state. And not that we don't all admire the rugged, frontier spirit that makes Alaskans our kind of Americans. But it took the benighted East Coast media to put one Sarah Palin on the map of the lower 48.
There's nothing wrong with ambition, of course. No one gets to the White House or the Iditarod finish line without it. But claiming selfless virtue -- not to mention solidarity with wounded soldiers in Kosovo and Landstuhl -- over personal preference is a herring of a different color.
"Let's face it, she just doesn't really want to govern and she's doing what's best for her," said a Republican campaign strategist who has worked with Palin.
"This is a win/win," said another. "It's a win for her because she is not politically viable, and now hopefully she can make a lot of money, have balance and affect culture in a positive way. It's a win for the Republican Party because she was the female version of (George W.) Bush in some ways. She is not intellectually curious. We need and have smart, competent alternatives."
Undoubtedly and understandably, Palin is weary of the fray. The crucial turning point was the attacks on her family. No one can honestly make the case that the Palins didn't take more heat than other public families. That said, it isn't difficult to avoid media attention. All one has to do is go to Alaska and stay put. But Palin, like the giddy Icarus, seems drawn to heat and light.
Palin also blamed frivolous ethics charges as a reason for her premature retirement. Alaskans lately have turned against the once-popular governor and filed complaints that have run up legal fees in the $500,000 range. Nobody wants that, surely, but that's chump change for Palin, whose supporters tossed $400,000 her way the first month SarahPac went online.
Finally, Palin blamed "a full-court press from the national level picking away right now" and said she "knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And that is what I'm doing -- keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound priorities. Remember, they include energy independence and smaller government and national security and freedom. And I know when it's time to pass the ball for victory."
Fortunately, Palin has hired a writer to help with her tell-all.
Insiders confirm that Palin felt she couldn't accomplish as much as a besieged governor as she can as a private citizen working behind the scenes. While those facts may be true, the sidebar reveals a convenient rationale. The usual rule applies: Follow the money.
As a public speaker, Palin will be golden. Other rumors circulating suggest a television show, a possible newspaper column (but remember, Palin hates the mainstream media), and fundraising gigs where the erstwhile vice presidential candidate can retain her hot spot on center stage.
If that is altruism, there's a lakeside house in Wasilla with a fabulous view of Russia you're just gonna love.