By telling Barbara Walters that she thinks she can defeat President Obama, Sarah Palin has dimmed hopes cherished by sensible Republicans that she might decide against a run for the White House in 2012. Here are just some of the reasons she should not run.
The Republican nominee should be someone with vast and impressive experience in government and the private sector -- and a proven record. Voters chose a novice with plenty of star power in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity, not sizzle and flash.
After the 2008 campaign revealed her weaknesses on substance, Palin was advised by those who admire her natural gifts to bone up on policy and devote herself to governing Alaska successfully. Instead, she quit her job as governor after two and a half years, published a book (another is due next week), and seemed to chase money and empty celebrity. Now, rather than being able to highlight the accomplishments of Sarah Palin's Alaska, we get "Sarah Palin's Alaska," another cheesy entrant in the reality show genre. She'd so much rather be out dog sledding than in some "dull political office," she tells the audience. File that.
She is wildly popular with a swath of the Republican electorate, it's true. And, as a conservative woman politician told me, the consultants (who get paid the big bucks win or lose) will doubtless descend upon her with game plans showing how she can win in Iowa and then cruise to the nomination. Maybe. But the general election would be a problem, since 53 percent of independent voters view Palin unfavorably, according to a recent Gallup poll, along with 81 percent of Democrats.
There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally treated by the press and the news/entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect some of that and be able to transcend it. She compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn't mud wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus encourages the sniping. She should be presiding over meetings on oil and gas leases in the North Slope, or devising alternatives to Obamacare. Every public spat with Dave Letterman or Politico, or the "lamestream media," or God help us, Levi Johnston, diminishes her.
Speaking of television, sorry, this must be mentioned. Have you watched "Dancing With the Stars"? Cheesy would be several steps up for this one. Perhaps the former governor should not be blamed for the decisions of her adult daughter. Yet there in the audience we see Sarah and Todd Palin, mugging for the camera and cheering on their unwed-mother daughter as she bumps and grinds to the tune of "Mamma Told Me (Not to Come)." Her parents had advised her, the 20-year-old Bristol told an interviewer, that she had to stay "in character" if she expected to win. Being "in character" apparently meant descending to the vulgarity that "DWTS" peddles on a weekly basis. The momma grizzly was apparently unfazed by -- or, equally disturbing, unaware of -- the indignity. And this is supposed to be a conservative culture warrior?
Judgment, above all, is what voters prize in a presidential candidate. Some of Sarah Palin's 2010 endorsements were sound and arguably helpful. Others betrayed flightiness and recklessness. Tom Tancredo, Palin's choice for governor of Colorado, has ridden his anti-immigration hobbyhorse in a style perfectly suited to alienate Hispanic voters (describing Miami, for example, as a "Third World" city). The endorsement of Christine O'Donnell was irresponsible and damaging, losing a seat that would certainly have been a Republican pickup absent Palin's intrusion into the race. It goes without saying that O'Donnell received an absurdly disproportionate amount of ink and attention during the race (the liberal press naturally seizes upon any opportunity to make conservatives look kooky), but again, Palin should have anticipated that. Besides, this one cannot be laid at the feet of the biased media. O'Donnell was a thoroughly unqualified candidate.
Palin has many strengths. I admire her fortitude and her commitment to principle. Her capacity to connect with a crowd is something most politicians can only dream of. I will always remember her 2008 convention speech as a rollicking star turn. She would be terrific as a talk-show host -- the new Oprah.
But as a presidential candidate? Someone to convince critical independent voters that Republicans can govern successfully? Absolutely not.<