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Palin Juggles Two Parties

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

You took a fine time to leave us, Sarah. Can't you imagine Kenny Rogers singing about it? We've had some bad times/ Lived through some sad times/ But this time your hurtin' won't heal.

Sarah Palin's detractors, and there are lots of them, pile on the lower-class comparisons, ridiculing her as more country than cool: Barbie with a gun, whose got the moose on the run. They're right. That's why she has fans for being just that, among both men and women. She's authentic when a lot of pols rely on manufactured authenticity.

Stereotypes cut several ways. For conservatives who groove on family values as their primary issue, she added pizzazz to the frumpy look of the "traditional" woman in a hemline below the knee and hair headed in the wrong direction. She wouldn't have been John McCain's running mate, as Vanity Fair observed snidely, if she had looked like Susan Boyle. She plays against type, like Reese Witherspoon in "Legally Blonde," emphasizing in pink the femininity of the Valley Girl and whose brains shock the socks off the dull gray Ivy Leaguers in faded Dockers and Birkenstocks.

Sarah is our female Crocodile Dundee. She demonstrated how a woman could wrestle an alligator and look good doing it. She preferred being a "pit bull with lipstick," but both descriptions go to the heart of her appeal. Here was a conservative woman with a sense of humor, who could hang out with the boys and hang tough on "Saturday Night Live," where candidates go for their screen tests. By resigning as governor of Alaska, she forfeited the image of the dark mare racing to the White House, but that was our fantasy, not hers.

We've lost the delicious anticipation of a debate between Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, if not next time, maybe in 2016, assuming Hillary could make it that far. Hillary was more independent and certainly more influential as first lady than she is stuck in the State Department bureaucracy, carrying out policies made at the White House. The two women probably won't make the first all-female run for the White House, but at 40 to one, the odds are greater against a successful second chance for Hillary. We can put the odds at about eight to one against Sarah getting to a presidential debate.

We should give the speculation over Palin's political future a rest. You would need to buy or rent a crystal ball. There will be plenty of other opportunities available to her over time to show strength and mettle. The sophisticated sisters of both parties who get their jollies throwing rocks at an accomplished woman were particularly incensed that Sarah she got where she did in such a "vulgar" Wasilla way. But these are the critics Camille Paglia describes as working from the "plush pampered commodes of received opinion."

As a pro-life wife and mother of four, and still an ambitious professional, Sarah can change women's lives by encouraging them to expand their options as feminism continues to adapt to the real-world wants and needs of traditional women.

Professional women with children have always been able to abandon a job without suffering diminished ego. Men can't do that. Besides, Sarah has a book contract, earns high fees for speeches and attracts larger audiences than almost anyone else (including Barack Obama). When men leaving the arena say "they want to spend more time with the family," we assume it's only euphemism. We're likely to believe a woman.

Feminism hasn't changed any of that. Sarah said she got the unanimous vote of her children to leave the office of governor. That sounds like the birthday party took priority over the Republican Party, proving that there's more than one event to celebrate with balloons.

In her first out-of-state speech this year, to several thousand women at a Right to Life dinner in Evansville, Ind., two months ago, she made a surprising confession. She said she was out of town when she learned from the amniocentesis results that she was going to have a baby with "abnormalities." She confessed to a fleeting thought that she could "just make it go away, and get some normalcy back in life."

She didn't get an abortion, of course. She embraced life. Maybe that's what she's doing again, only this time actually getting some "normalcy" back. Maybe the actual lyrics of Kenny Rogers got it right:

When the drinks finally hit her
She said I'm no quitter
but I finally quit livin' on dreams.
I'm hungry for laughter and here ever after
I'm after whatever the other life brings.

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