There's nothing surprising in Sarah Palin's decision not to run for re-election as governor of Alaska. After all, if you've got a shot to become leader of the free world, it helps to have nothing but time to give the people of Iowa and New Hampshire in the year leading up to their caucus and primary, and that's hard to do if you have to run a state from which you can see Russia.
But Palin's decision to step down this month from the governor's mansion? Now that's a whole 'nother kettle of wild salmon.
Today we heard and saw Palin as we never have before. No, I'm not talking about the incoherence of her resignation statement; her incoherence in the infamous Couric interviews became the stuff of legend. Yet with all hectoring she took for her not-ready-for-prime-time performances during the campaign, her confidence never seemed to flag. But today brought us a different picture: Her voice quavering, Palin seemed unsure of herself as she sought to explain without explaining her reasons for stepping down before the end of her first term as governor.
Granted, Sarah Palin has had a very tough week, what with Todd Purdum's takedown in Vanity Fair, and the release of a testy e-mail exchange between the former vice presidential candidate and McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt.
By her own account, however, the week from hell is not what drove today's announcement. The decision had been in the making for a while, she said. But why? As her reasons, Palin noted the meanness of the media, and the hail of ethics complaints filed against her (in a state in which the bar is quite low for the filing of such complaints). Yet none of the complaints filed so far have stuck, so what gives?
The governor mentioned a resulting half million worth of legal bills for her and husband, Todd, but that should be chump change with someone with Sarah Palin's standing among the G.O.P. base. Surely, she could raise that with a legal defense fund.
Palin basically said she was getting out of the way in order to take one for the team:
Let me go back to a comfortable analogy for me -- sports... basketball. I use it because you're naïve if you don't see the national full-court press picking away right now: A good point guard drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her eye on the basket... and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And I'm doing that, keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound priorities: smaller government, energy independence, national security, freedom. And I know when it's time to pass the ball -- for victory.
For some reason, the very ambitious Sarah Palin finds the need to take herself out of public view. It's hard not to speculate that there's another shoe yet to drop. But don't count her out; she's as tenacious a political fighter as I've ever seen. She'll no doubt put the time gained of her early exit from the governor's mansion to good use -- perhaps studying up on issues for her visits to the people of Iowa and New Hampshire.
When I first speculated that she would be John McCain's vice presidential pick, people said, Sarah who? Despite colossal missteps, she emerged from the 2008 presidential election as the darling of the Republican Party, her running mate returning to the Senate as a has-been. Mark my words: She'll be back.