"Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay; it's Independence Day.'' – Martina McBride
Another week, another on-camera breakdown by a Republican governor: In a rambling, borderline bughouse decoupage of sports metaphors and intimations that the forces of darkness were running her out of public life, Sarah Palin announced Friday that she had decided to step down as Alaska's governor, and would be leaving office on July 26.
At one point, she suggested she was quitting because people had made cruel remarks about her baby Trig, and at another, she seemed to be saying that she was being forced out for being too effective, and also because various ethics investigations into her administration were wasting public dollars. Listening to her talk in furious circles, it was hard to say whether a) some new scandal was about to break, b) she'd had enough of politics, thanks, or c) on the contrary, she was only getting started and was quitting to run for president. With a $7 million book advance and supporters who would love her regardless, she in any case didn't need the job, and my money is on d) she just plain felt like it.
"I'm not wired to operate under the same old politics as usual,'' she said in Wasilla Friday afternoon, at an hour when many Americans were heading out of town for the holiday weekend. "I promised four years ago and I meant it, that's not what is best for Alaska at this time. I'm determined to take the right path for Alaska, even though it is unconventional and it's not so comfortable, and with this announcement that I'm not seeking reelection, I've decided it's best to transfer the authority of governor to Lt. Gov. [Sean] Parnell, and I am willing to do this so that this administration with its positive agenda and its accomplishments and its successful road to an incredible future for Alaska, so that it can continue without interruption and with great administrative and legislative success. My choice is to take a stand and effect change and not just hit our head against the wall and watch valuable state time and money – millions of your dollars – go down the drain in this new political environment. Rather, we know we can effect positive change outside government at this moment in time, and actually make a difference for our priorities and so we will, for Alaskans and for Americans. Let me go back quickly to a comfortable analogy for me, and that's sports – basketball – and I use it because you are naïve if you don't see a full-court press from the national level picking away right now a good point guard.''
Enraged by this point, and referring to herself in the third person, Palin continued: "Here's what she does. She drives through a full-court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket and 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 – those represent sound priorities – remember, they include energy independence and smaller government, national security and freedom, and I know when it's time to pass the ball for victory and I've given my reasons now, very candidly and truthfully, and my last day won't be for another few weeks so the transition will be very smooth.''
"All I can ask is that you trust me with this decision,'' she went on, "and know that it's no more politics as usual. And some Alaskans it seemed today maybe they don't mind wasting public dollars and state time but I do and I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars and all that time to go to waste just so that I can hold the title of governor, and I don't know that my children are going to allow it anyway. Some are going to question the timing of this and let me just say this decision has been in the works for a while and comes after much consideration – prayer and consideration – and finally I polled the most important people in my life, my kids, where the count was unanimous, where in response to the question 'Do you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children's future from outside the governor's office?' it was four yeses and one "hell, yeah,' and the "hell, yeah" sealed it and someday I'll talk about the details of that. I think though, much of it for the kids had to do with recently seeing their baby brother Trig mocked and ridiculed by some pretty mean-spirited adults recently and, by the way, I sure wish folks could ever understand all that we can learn, all of us, from someone like Trig,'' who has Down syndrome. "I know he needs me, but I need him even more, and what a child can offer to set priorities right, know that time is precious. The world needs more Trigs, not fewer.''
She said her decision to leave office had been "fortified'' by a recent trip to visit wounded U.S. soldiers in Kosovo: "These troops and their important missions, now there is where truly the worthy causes are in this world and that's where our public resources should be spent, not on this superficial, wasteful political blood sport. So may we all learn from them – really, we've just got to put first things first – and as governor, I love my job and I love Alaska and it hurts to make this choice, but I'm doing what's best for Alaska and I have explained why, though I think of the saying on my parents' refrigerator, a little magnet that says, Don't explain. Your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe you anyway.''
She said she did not want any other Alaskans to be dissuaded from going into politics "after seeing the real climate change that began in August'' of last year, when she became John McCain's running mate. "Remember, Alaskans, America is now more than ever looking north to the future, and it'll be good, so God bless you and from me and from my family, to all Alaskans, you have my heart.''
Then, in closing, she quoted Gen. Douglas MacArthur: "We are not retreating, we are advancing in another direction.'' So, was that a vow to return to Manila? And will she be back? Whether this performance ends her career in electoral politics or effectively begins her 2012 campaign, as a movement favorite she'll never go away, so at least there's that.
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