Only in our hyperactive news environment can a political reporter feel embarrassed for coming late (a full hour behind the action) to the puzzling Sarah Palin resignation story because he was quietly reading at home on an unofficial national holiday. But quickly scanning the initial news stories, I kept encountering widespread speculation that Palin was abruptly stepping down as governor so that she could concentrate full time on running for president.Nonsense. There are many potential explanations for her decision -- and do not rule out the most obvious that she quickly wants to make scads of money unencumbered by Alaska's ethics laws. But the idea that Palin somehow needs to jump-start her 2012 presidential campaign two-and-a-half years in advance is as ludicrous as the idea that she is abandoning the governorship to spend more time with the John McCain's aides who were so warm and supportive during her vice presidential phase.
White House dreamers whom nobody has ever heard of like, say, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, need years to build a national fundraising network and to visit all of Iowa's 99 counties. But the joy of being Sarah Palin is that she never has to feign enthusiasm while talking to 14 elderly Iowa Republicans in a cafe in Sac City. When you are the celebrity candidate, you do not deign to speak in a venue smaller than a high-school gymnasium unless it is a real-people photo op. And you certainly do not need 30 months to achieve name recognition with Iowa caucus-goers and to endure long evenings in Atlanta chatting up minor league GOP fundraisers.
A compelling case, of course, can be made that Palin should spend the next year or so schooling herself in the issues that a president ought to know. It would be bracing if Palin's next stop were the Kennedy School at Harvard or even Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. What could do more to erase memories of the Katie Couric interview (not to mention Todd Purdum's takedown
in the latest Vanity Fair) than the news that Palin was at Oxford auditing courses in Cold War history and Muslim thought?
Sometimes a politician succeeds by dramatically playing against type. Remember how Hillary Clinton -- the wronged woman turned 2000 Senate candidate -- prospered by deliberately making herself boring. For Palin, the path to political redemption would not be anchoring a TV talk show, but showing that she could talk knowledgeably.