Opinion

‘The Sarah Palin I Know’

Let’s face it, Palin made a great decision for her and her family, but one that disqualifies her from running for president, at least in 2012. Obama has the ultimate trump card against her: when things got tough you quit to become a rich celebrity while I was killing Osama bin Laden. Game, set, match.

The worst part about the resignation from a political narrative perspective is that it also stripped away Palin’s greatest strength. She is clearly a fighter but it is impossible to make “She will fight for you” the cornerstone of a campaign when she just quit her only big job, seemingly for personal gain.

What Palin and her many supporters apparently refuse to accept is that Palin is the Bo Jackson of modern Republican politics. She was a natural, but that talent has been taken away by circumstances beyond her control.

She once was a moderate conservative with the ability to appeal to Democrats and the charisma to energize Republicans. Not since Reagan has there been as gifted a politician as her and, because she is an attractive woman with a powerful personal story, you could easily argue she exceeded even the Gipper in overall political potential. I also believe her to be smarter than Reagan.

But like Jackson, she was cut down by “injury” in the prime of her career. The media-induced knee-capping during the 2008 election and its aftermath was grossly unfair, but it was also comprehensive and complete. Like Jackson after his freak hip injury, she still looked the same and could still plausibly play the game, but the magic was gone. It isn’t her fault and it is a travesty of justice, but to not recognize and accept that would be highly detrimental to the team. Jackson soon realized this; Palin apparently has not yet done so (or, potentially even worse, has, and just doesn’t care as much about the team as her brand).

When I confronted Kathleen Parker on CNN in late 2010 about her having “led” the “assassination” of Sarah Palin, I was very specific. I said that Parker and others killed off “Sarah Palin 1.0” and that what exists today is “Sarah Palin 2.0,” which is a very different program.

The first incarnation was actually rather moderate both politically and in tone, having made her reputation going after Republican corruption. This is how she entered the 2008 race with over an 80 percent approval rating in Alaska but came home with almost no Democratic support and very little love among a Republican Party establishment that feared and resented her. This lack of a political base is by far the most underrated cause of her resignation.

When after the 2008 election all hopes of being the Republican bridge builder (not the kind to “nowhere”) were destroyed by the unfair media coverage, Palin very astutely realized that it was only the conservative base that would rally to her defense and she quickly, I would like to think with some help from me, became their Joan of Arc.

While I like “Sarah Palin 2.0” just fine politically, it was a creation of necessity and it was designed for survival and not to beat Obama. It baffles me how relatively few Republican voters seem to understand that beating Obama with any conservative is the ONLY thing that matters and that quite literally, through no real fault of her own, there are almost no conservatives not currently in prison who have LESS of a chance of beating Obama than Sarah Palin currently does. Worst of all, her just getting in the race greatly reduces the chances of an electable conservative, like Tim Pawlenty, getting enough traction to win the nomination.

Her supporters will tell you that such heresy is just what the media wants you to believe. That I am naively falling into their trap. That an energized base is all we need to win. In this case, no matter what the great Rush Limbaugh says, that is all absolute hogwash.

First of all, almost everyone has already made up their mind about Palin and she has well over a 50 percent disapproval rating with no office/position where she can do/achieve anything to significantly change the narrative about her. About the only opportunity she would have to get a second look is to do high-profile interviews with liberal media types and, against my counsel, she has indicated she has no intention of doing that.

Secondly, it is a myth that “Palin 2.0” energizes the base in any extraordinary way. I know this from sales and traffic figures, and because while screening my film around the country I was essentially doing Sarah Palin focus groups. I can assure you that the number of ardent Palin supporters, while very significant, is largely overstated and that the number of normally Republican voters who have been duped by the media into strongly believing they would not vote for Palin under any circumstances is significantly underestimated.